Connecticut East Windsor Hold Up Delaying Online Gaming Progress

Connecticut East Windsor Hold Up Delaying Online Gaming Progress Connecticut’s two Indian casinos, Foxwoods Resort in Ledyard and Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, recently spoke out in favor of online gambling and sports betting legislation, given hope to residents that real-money online gambling had a chance of one day passing in the Constitution State.
With the current legislative session soon drawing to a close on May 9th, however, any hopes of its gambling industry expanding in 2018 are now rapidly fading.
One of the main factors standing in the way of progress being made concerns the US Department of the Interior, and its refusal to adequately address amendments to the gaming agreement negotiated with Connecticut’s Native American tribes.
Indian Tribal Support
Last month, Foxwoods expressed its support for online gambling at a Public Safety and Security Committee Hearing, and during a lengthy testimony delivered by Foxwoods Executive Director of Online Gaming Seth Young, it was made clear that the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe was willing to lend its wholehearted support for legalized online gambling, including poker, casinos, and sports betting.
Amongst the reasons cited for its support was New Jersey’s thriving online gambling market, and how they have managed to turn around the fortunes of Atlantic City’s land-based casinos, as well as the potential revenues that a sanctioned iGaming industry could bring to Connecticut, which according to Young could generate $87 million in tax revenues over its first five years.
Also lending his support for legislation was Avi Alroy, Mohegan Sun VP of Interactive Gaming, who during his testimony noted: “I believe that the state of Connecticut will benefit from both online casino gaming and sport wagering as it will reduce unregulated bets that are done locally and offshore and increase state revenues.”
Time Running Out
Having Connecticut’s casino interests on board seemed to consolidate widespread support for a state gambling expansion, with Connecticut House Speaker Joseph Aresimowicz, House Majority Leader Matthew Ritter, and State Representative Joe Verrengia all stating that they intended to expend their efforts pursuing online gambling legislation in 2018.
Unfortunately, they now seem to agree that making any progress over the next few weeks is a tall order, with House Minority Leader Themis Klarides calling it a “heavy lift”, and Aresimowicz saying that the only real chance of finishing up with anything this session was if online gambling legislation was attached to a comprehensive overall gambling expansion bill.
US Department of the Interior
Connecticut is facing increased competition from the $950 million MGM Springfield casino project currently underway in neighboring Massachusetts, which is scheduled to be completed by September 2018. In response, Connecticut state lawmakers worked with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes last year to organize a joint project to build a new casino in East Windsor, and even amended the terms of their slot machine revenue sharing agreements with the state.
Amendments to the compact, however, must first be signed off by the US Department of the Interior, with its Bureau of Indian Affairs required to approve all such changes as is laid out in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988. Nevertheless, the US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has thus far failed to provide federal approval, leading to the Mashantucket-Mohegan-Connecticut venture to pursue legal action against the government agency.
Meanwhile, corruption allegations have surface in POLITICO claiming that lobbyists for MGM Resorts International are attempting to have its casino project in Massachusetts protected, with several Connecticut lawmakers having now taken their concerns to the US Office of the Inspector General.
“I think the Department of Interior has been derelict in failing to give approval,” explained Sen. Richard Blumenthal to POLITICO. “We asked for a meeting, but they were unresponsive. They never even responded.”
Online Gambling Expansion Prospects
The upshot of the whole situation is that any further gambling expansion in Connecticut is now reliant on first receiving approval for the agreed gambling compact amendments, subsequently allowing for the East Windsor casino project to finally go ahead. Once federally approved, though, the concerted backing of the Mashantucket-Mohegan-Connecticut venture gives online gaming legislation a better chance of being adopted in the state, although a resolution to such a complicated matter is likely to drag on for some time to come.

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