By Ray Dunaway

 

Mark Pazniokas, of CT Mirror.org, joins Dunaway in discussing the many layers, and problems, of building a third casino in Connecticut. Currently, the casino has its eye on the old Showcase Cinemas site along route 91 in East Windsor.

Monday evening, those who oppose the casino gathered in East Windsor for a hearing. “Some people are upset there isn’t going to be a referendum on this,” explains Dunaway, “but that’s just one part of the story.”

Pazniokas helps to peel away the layers, explaining the initial problem began when legislation didn’t approve a process that “endorsed the idea of a third casino.” In 2015, Attorney General George Jepsen raised many questions. First off, would another casino be in violation of equal protection – if the legislature permitted only the tribes the opportunity, as opposed to creating an open process? Also, would this jeopardize the state profit sharing arrangement the state has with the tribes? These questions killed the bill in 2015 that would have authorized construction of a third casino.

The tribe then went out and found support in East Windsor. Now they’re at step one to finding out if construction will be authorized to build a casino on non-tribal land. “There are many ways to kill a bill,” says Pazniokas, “and this one is under assault from different sides.”

There are those who oppose, questioning the moral and ethics of gambling and the impact it has on the state of Connecticut. There is MGM, who has already spent millions trying to kill this third casino for competitive reasons. And finally, there are people from other parts of the state, like Danbury and Western Connecticut, who ask why a casino isn’t considered in their area. “This thing has a lot of problems,” points out Pazniokas, “I wouldn’t bet heavily on seeing another casino in Connecticut.”

According to Pazniokas, although MGM’s initial lawsuit was premature, they’re pretty clear they’re going to pursue this in court.

Dunaway paints a “what if” picture, making the case that even if East Windsor were to okay the deal, there is still the legislature to deal with, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and of course, MGM, who could prevail in court. There’s also the fact that economically casinos are a “shrinking pie.” In 2016 the casinos brought in 262 million dollars to the state, down from the 430 million from 2007. Pazniokas agrees that the recession and more competition has reduced casino revenue.

“New York has electronic casinos, and there’s the facility in Rhode Island, a slots parlor in Southeast Massachusetts, and bigger casinos in the works – including the one in Springfield. There’s a lot of competition. So how strenuously are you going to be chasing these increasingly diminishing millions of dollars?” To follow this story, visit CTMirror.org

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