Connecticut Governor Balks at MGM Proposal for $675M Bridgeport Casino: ‘Impossible’

Posted on: September 20, 2017, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: September 20, 2017, 04:10h.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has rebuffed a surprise proposal by MGM Resorts International to build a $675 million casino resort in Bridgeport, on the state’s southwest coast.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy dismisses MGM Bridgeport plan
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said that the tribes would have to approve an MGM property in Bridgeport, and he couldn’t see how it would happen. (Image: Jessica Hill/Associated Press)

While the promise of investment could be tempting to the cash-strapped state, it is also almost impossible, Malloy told the Connecticut Post, because it would require the blessing of Connecticut’s two tribal operators, the Mohegans and the Mashantucket Pequots, who happen to be at war with MGM.

“I can’t imagine any scenario under which the tribal nations would agree to open up the compact on those grounds,” Malloy said. “But perhaps they will.”

The tribes see MGM’s proposal, delivered Monday, as a provocation, and they wasted no time in declaring that the project would violate existing compacts between the two tribes and the state, leaving them with no option but to immediately end slot payments to the state, which account for hundreds of millions in revenue for the state each year.

Bordering on War

The state has authorized the tribes’ joint enterprise, MMCT, to construct a satellite casino in East Windsor, close to the border with Massachusetts, where MGM is currently building its $950 million casino resort in Springfield just miles away.

MMCT has made no bones about the fact that the main aim of the satellite casino is to deflect competition from the MGM Springfield to protect its two beleaguered casinos in the south of the state.

MGM CEO Jim Murren has dismissed the casino as a “box of slots,” but the company is sufficiently concerned by the competition to have launched legal action against the state, claiming the law it passed authorizing the East Windsor project was unconstitutionally protectionist. An appeals judge dismissed MGM’s complaint last week.

Serious Bid or Big Bluff?

MGM also attempted, unsuccessfully, to get an amendment added to a federal defense bill that would have barred Native American tribes from operating casinos in their home state outside their reservations, as is the case in East Windsor.

MGM’s Bridgeport project would be entirely privately funded and would come with financial incentives for the state, such as an immediate $50 million payment, $8 million in annual payments to the city of Bridgeport, and $4.5 million to surrounding communities.

But the tribes have dismissed the proposal as not serious, a “fib” and “another bought and paid for piece of misinformation,” which, if true, would suggest MGM really is in the “holy sh*t business.”