The two Native American tribes that operate casinos in Connecticut now say that they want to be part of any process that results in a casino being built in the city of Bridgeport.
The move comes in response to MGM’s proposal to build a $675 million resort in the city, as well as a Tuesday appearance at a local meeting of business leaders by MGM CEO Jim Murren.
The Mohegan and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribes, which operate Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino respectively, had previously responded to the MGM proposal with skepticism. Tribal leaders had questioned whether the firm could ever gain state approval for such a project, and also pointed to comments by Murren, in which he said the company’s upcoming casino in Springfield, Massachusetts would be its “last major development project here in the United States.”
Tribes Begin to Take Bridgeport Threat Seriously
But in a letter sent to legislative leaders this week, the chairmen of both tribes seemed to take the thread of a Bridgeport resort more seriously. They reminded state officials of the $7 billion that has been given to the state through the compact between Connecticut and the tribes, as well as the shared history between the state and tribal leaders.
“For more than two decades, our two tribes and the state of Connecticut have forged a mutually beneficial partnership,” the letter read.
A casino in Bridgeport would be the fourth such venue in the state. The tribes, working together as a company known as MMCT, are building a smaller facility in East Windsor. That mid-sized casino would be designed to keep Connecticut gamblers from traveling north to MGM Springfield once it opens.
The East Windsor facility will be the first gambling expansion in the state since the Mohegan Sun casino opened in 1996. However, the tribes had once asked for approval to build three commercial casinos in various areas of the state, a request that was denied at the time.
“If circumstances have changed and there is now real interest in putting a casino in Bridgeport, we want to be a part of that discussion,” the letter read.
MGM is Up for Competition
For their part, MGM welcomed the idea of the state holding an open competition for a casino in the city.
“We welcome the tribes’ interest in such a process,” MGM wrote in its own letter to state officials. “MGM has participated in competitive processes in other states, as have the tribes, and we are prepared to do so in Connecticut.”
Uri Clinton, senior vice president of MGM, expressed confidence that they would win out in any bidding war in Bridgeport.
“We’ve got the best site,” Clinton said. “If someone else wanted to…make a proposal they’d have to have some deal with someone else who has land.”
While the partnership between the tribes and the state has been a lucrative one, its value has been falling in recent years in the face of increased regional competition. While the state received as much as $430 million from its share of slot revenues in 2007, that number fell to $265 million in 2016, and could continue to decline as Massachusetts casinos open in the next year.