Church and Business Leaders Join Senator Hwang to Warn of Destructive Impact of Casino Expansion

April 24, 2015

The civic leaders declare that more casinos are not the answer to Connecticut’s economic doldrums.

BRIDGEPORT – Leaders from the worlds of business, religion, and social services joined state Sen. Tony Hwang (R-28) at a press conference Thursday to oppose legislation that would set the stage for three new casinos in Connecticut.


The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes, owners of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, want to open the first of the three “convenience casinos” along Interstate-91 north of Hartford to intercept Connecticut residents who may be tempted to drive to the new MGM casino being built in Springfield, Mass.

They are eyeing opening the other two along I-95 and I-84 in Fairfield County as a defense against New York’s casinos, with Bridgeport and Danbury mentioned as likely prospects for host municipalities. The Hartford-area casino would have up to 2,000 slot machines and as many as 75 table games.

The civic leaders warned that the new casinos would hurt the state’s economy and quality of life by taking money out of their host communities rather than bringing money in, while at the same time spreading gambling addiction and creating debt, bankruptcies, broken families, and crime.

Press conference participants included:

  • State Senator Tony Hwang
  • Former Congressman Robert Steele
  • Joanie Masot, recovering gambling addict and advocate with Advocacy Unlimited, Inc.
  • Rev. Cass Shaw, President & CEO, The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport, Inc. (CCGB)
  • Rev. Sara Smith, Vice-chair of the Board of Directors of The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport, Inc. and Reverend of United Congregational Church of Bridgeport
  • Rev. Hopeton Scott, CCGB Board member and pastor of First Baptist Church, Bridgeport
  • Doug Varga, partner at Lucas, Bagnell, Varga, LLC, and member of the Board of Directors of The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport, Inc.
  • Charles B. Tisdale, Executive Director of Action for Bridgeport Community Development (ABCD), Inc.

Sen. Hwang, who introduced each speaker, called state sponsorship of gambling “a conflict of interest for state governments that are established to promote the general welfare, not prey on their citizens by encouraging them to gamble.”

Former Connecticut Congressman Bob Steele cited research showing that gambling addiction more than doubles within 10 miles of a casino and said casinos represent a regressive tax that hits low wage earners, minorities, and the elderly the hardest, thereby contributing to economic inequality in our society.

From Paul Timpanelli, President and CEO of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council –

“The Bridgeport Regional Business Council does not believe that expanded gaming will have a positive growth impact on our state’s economy.”

From Joanie Masot, Advocacy Unlimited –

“Problem gambling can destroy people’s lives and their families. As a person in recovery from problem gambling I’ve shared my story so that people are aware of the human costs behind gambling expansion in Connecticut. We may already have a large amount of residents that are struggling with their gambling; if we introduce more gambling options we will have more people destroying their lives around gambling. As an advocate at Advocacy Unlimited we oppose gambling expansion in Connecticut because of the high costs that problem gambling will have on the citizens in Connecticut.”

From the Rev. Hopeton Scott, CCGB Board member and pastor of First Baptist Church, Bridgeport –

“I believe that the pumped-up promise of positive economic benefits is a gigantic mirage. The competition for gaming dollars is already fierce for a small state as ours.”

From Mr. Douglas J. Varga, CCGB Board member –

“Reliable studies over many years leave no doubt that casino gambling leads to increases in crime, reduces property values, produces more ‘problem gamblers,’ and disproportionately affects the economically disadvantaged. Just as the tobacco industry perfected the cigarette as the primary delivery system for its addictive product, the gaming industry has perfected the slot machine as the primary delivery system for its addictive product. If made law, Senate Bill 1090 would broaden the opportunity for social harm by creating a form of ‘rest-stop gambling,’ rich in slot machines and targeted to low-income patrons. This legislation should be rejected simply because it would perpetuate and expand socially-destructive behavior and the undeniable consequences of that behavior. The residents of this State – and particularly our most at-risk communities – deserve better.”

From the Rev. Sara D. Smith, Esq., CCGB Board Vice Chair and pastor of United Congregational Church, Bridgeport –

“The congregation I serve – United Congregational Church of Bridgeport – is the oldest institution in our City, founded in 1695 by Puritan and Pilgrim settlers. But I do not stand against the casino expansion in our state as a moralist, or because of some puritanical religious beliefs. I stand opposed because our economic efforts, our legislative will, and our spiritual ethics should be focused on the things that will build up, rather than tear down, the people and communities we serve. And I can tell you from witnessing their destructive forces at work in the lives of my congregants, casinos tear down individuals and families. Casinos are not the answer to a better life, a healthier citizenry, or a revived economy — here or anywhere. Bet on it!”

From the Rev. Cass L. Shaw, CCGB President & CEO –

“Delaware, Rhode Island, New Jersey and too many other states have allowed casinos to proliferate, and have become dependent on the revenue to balance their budgets. It makes these states all too vulnerable to the casinos’ demands for subsidies and tax relief when things get tough. If Connecticut joins the casino race we will not only be setting up low income residents who are particularly vulnerable to the lure of gambling, we will be setting us all up to play a game none of us can win.”

State Senator Tony Hwang is in his 4th term in the Connecticut General Assembly and 1st term as State Senator of the 28thDistrict, which encompasses Fairfield, Easton, Newtown and portions of Weston and Westport. Senator Hwang is the ranking leader in the Housing and Labor & Public Employees committees and a member of Commerce and Veterans Affairs committees during the 2015-16 legislative sessions. He is also a member of the CT Innovation Life Sciences Business/Government Group and co-chair of the bipartisan General Assembly Bioscience Caucus.