House Oks bill to expand off-track betting

The casino legislation is aimed at being a revenue driving option for the State of CT as it deals with sagging finances.

A proposal allowing two CT tribal nations to open a third casino has grown into a wider debate about whether to expand gambling elsewhere. There are those who support the tribes' proposal in an effort to protect jobs at their southeastern CT casinos and other lawmakers who want to create an open casino-bidding process that could lead to other casino developers possibly building gambling facilities elsewhere in CT.

Aresimowicz said the deal with the Senate required the upper chamber to ease restrictions on mixed-martial arts in CT, a demand of several Bridgeport and Hartford legislators who say the popular extreme-fight sport would be a new source of business for sports arenas in their cities. The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate. As reported by The Connecticut Mirror, the bill would relax the state's restrictions on MMA fights that have made it unfeasible for promoters to stage such matches in the state.

The bill cleared the House of Representatives on a 103-46 vote. Looney acknowledged after the vote that its passage was the first in a series of steps resulting in a House vote for the East Windsor casino project.

The Connecticut House has approved a bill that was crafted to garner more support for another bill authorizing a tribal casino in East Windsor. In a separate bill, the House will address some of the requests by many undecided lawmakers in recent days.

Earlier in the week, lawmakers discussed the possibility of allowing additional slot machines in off-track betting facilities in Bridgeport, New Haven and Waterbury, and a so-called boutique casino for high-rollers in Hartford. It also called for an expansion of off-track betting sites and possible sports betting in the future.

The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes hope the new, jointly owned facility will help them compete with the MGM Resorts Casino in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The revenue sharing has been worth $7 billion to the state since 1993, but it has been shrinking since hitting a high of $430 million in 2007. The tribes are expected to pay the state $266 million in the current fiscal year under the terms of a deal struck in the 1990s: In return for exclusive rights to casino games, the tribes annually pay the state 25 percent of its gross slots revenues. MMCT is seeking to build a casino/resort in East Windsor to combat the new MGM Springfield casino/resort set to open in a little more than a year across the MA border.

The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes formed a joint venture, MMCT, to open another casino in CT.

Representatives of the tribes and MGM lined up at one point Tuesday outside the House majority office, waiting to make their final pitches. "That's a promise", said Uri Clinton, a senior vice president and legal counsel at MGM.

  • Zachary Reyes