Artist rendering of the proposed Tribal Winds Casino.
Artist rendering of the proposed Tribal Winds Casino.

Chance Of Sports Gambling, New Bridgeport Casino Dims

State lawmakers are weighing a comprehensive plan for expanded gambling in Connecticut

The bipartisan bill, called the Connecticut Jobs and Revenue Act, is in draft form but already is meeting resistance from the state's Native American tribes.

Made public last week, the legislative proposal includes sports betting and authorization for online gambling.

The biggest-ticket item is a long-sought Tribal Winds Casino in Bridgeport.

The Mohegan and Pequot tribes would jointly operate the new $300 million venue, plus additional “entertainment zone facilities” in Hartford and two other cities pending local approval

The governor’s alternative proposal essentially would have required the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal nations – which operate the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos, respectively – to cancel longstanding plans to build a jointly-owned, $300 million casino in East Windsor called Tribal Winds. Instead, they would be granted exclusive rights to Connecticut-based internet betting and the go-ahead to build a tribal casino in Bridgeport.

A tribal spokesman said there is no interest in dropping plans for a casino in East Windsor -- designed to compete with MGM Springfield in Massachusetts. The tribes reportedly have invested $20 million toward that project.

The tribes would continue to pay 25 percent of slot revenue to the state, but lawmakers now seek to include a new 10 percent tax on table games.

The legislative plan  proposes the following tax rates:

  • -- Online casino/poker: 10 percent
  • -- Internet betting: 10 percent
  • -- Sports betting: 8 percent

Tribal leaders initially praised the plan but back-peddled this week over pressure to drop an East Windsor casino site.

Gov. Ned Lamont has said he is skeptical about the deal and is concerned about a possible lawsuit by MGM. MGM has considered Bridgeport as a possible site for its own casino. 

"Sports betting and internet gambling, it's been locked up with a legal cloud hanging over it for a while, so over the last few years I have had several concerns," Lamont said.

“I would prefer for us to do a special session,” said state Sen. Cathy Osten, a Democrat sponsoring the legislation.

Details of Lamont’s alternative plan became public a few  days after Osten proposed the Connecticut Jobs and Revenue Act. It would require the tribes to spend a minimum of $100 million toward the $300 million entertainment and gambling facility in Bridgeport.

In return, the tribes would be allowed to conduct sports betting at their casinos, through mobile applications and online. 

The governor’s office released this statement:

“Only last week did the administration receive this draft legislation. A matter of such significance requires substantial involvement from multiple stakeholders, in particular the executive branch. Something this complex should not be negotiated without all necessary parties and certainly not behind closed doors. While we are appreciative of Senator Osten’s efforts and that of the various delegations, the administration’s position remains the same: a global resolution that mitigates the likelihood of years of litigation and positions the state to capitalize on a comprehensive gaming platform. Further, this proposed bill falls short of what the governor wants for Bridgeport – a bill that only authorizes versus requires a meaningful project in Bridgeport is not good enough.

“The administration looks forward to its participation in ongoing negations with the tribes.”

Unless called back for a special session, legislators would not consider the bill until reconvening on Jan. 9, 2020.