WNPR

Committee Hears From Public on Whether to Roll Dice on More Connecticut Casinos

Mar 17, 2015

A legislative committee held a public hearing on a controversial proposal to add more casinos in the state. 

The legislation calls for up to three new gaming venues, that would be jointly operated by the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes, and placed strategically near the state's borders in an effort to keep Connecticut gamblers from going to nearby casinos in Rhode Island, and soon in New York and Massachusetts. 

Rodney Butler, Chairman of the Mashantucket Peqout tribal nation, explained to the Public Safety and Security Committee why he thinks the state needs to add casinos. "As has been clearly demonstrated with the expansion (of casinos) in Rhode Island and New York, it has cost Connecticut thousands of jobs," he said. "Unless addressed, the advent of casino gaming in Massachusetts will cost Connecticut thousands more." 

It will cost 9,300 jobs, according to gaming industry expert Clyde Barrow. He testified that the state should also expect a steep decline in its share of slot revenue once the MGM casino in Springfield is open in 2017. "It means the state of Connecticut will lose nearly 100 million dollars annually in revenue sharing payments from the two casinos," Barrow said.

"Why Connecticut would want to double down on a rapidly declining state industry is difficult to understand," said former Connecticut Congressman Bob Steele, whose book The Curse chronicles the rise of Connecticut's two casinos. He said the proposal would only work if the state created thousands of new gamblers. "Convenience gambling would encourage them to gamble more frequently, attract thousands of additional Connecticut residents to gamble, with a corresponding increase in gambling addiction, debt, bankruptcy, broken families, and crime," Steele told the committee.

The committee also heard testimony from union representatives, gambling addiction advocates, and concerned lawmakers.