MGM urges competitive bidding for a Bridgeport casino

MGM Resorts International has renewed its call for the state to establish a competitive bidding process for a Bridgeport casino, a process southeastern Connecticut’s gaming tribes have indicated they’d be willing to join.

“The Tribes’ request yesterday to be ‘part of that discussion’ is good news for the people of Connecticut,” Uri Clinton, MGM Resorts senior vice president and legal counsel, wrote Thursday in letters to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and state legislative leaders. “There appears to be, for the first time, agreement that such a discussion is in the state’s best interest.”

“That the Tribes also see the tremendous potential of Bridgeport confirms our analysis that Bridgeport is by far the best situated location in the state for a commercial casino — and the only location with the potential to actually grow the State’s gaming revenue,” Clinton wrote.

In a letter Wednesday to legislative leaders, the chairmen of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, respective owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, wrote that they want to be involved in any discussion of a Bridgeport casino.

During the last legislative session, the tribes won approval for their plan to jointly develop a commercial casino on nontribal land in East Windsor. The project is aimed at offsetting the anticipated impact of a nearly $1 billion resort casino MGM Resorts is building in Springfield, Mass.

MGM Resorts opposed the bill granting the tribes the exclusive right to develop a third casino in the state, instead championing an alternative bill that called for competitive bidding.

Under gaming agreements signed decades ago, the tribes share their casinos’ slot-machine revenues with the state in exchange for the grant of exclusivity. The payments to the state would end if and when another entity were to be allowed to operate a casino in the state.

“MGM can say whatever it wants, but the facts are simple,” Andrew Doba, a spokesman for the tribes, said. “Their project would cost the state $1 billion or more in lost revenue. Continuing our partnership costs the state nothing and will in fact only enhance the amount of revenue the state already receives.”

MGM’s Bridgeport plan, unveiled in September, calls for a $675 million destination resort on the city’s waterfront. It would provide an estimated 7,000 jobs and include a regional workforce development center in New Haven.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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