Connecticut casino expansion

Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods are hoping Connecticut will allow three smaller casinos to be built at strategic locations throughout the state, bringing in a lot more of these. (Image: statesymbolsusa.org)

Connecticut could be home to up to three new casinos in the years to come, if a proposal that was made public by lawmakers on Tuesday is ultimately approved.

A handful of state legislators, along with the leaders of both the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes (which operate the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods resorts, respectively), introduced the proposal at a news conference in Hartford on Tuesday morning.

The proposal is being presented as a way to protect jobs in Connecticut at a time when Massachusetts is gearing up to build up to three full scale casinos and a slots parlor in various parts of that state.

Connecticut lawmakers and tribal gaming officials worry that these facilities, in particular an MGM resort in Springfield, could cut deeply into traffic to the Connecticut casinos, which in turn would cause the state to lose significant tax revenues.

“Massachusetts has declared economic war on us, and we’re going to fight back,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk).

Casinos Would Be Located Near Major Highways

The idea would be to put up to three smaller casinos near the three major highways that run through Connecticut. These new casinos would act as satellite operations for both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, with the two tribes still attempting to offer promotions that would drive more traffic to the larger existing facilities in southeastern Connecticut.

So far, most of the talk has been about the I-91 corridor north of Hartford, where a casino could stop gamblers from travelling north to Springfield once the MGM resort is built there. However, there could also be interest in building somewhere along I-95 (which runs along southern Connecticut from New York City) and I-84 (which enters western Connecticut near Danbury and then runs northeast towards eastern Massachusetts).

In previous years, there have been talks about placing casinos in locations including Danbury, which is near the New York border and would satisfy the I-84 location. However, lawmakers are saying that they aren’t favoring any locations at this point, and would allow the market to decide where any of these new casinos would be built.

New Facilities Could Stop Flow of Gamblers to Neighboring States

“We know that the 91 corridor is of interest to them right now, but they’re also feeling some pressure from the New York area,” said State Senator Tim Larson (D-East Hartford). “So, without targeting a specific town, we thought three was appropriate.”

State Senator Catherine Osten (D-Sprague), who oversees the district that includes both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, says that having these casino locations could stop Connecticut residents from taking their gambling dollars to Massachusetts, New York, or Rhode Island, all of which have (or will soon have) casinos of their own.

“By having the satellite facilities within the Connecticut border, it will stop people from crossing the Connecticut borders for a night of gaming and will continue keeping them in Connecticut,” Osten said.

Public is Not Convinced That State Needs More Gaming

But the proposal will face significant hurdles, not the least of which is public opinion. A new poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University found that just 20 percent of Connecticut voters support adding new gambling sites to the state. Even when specifically asked about a plan about allowing the two tribes to place casinos near the Massachusetts and New York borders, only 36 percent supported such a plan, while 59 percent were opposed. Similarly, just 23 percent of voters said they would support a gaming establishment in their own hometown.