Casino Gambling in Connecticut: What’s Going On

The Proposed Hartford Area Casino is a Bad Bet!

History. Casino gambling came to Connecticut in the 1990s, when the Mashantucket Pequots opened Foxwoods and the Mohegans opened Mohegan Sun on their respective Indian reservations in southeastern Connecticut.

With virtually no competition other than from Atlantic City, 250 miles away, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun quickly became two of the world’s biggest and most profitable casinos, drawing over half their combined customers from out of state, creating some 20,000 casino jobs, and sending hundreds of millions of dollars a year in slot machine winnings to the Connecticut state treasury under a revenue-sharing arrangement with the state.

Since then, however, the competitive landscape has changed dramatically as more and more states have opened casinos. As a result of the growing competition, Foxwoods’ and Mohegan Sun’s combined revenues are down 40% from their peak and the two casinos have eliminated more than 8,000 jobs.

Proposed Hartford Area Casino. In an effort to combat the new $950 million MGM casino being built in Springfield, the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans have asked the legislature to allow them to jointly open a $200-300 million “convenience” casino in the Hartford area. The tribes contend the Hartford area casino would (a) help them keep their current Connecticut customers from going to Springfield to gamble and (b) expand Connecticut’s casino market by attracting new people to gamble. The tribes are promoting the new casino as a way to protect 6,500 direct and indirect Connecticut jobs and save the state $79 million a year in tax revenue.

Others, including the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis at UConn, strongly dispute the projections, saying they are grossly overstated in view of the rapidly changing competitive environment, the extent to which the Hartford area casino would cannibalize Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, and the questionable ability of a convenience casino to compete with the Springfield mega-casino.

In addition, while the tribes have touted the casino’s economic benefits, there has been no study of its social and economic costs.

Nevertheless, legislative leaders pushed through a bill inviting towns interested in hosting the proposed casino to submit proposals to the tribes. Once the tribes choose a proposal, the town in question would have to officially approve it by referendum or other means. The legislature would then be required to vote on whether to legalize off-reservation commercial casino gambling, which is currently illegal in Connecticut.

The tribes have narrowed their search for a host town to East Windsor and Windsor Locks.  The tribes are expected to make their choice and the legislature to vote on legalization during the first half of 2017. In view of the fact the first bill passed by only 4 votes in the Senate (20-16), it is likely to be a very close vote.

This third casino is a bad bet!  Click here to learn why.