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Gambling bills on the table

edit:casino time:2019-02-26

Eric Bedner | Journal Inquirer

Several gambling-related bills will be the focus of a public hearing Tuesday, including one that would circumvent federal approval, making way for the construction of the Tribal Winds Casino in East Windsor.

In all, four gambling bills will be debated in front of the Public Safety and Security Committee in the Legislative Office Building beginning at 10 a.m.

The bills on the agenda include proposals that would move the East Windsor casino forward, establish sports betting and online keno gambling, and a measure that would create a Connecticut Gaming Commission and begin a competitive bidding process that would enable the state to work with entities other than the two Native American tribes.

The Tribal Winds proposal would amend previous legislation that allowed the East Windsor casino to be built. It would eliminate the requirement that the amendments to the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan gambling compacts be approved by the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

While the federal government has given its approval to the Mohegan's changes, it has yet to act on amendments to the Mashantucket Pequot's agreement with the state, keeping the project on hold indefinitely. Currently, approval for both are required before the tribes can begin construction in East Windsor.

If the proposed bill passes into law, the tribes could open Tribal Winds without federal approval.

There also are two proposals that would authorize sports gambling. One bill lacks specific language, but the other would give sports gambling rights to the tribes and establish internet keno, which would be overseen by the Connecticut Lottery Corp.

Under the bill, sports betting would be prohibited by anyone younger than 21 years old and internet keno would be limited to those who are at least 18 years old.

The subject of sports gambling relies largely on negotiations between Gov. Ned Lamont and the tribes.

Another bill, championed primarily by the Bridgeport legislative delegation, would establish a competitive bidding process for a resort-casino license.

It comes in response to MGM officials repeatedly saying they want to build a resort facility in Bridgeport to lure the New York City market to Connecticut. MGM now operates a casino in Springfield.

MGM representatives have claimed that a competitive process, rather than tribal exclusivity, for casino operations would be more profitable for the state. The bill aims to determine which avenue would provide the most economic benefit to Connecticut.

If the East Windsor casino moves forward, tribal representatives have said that they fully expect MGM to sue, but will continue construction throughout litigation.

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