Sen. Kissel: Potential Conflicts During Keno/Casino Expansion Talks Could Strengthen Legal Challenges

September 10, 2015

Sen. John A. Kissel (R-Enfield) today said simultaneous casino and Keno negotiations could create conflicts of interest which could strengthen legal challenges to gambling expansion in north-central Connecticut.

Sen. Kissel noted that state law requires Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget office to enter into an agreement with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to give them up to 25% of the state’s take from the implementation of keno.

“Discussions between the state and the tribes on the Keno deal are ongoing,” Sen. Kissel said. “At the same time, the state is allowing the tribes an exclusive franchise to expand casino gambling in north-central Connecticut. The state is supposed to be negotiating the best arms-length deal possible with the tribes regarding keno, yet today a casino expansion ceremony was held under the gold dome of the State Capitol. This raises red flags for me.

“Even the appearance of a conflict or favoritism will add to the grounds of any legal challenges to casino expansion in Connecticut. Consider the equal protection questions this raises. A lawsuit could lead to the opening up casinos to all tribes in our state, as well as to private corporations. A lawsuit could lead to the loss of the revenue the state currently receives from the tribes. Is that the path we want to go in Connecticut?”

Regarding the possibility of an Enfield casino, Sen. Kissel added. “The Enfield Town Council is currently doing their due diligence in reviewing potential casino sites and they will do a thorough job. In my view, a casino in Enfield would cannibalize the 400 jobs at already existing pari-mutuel venues in Windsor Locks. It would accomplish exactly the opposite of what its proponents are trying to do. Add some jobs here but subtract them from the next town over? That’s not a wise policy at all. Enfield just isn’t the right fit for a casino. I oppose a casino in Enfield for a variety of reasons and nearly everyone I have spoken to opposes a casino in Enfield as well.”

The newly enacted budget, which Sen. Kissel voted against, assumes Keno revenue collections of $13.6 million in this current fiscal year and $30 million annually thereafter.

“Taxpayers should pay close attention to those keno revenue predictions,” Sen. Kissel said. “It was estimated that the state would need six months just to get keno off and running in retail establishments, so to call the $13.6 million anticipated collection overly aggressive is an understatement. We must protect state taxpayers’ interests.”

Sen. Kissel, who serves as ranking member of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, said he would bring his concerns to the Connecticut Attorney General’s office.

“Connecticut is heading down a risky path, and I hope the Attorney General will give this the attention it deserves,” Sen. Kissel said.