Backing 'home team' in 3rd casino fight

A rendering of the East Windsor entertainment and gaming facility the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes have proposed to develop off Exit 45 of Interstate 91. (Source: MMCT Venture)
A rendering of the East Windsor entertainment and gaming facility the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes have proposed to develop off Exit 45 of Interstate 91. (Source: MMCT Venture)

Throughout my career in public service and public safety, I’ve always rooted for the home team. I was born and raised in Connecticut, and from a young age I committed myself to helping this state however I could. Several decades ago that meant working in the Department of Corrections. Now it means serving as the state representative for the 45th General Assembly District.

When making decisions as a state legislator, my guiding principle remains what is good for the home team. What legislation will help Connecticut and back projects launched by Connecticut residents? That’s why I support Senate Bill 957, authorizing the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to build a gaming facility in East Windsor.

In the ongoing fight between these two tribes and MGM, the corporation that’s building a billion-dollar casino in Springfield, there’s absolutely no question who is the home team. MGM Resorts International is a Las-Vegas based company with no ties to Connecticut, no real understanding of how our state works, and a profit-based worldview that casts our residents as customers, not neighbors. In contrast, the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes have lived in Connecticut for centuries and operated our two flagship casinos for several decades.

Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have been invaluable contributors to our state. They’ve contributed almost $7 billion to our general fund, money that finances critical statewide programs and supports public safety, public health, and educational initiatives in municipalities across Connecticut. They’ve employed thousands of Connecticut residents, from the dealers, chefs, and concierges who work within the casinos and hotels to the vendors who supply them. They’ve increased tourism to Connecticut, boosting an industry that makes up an essential part of our economy. And they’ve been outstanding corporate citizens, involved with countless community organizations and active in causes like veterans’ issues and hunger relief.

In recent years, these two tribes have benefited from the capable and inspiring leadership of their respective chairmen. Rodney Butler of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and Kevin Brown of the Mohegan Tribe are incredibly valuable players for Connecticut’s home team — something I can personally attest to as a fellow alumnus of Montville Indians Football. Playing alongside Rodney in high school, and hearing stories about Kevin’s time on the team, I was always impressed by their shared commitment to making our hometown a better place. No wonder, then, that Chairman Brown and Chairman Butler have gone on to fight for their communities in even larger ways. The East Windsor project is their latest act of advocacy, and I’m confident that it’s the right choice for Connecticut.

According to a new report by gaming expert by Dr. Clyde Barrow, this gaming facility would significantly soften the blow that MGM Springfield is poised to inflict on Connecticut. Barrow believes the East Windsor casino could recoup over 46 percent of the jobs that would otherwise be lost to Massachusetts, and could generate almost 78 million in tax dollars for our state. The only way for Connecticut to make this vision a reality is by passing SB 957. This bill will keep thousands of residents from losing their livelihood and provide our state with a much-needed source of new revenue.

I became an elected official with the hopes that I could make a difference for my constituents and make Connecticut a better place. These are goals that I know my colleagues in the state legislature share. They’re goals that we can work towards together by backing the East Windsor casino project. It’s time for Connecticut to root for the home team, stand with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, and throw our support behind SB 957.

Kevin Skulczyck represents the 45th District covering Griswold and Voluntown.

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