May 24, 2017

Tim Larson Leads Passage of Critical Casino Jobs Bill in Senate

Senate Senator Tim Larson (D-East Hartford) led passage of a critical piece of legislation to protect and grow casino and tourism jobs in Connecticut in the early morning hours of Wednesday.

Senate Bill 957, An Act Concerning The Regulation Of Gaming And The Authorization Of A Casino Gaming Facility In The State, passed the Senate in a bipartisan vote of 24 to 12.

The bill authorizes MMCT, a joint venture between the Mohegan and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribes, to operate a third satellite casino in East Windsor.

“Connecticut’s gaming industry has been invaluable to our state over the last 20-plus years, infusing $7 billion dollars into our state’s coffers and reinvigorating the economy in eastern Connecticut,” said Sen. Larson. “This is a jobs bill at its core. The Mohegans and Pequots have been excellent partners to our state and are the backbone of our tourism economy. Connecticut stands to lose more than 9,000 service industry jobs as a direct result of the MGM casino being built just over the Massachusetts border in Springfield, and this third casino will stem the bleeding of jobs and funds that would surely occur without taking this action. The tribes and their employees deserve the support of the Connecticut legislature and I am proud that we are providing it.”

In addition to the retention of 9,300 existing jobs, the East Windsor casino is expected to create 1,700 construction jobs, and 1,700 casino facility operation jobs—1,275 of which will be permanent, full time positions—and generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue to the State of Connecticut.

“From the very beginning, all of the talk and planning around another gaming facility in Connecticut has, for me, been about protecting jobs in Connecticut. That’s all,” said state Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague), one of the early and most vocal proponents of the bill. “There are 140 towns in this state that send residents to southeastern Connecticut every day to work at one of the two casinos there. This is a Connecticut jobs bill, one that protects jobs for middle-class workers, our neighbors, our friends and our family. The bill we passed this evening helps protect those jobs, and I am proud to stand with Connecticut workers willingly.”

“While final authorization will be subject to various conditions, including approval by the General Assembly of amendments to the existing compact between the Tribes and State, this was an important step in the process,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “Connecticut’s gaming industry has been invaluable to the state over the last 25 years, infusing billions into our state’s coffers helping cities like Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven and small towns alike, hire teachers, police officers and firefighters and provide critical services. Senator Larson and Senator Osten have fought every step of the way to protect Connecticut jobs and Connecticut workers.”

“Today, led by Senator Larson and Senator Osten, the State Senate voted to protect 9,000 good-paying jobs for Connecticut residents,” said Senate Majority Leader Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “This sector of our economy is vital to the region and state. Failure to act would have a devastating impact on our future.”

Under the legislation, there would be a 25 percent tax on slot revenues and a 25 percent tax on table games; 15 percent of the tax on table games would be dedicated to Connecticut’s statewide tourism marketing account, while 10 percent would be returned to the state’s general fund.

Additionally, MMCT would establish a grant fund in the amount of $4.5 million which would be distributed to surrounding communities, including $750,000 each to Hartford and East Hartford because of their status as distressed municipalities.

The tribes have also made a tacit agreement to give preference to the local community, Hartford and East Hartford when hiring employees.

Senate Bill 957 paves the path for the construction of the third “off-reservation” casino and puts in place regulations for operation of the gaming facility. The bill goes next to the State House of Representatives. Should it gain passage in that chamber and be signed into law by Governor Dannel P. Malloy, authorization would be contingent on the following conditions:

  1. The Governor and the tribes enter into an amendment to the state-tribal compacts and MOUs concerning the operation of an off-reservation casino, which must include a provision that the authorization of MMCT to operate and off-reservation casino does not terminate the moratorium agreement against slot operation on the tribes’ reservations.
  2. An amendment to the tribal compacts is agreed to by the Governor, approved by the Legislature and the U.S. Department of Interior.
  3. The tribes must waive sovereign immunity with respect to any action brought by or against the State concerning the off-reservation casino and agree to bring such action against the State to the Superior Court.
  4. The authorization for the casino applies to the MMCT Venture and it must remain a limited liability company owned exclusively by the tribes in which each tribe holds at least 25 percent equity interest in MMCT or the authorization would be void.