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Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun employees to lobby lawmakers at Capitol

Southeastern Connecticut casino employees will travel Wednesday to Hartford to lobby lawmakers considering casino-expansion bills, one of which would enable the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to develop a casino in East Windsor.

Claiming "growing momentum" behind their bid for a third Connecticut casino, the tribes announced Tuesday that the tribal chairmen will accompany employees from their respective casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, to the Capitol "to talk with legislators about the importance of saving their jobs."

The tribes say more than 9,000 jobs in the state are imperiled by MGM Springfield, the $950 million resort casino scheduled to open next year in Massachusetts.

"As we enter the last month of (the legislative) session, it's clear there is growing momentum behind our project," Kevin Brown, the Mohegan chairman, said in a news release. "Just last week, the town of East Windsor overwhelmingly reiterated their support for our proposed facility. Now we have only our bill and a competing proposal that will cost the state millions in tax revenue. The choice is clear. And the time to act is now."

Voting at a town meeting Thursday night, East Windsor residents rejected a proposed ordinance that sought to derail the casino project proposed for their town.

The other casino bill before the legislature calls for a competitive-bidding process among casino operators. Such an approach ultimately would negate agreements that require the tribes to share their existing casinos' slot-machine revenues with the state.

Those payments are expected to total $267 million in the current fiscal year, according to the state Office of Policy and Management's latest forecast.

State Attorney General George Jepsen has advised the legislature that Senate Bill 957, the bill granting the tribes the sole right to develop a third Connecticut casino, could jeopardize the state's revenue-sharing agreements with the tribes. The risks, Jepsen wrote in a March letter to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, "while impossible to quantify with precision, are not insubstantial and cannot be mitigated with confidence."

Following Jepsen's opinion, the tribes announced that they will continue making slot-revenue payments to the state if the legislature passes the bill.

"With the development of a third casino operated jointly by Mohegan and Pequot, we are committed to guaranteeing our existing slot revenue arrangement with the state and are proposing compact amendments that will ensure those revenue streams are preserved," Brown and Rodney Butler, the Mashantucket chairman, wrote in a letter to state leaders. "Senate Bill 957 does not jeopardize this revenue sharing because it is expressly conditioned on approval of the tribes' proposed compact amendments."

"We've said from the beginning that we want to help the state we have called home for centuries," Butler said. "With the state's finances taking a turn for the worse, it's now more important than ever that we rally around our employees and fight to save Connecticut jobs."

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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