Connecticut Governor Tells Legislature to Pass on Bridgeport Tribal Casino Deal

Posted on: June 6, 2019, 12:05h. 

Last updated on: June 5, 2019, 12:16h.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont (D) has instructed the legislature to fold on legislation that would allow the state’s two tribes to build a $350 million casino in Bridgeport.

Connecticut casino Bridgeport Ned Lamont
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont doesn’t want casino expansion legislation passed before the next regular legislative session. (Image: Cathy Zuraw/Connecticut Post)

Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim (D) has teamed with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Native American Indians to push legislation that would give the tribes $100 million in city and state funding to help build an integrated casino resort in the seaport town. But Lamont says state lawmakers should ditch the last-minute effort.

This 11th hour proposal has not been fully vetted or reviewed, and with only one day until the end of session, it’s not in the public’s best interest to take up this matter,” Lamont spokesperson Maribel La Luz said. “Instead of resolving outstanding litigation, it puts the state at increased and immediate litigation risk from multiple parties.”

The legislature adjourned at midnight last night. However, the General Assembly could take up the Bridgeport casino matter during a special session this summer.

Though Lamont is opposed to passing a Bridgeport deal this session, the governor expressed support for the project last month. “We’re trying to get something done, but we’re not going to get it done in this session,” the Democrat explained.

Port in a Storm

Bridgeport became targeted for a casino when MGM Resorts unveiled plans for a $675 million property there last year. The casino giant’s plans were in response to Connecticut authorizing its two tribes to build a satellite gaming venue in East Windsor, 13 miles south of the $960 million MGM Springfield in Massachusetts.

MGM argued that Connecticut was essentially legalizing commercial casinos, and should hold a competitive bidding process if it wished to do so. The MGM plan attracted support from many Bridgeport state lawmakers.

The Connecticut Mirror says the deal between the tribes and Bridgeport would additionally grant the Native Americans exclusive rights to sports betting and internet gambling. However, Ganim denied knowledge of the arrangement late Tuesday night.

“I have no idea, no idea,” Ganim said of the proposal. “I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.”

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin) said the roughly one-page proposal is “an excellent starting point,” but added that getting the necessary votes together in such a hurried manner would be difficult.

Satellite Progress

Connecticut lawmakers and former Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) signed off on the East Windsor satellite casino in June of 2017. Alleged lobbying by MGM stalled construction, as the US Department of the Interior refused to approve the state’s amended tribal gaming compacts.

It was only in March that formal approval came from the Interior Department. But construction still hasn’t begun on the $300 million casino that is to be called Tribal Winds.

The Middletown Press says the tribes haven’t been able to secure financing for the facility planned to house 1,800 slot machines and 60 table games.

MGM isn’t expected to give up on its plans to enter Connecticut. With a treasure chest of funds ready to lobby state lawmakers, the casino company will presumably do everything in its power to protect its $960 million investment in Massachusetts.