House, tribes said to be negotiating amendment to third-casino bill

The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes are amenable to an amended version of the third-casino bill that would call for them to make an upfront payment of $25 million to the state and to install slot machines in off-track-betting facilities in Waterbury, New Haven and Bridgeport, The Hartford Courant reported Wednesday.

A spokesman for the tribes, Andrew Doba, declined to confirm the report, saying the tribes “don’t intend to negotiate through the media.”

The terms of the proposed amendment originated with Democratic members of the House of Representatives, The Courant reported, attributing the information to a source.

State Sen. Cathy Osten, the Sprague Democrat whose chamber passed the third-casino bill last week, said she had heard that House members were discussing changes in the bill. She's heard, she said, that the proposed amendment calls for 25 slot machines to be placed in each of the three OTB locations.

It’s her understanding, she said, that the $25 million payment would be “in lieu of future taxes” and does not represent an additional obligation for the tribes.

The bill approved by the Senate sanctions the tribes’ plan to develop a “satellite” casino in East Windsor, where it would be expected to protect their southeastern Connecticut casinos from the competitive impact of MGM Springfield, a $950 million resort casino being built in Massachusetts. The bill calls for the tribes to pay the state 25 percent of the East Windsor casino’s slot-machine and table-games revenues.

An alternative House bill would establish a competitive-bidding process among casino operators that would be expected to vie for the right to build the state’s third casino.

According to The Courant’s source, the tribes indicated they would not participate in open bidding. Doba, the tribes’ spokesman, said he could confirm that. 

If the House amends the Senate version of the bill, it would have to return to the Senate for review, Osten noted.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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