Senator McLachlan Warns that New Casino Bill Could Leave State Shortchanged

March 29, 2018

Hartford – Following an information forum on tribal compacts before the legislature’s General Administrations Elections (GAE) Committee, state Senator Michael McLachlan (R-24) warned his colleagues that a bill to create a competitive bidding process to build a new casino in Connecticut could leave the state empty-handed.

As GAE Committee Co-Chair, Sen. McLachlan organized the forum to learn more about the compact between the state and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe. He said he believed very few of today’s staff or legislators worked at the capitol when the compact was negotiated 25 years ago.

“The whole idea of this informational hearing is to share with legislators and the public in general: ‘What is the impact of tribal compacts between the State of Connecticut and the two tribes of Connecticut?’” he said.

After hearing testimony from representatives of both tribes, Sen. McLachlan said he is concerned about the implications of legislation to allow non-tribal entities to bid for casino projects. House Bill 5305, An Act Concerning A Request For Proposals To Qualify An Entity To Develop A Casino Gaming Facility In The State, potentially would open state gaming to non-tribal entities.

“There has been a longstanding agreement between the state and the tribes that some believe is imperiled. I hate to think that is a possibility,” he said. “The analogy of ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’ may be an accurate description of this situation.”

Mohegan Tribal Council Chairman Kevin Brown said he doesn’t believe the Connecticut market could support a fourth casino, as some have proposed. He added that legislation that would allow non-Indian gaming could be seen as a violation of the state’s compact with the tribes, which would prompt them to stop paying slot revenue to Connecticut.

“No way that the market for a casino elsewhere in the state of CT . . . is going to succeed without displacing revenue in other places and be able to meet the tax rate of the 25 percent we pay in slots and be a viable economic casino venture,” Brown said. “The math just doesn’t add up. Once the commitment has been made (to allow non-Indian gaming), the money is not going to flow. There is a point in time where there is a violation of the exclusivity (of the compact).”

Sen. McLachlan said the legislature’s independent Office of Fiscal Analysis reports that the two tribal casinos have paid more than $7.5 billion to the state.

“Connecticut’s Indian gaming compact is the oldest in the country,” he said. “I can’t see jeopardizing that relationship in the hope that someone else can set up shop and somehow bring in more money that the two world class resorts we already have.”

Sen. McLachlan represents the communities of Bethel, Danbury, New Fairfield, and Sherman.