Casino Bill Fails Connecticut


Connecticut has been trying to get a casino bill passed since 1992 when a now-disgraced Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts wanted to build a casino in Bridgeport. Wynn’s proposal brought a counterproposal from developer Donald Trump, and the internal battles with opposing government officials began. Since 1992, several different bills have tried and failed to pass the Legislature. For example the Mashantucket Pequot Indians fought to open a casino in Bridgeport as well, but could not get enough votes to pass the legislation either.

This year’s legislation initiative, brought about by an attempt from MGM to build a Bridgeport casino, failed earlier this month. While legislators have been trying to pass the bill since 2017, it did not garner enough votes to pass, although some legislators are optimistic the bill has a better chance to pass next year, when Connecticut’s legislature has more time to pass legislation.

The Bid from MGM Resorts

MGM Resorts International had proposed to the Connecticut legislators a $700 million casino resort by the ocean in Bridgeport, as well as a job training center in New Haven. MGM Resorts International, based in Las Vegas stated in its proposal that the casino resort would employ 5,000 workers during the construction phase, and 2,000 permanent jobs at the casino. An additional 50 jobs were proposed for the job training center.

The bid was supported by both the Bridgeport and New Haven mayors, who see it as economic growth in their communities, who are in need of higher-paying jobs in the area. The mayors noted that the last MGM development in Massachusetts took three years to pass the legislature, and are hopeful the legislation will pass in the next session. In all, the Massachusetts casino development took six years to finish, from the proposal to the completion of the project.

The Legislation

The proposed legislation would not have authorized a new casino outright as an addition to three other casinos already in the state. Instead, the legislation would have asked for an RFP (request for proposals) to study the possibility of a fourth casino to be located in the Bridgeport area. Additional legislation would be needed the following year for a new casino to be built. While the bill proposal had the joint support of House and Senate members, as well as the mayors of Bridgeport and New Haven, and was able to clear the vote in the House, it did not have the same luck in the Senate, where neither party could not raise enough votes to pass the bill.

Concerns About a New Casino

Legislators expressed concern that the opening of a new casino would create problems for an agreement with the Mohegan and Mashantucket tribes, who already operate two casinos under a 25-year exclusivity agreement with the state. The state is currently receiving $200 million in revenue from those two casinos, and legislators are reluctant to jeopardize an agreement that is so profitable for the state.

Another legislative concern was the rapid development of the harbor at Bridgeport, and whether or not a casino would prove a hindrance to further development. The Bridgeport harbor is currently experiencing a resurgence in development, and legislators do not want to pass bills that might slow down future development with regard to construction jobs and the potential for more jobs further down the road. Currently, the harbor has seen an increase in mixed-use development with housing (both single and multi-family housing), shops, restaurants and venues already using the harbor. The hope is that the casino would make a nice addition and add tourism features to the mixed-use development properties along the harbor. With this year’s legislative session over, House members hope to reintroduce the casino legislation in 2019.

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