Attorney General Casts Doubts Regarding Hartford Casino Expansion

In just 3 days a decision will be made regarding a casino bill that would allow for the expansion of casinos in Hartford, Connecticut and Attorney General George Jepsen has expressed his concerns.

Nearly two years ago MGM Resorts International began working on plans for a $950 million casino and entertainment complex in Springfield, Connecticut. These plans have since caused concern about job losses in the gaming industry as well as a loss in revenue that the state draws from the already existing Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casino’s.

What the Attorney General Said

Jepsen’s eight-page statement addresses a potential deal that would see the Mohegans and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (MPTN) become joint owners of a $300 million expansion plan to help counteract the opening of the MGM casino. The two tribes currently own the only two existing casinos in the state of Connecticut, Foxwoods Resort Casinos and The Mohegan Sun, and they are now looking to establish a Hartford-are casino in order to preserve jobs.

“The risks attendant to authorizing casino gaming facility operated by an entity jointly owned by the MPTN and Mohegan, while impossible to quantify with precision, are not insubstantial and cannot be mitigated with confidence,” Jepsen wrote in his opinion, which was submitted to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Jepsen went on to say that no conclusion could be drawn about the benefits justifying the risk of such a deal.

The Details of the Deal

The new casino, which is being referred to as a “satellite casino” for the two tribes would be the first casino in the state that is not on a Native American reservation. This has raised some questions about previous agreements that the state has made with the two tribes in regards to their payments on slot revenue. The current agreement brings the state an estimated $267 million, which could be a significant loss to a state with an already suffering budget.

In an attempt to prove their need for the satellite casino the two tribes presented an analysis by gaming consultant Clyde Barrow. Barrow estimated that the new MGM facility, set to open in fall of 2018, could cause the loss of 9,300 jobs and $702 million in revenue to the tribes casinos in the first three years of operation. Barrow’s report also claimed that 46 percent of jobs and 53 percent of revenue could be retained through this joint casino, in addition to a significant number of new jobs.

The Deadline

Uri Clinton, MGM’s senior vice president and legal counsel argues that the state of Connecticut can’t stand to lose the “hundreds of millions in annual revenue.” Clinton went on to explain the best option for Connecticut to generate more revenue, create more jobs, and drive greater economic development is through the creation of a competitive bidding process for a third casino.

The legislative Public Safety Committee has until 5 p.m. on Thursday to make a decision regarding bills that would allow the joint venture to proceed and open up bidding that could lead to a casino in Southwestern Connecticut from tribes other than MPTN and Mohegans.