Talk in Connecticut of Third Casino

Connecticut, home of Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun, could give birth to a third casino designed to help protect those two casinos from the predatory raids of casinos in nearby Massachusetts. Mohegan Chairman Kevin Brown suggests a facility close to the Massachusetts border.

Some lawmakers in Connecticut are discussing the viability of allowing a third casino in the state where Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun currently operate.

Last week Deputy House Speaker Peggy Sayers called for the state to take action to protect its casino revenue. She told the New Haven Register, We’re facing significant and direct competition for our market share in Connecticut. I served in the Army and one of the things you do when faced with an attack is you dig in and protect your position.”

Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s office immediately countered with, “This is not something we have previously considered.” The governor says that in his opinion the public won’t support more gaming in the state, but that he’s willing to let the legislature take the lead on the issue.

Other critics attacked the idea, including Cheryl Chandler of the Connecticut Council of Problem Gambling, who told the Connecticut Mirror, “To consider additional facilities without taking into account the cost to Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens would not be a good idea.” She added, “Within 50 miles of a casino, the rates of pathological and problem gambling can double.”

Jim Amann, a former House Speaker and now lobbyist for Bridgeport’s Shoreline Star, which offers simulcast racing, calls the talk, “nothing but good news,” according to the News Times. His client would like to add slots.

The biggest roadblock to that scenario is the current gaming pact with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes, that precludes competition from commercial casinos—in return for a 25 percent share that they pay to the state.

The state’s share of those casinos, like the casino profits, have steadily decline in recent years. They have fallen by more than half since 2007 and are heading towards $212 million by 2018.

However the idea was actually floated by one of the Indian casinos. Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegans, told the CT Mirror last week. “We need to do something in the face of development of Massachusetts gaming. To do otherwise would be short-sighted on our part.”

Amann likes the idea of the Shoreline Star partnering with one or both of the tribes. “You could put slots in those buildings immediately,” Amann told the News Times. “You don’t need to build another multimillion dollar casino.”

Proponents and opponents of gaming have previously clashed in Bridgeport, which many in the industry see as a prime location for a casino.  Others think a modest approach is needed, that of introducing slots rather than a Las Vegas style casino to the city. They look at Atlantic City as a warning of what not to do.

Mitchell Etess, chief executive officer of the Mohegan Sun says a third casino could keep some of the revenue that Massachusetts is expected to suck out of Connecticut at home. “If you put a casino in between the population they are targeting and their site, they will absolutely lose those customers,” he told the Republican. “They understand people will go to a place that’s closer regardless of the size and shape of the facility.”

Referring to the two tribes’ monopoly guaranteed by the compacts with the state, “We have the exclusive right. It’s very easy to foresee some type of legislative solution that would be owned by the tribes—that would maintain revenue for the state of Connecticut.” He said the two tribes could have the third casino operating long before anything opens in the Bay State.

“There’s no doubt that putting something up between Bradley and Hartford—or Enfield—would cut off most of that business going to MGM in Springfield. It wouldn’t be a mega-facility but I could envision something that would do very nicely up there,” he said.

Right now the MGM Springfield scoffs at the idea that a small casino in Connecticut would pose any problem to their dominance of their region once they are built. In part, that is because the Springfield casino is also planned as a destination resort and tourist attraction.

In a statement MGM declared, “We are confident that our innovative design, tested marketing plan and strong brand will make MGM Springfield a premiere destination resort casino in New England.”