HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – A retooled casino bill would not adversely affect the state’s lucrative agreement with its two federally recognized tribes because it doesn’t expressly authorize more casinos, Attorney General George Jepsen’s office said Tuesday.
The revised bill also “would not increase or otherwise affect the likelihood” of the state being obligated to negotiate a similar gambling compact with any other tribes that may receive federal recognition in the future, Jepsen spokeswoman Jaclyn Falkowski said in a statement.
Some lawmakers have been concerned about the warnings issued last by month by Jepsen about the original version of the bill, which allowed the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to open up to three jointly owned casinos to combat out-of-state gambling competition. He said it “posed significant uncertainties and potentially serious ramifications” for the existing compact.
Under that agreement, the state receives 25 percent of the slot machine revenue generated at the tribes’ Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun while the tribes have exclusive rights to casino gambling in Connecticut.
Jepsen said the original legislation could make it easier for other Connecticut tribes to open casinos if they win recognition and could be subject to constitutional challenges.
The Senate is expected to vote, possibly Wednesday, on a revised bill that would create a two-step process for approving one new tribal casino. According to a copy of a working draft, the tribes would issue a request for proposals to municipalities interested in possibly hosting the new gambling facility. Any development reached between the tribes and the community would have to hinge on action by the General Assembly, possibly next year. They would have to also authorize casino gambling in Connecticut. The existing casinos are located on sovereign tribal land.
Proponents are optimistic Jepsen’s concerns will be addressed.
“The draft amendment, as we understand it, does not legalize casino gaming in the state of Connecticut,” said Falkowski. “Legislation that does not authorize casino gaming would have no impact on the current agreements between the tribes and the state.”
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff acknowledged that the latest concept, presented privately to senators on Tuesday, could add about eight to 10 months to the tribes’ plan to build a facility to blunt competition from the planned MGM Resorts casino in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts.
Some workers from Mohegan Sun, who visited the Capitol on Tuesday wearing blue shirts that read “Jobs,” said they’d like the new tribal casino to be built as soon as possible.
“Southeastern Connecticut doesn’t have a lot of industry and a lot of jobs,” said Daniel Sefton, of East Lyme, who is a cybersecurity manager at Mohegan Sun. “I’m definitely worried.”
The tribes issued a joint statement on Tuesday expressing support for the latest version of the bill.
“Our goal from the outset has been to protect the 9,300 jobs and revenue that will be lost to competition on Connecticut’s borders, and we believe this bill, if approved, will give the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Tribes the ability to begin to take action to do so,” they said.