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If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: MGM Pitches New Connecticut Casino

Bridgeport, CT Barnum Museum

Unable to put the brakes on a joint casino project between Connecticut’s two gaming tribes, the Mohegan and the Mashantucket Pequot, MGM Resorts is on to Plan B: pitching the state of a $675 million casino project in Bridgeport to the state of Connecticut.

The already approved tribal casino will sit right on the Connecticut-Massachusetts border in East Windsor, CT. It is roughly just a 15-minute car ride from MGM’s forthcoming billion-dollar casino in Springfield, MA.

Needless to say, MGM opposed the idea from jump street.

MGM trying to compete with East Windsor project

After losing its latest appeal to stop the building of the tribal casino, MGM proposed a casino in Bridgeport’s Steelpointe Harbor area.

The proposed $675 million MGM casino is about twice the size of what the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan are building. Plans include a 300-room hotel as wel as a gaming floor with 2,000 slots and 160 table games.

And then there are the economic benefits. Uri Clinton, senior vice president and legal counsel for MGM Resorts International, explains:

“The easy analysis here is Bridgeport has 7.3 percent unemployment. Bridgeport doesn’t have any private investors knocking on its door asking to be here. The state of Connecticut doesn’t. The state of Connecticut is in a budget battle. So in a state that is having these issues, a development project like this should be easy.”

With an official proposal, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim is now giving thought to a city-wide referendum. A favorable vote could show the state Bridgeport residents are in favor of the economic development the casino would bring.

“It’s something we’ve started discussions about, if in fact it didn’t cost the city any money and was sponsored,” Ganim said.

MGM already appears to be laying the groundwork for a referendum battle.

Flyers touting the benefits of the casino are being circulated by MGM in Bridgeport and surrounding areas. Those benefits include:

  • 7,000 jobs
  • A $50 million license fee to the state
  • $12.5 million worth of annual payments to Bridgeport and neighboring towns

Casino would violate tribal compacts

The problem is, even if Bridgeport wants the casino, it’s still unlikely to get built.

The Mohegan and the Mashantucket Pequot tribes’ compacts with the state give them exclusive rights to casino gambling in exchange for a portion of their slot revenue. Allowing MGM, or any other commercial casino, to open up shop would violate that compact. In turn, it would also allow the tribes to stop making slot revenue payments.

“I can’t imagine any scenario under which the tribal nations would agree to open up the compact on those grounds. But perhaps they will,” Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy said when asked about the prospects of MGM’s Bridgeport casino.

“It would violate our agreement with the tribal nations,” the Governor added. “So the next two years that would have a negative impact of almost $500 million on the state, should that move forward.”

Steve Ruddock

About

Steve Ruddock is a veteran of the poker media, contributing to offline and online publications centered on the regulated US online gambling industry. These include OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com as well as USA Today. Steve is based in Massachusetts and is also a poker player.

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