Connecticut lawmakers consider gambling expansion bills
HARTFORD (AP) — Just a year after approving a new tribal casino near the Massachusetts border, some Connecticut lawmakers want to up the ante and consider other gambling expansion proposals.
A contingent of mostly urban legislators has called for scrapping last year's legislation. Instead, they want to open up the process and have the tribes or other casino developers submit proposals for the state's first casino on non-tribal land, possibly in Bridgeport.
Meanwhile, there are bills this year to allow the Connecticut Lottery Corporation to offer certain online lottery games and to require the Department of Consumer Protection commissioner to draft regulations for sports betting.
They are among the proposals up for debate on Tuesday, when the General Assembly's Public Safety and Security Committee will hold a public hearing on gambling matters.
Some highlights of those bills:
Bridgeport and New Haven lawmakers are among those advocating a new competitive process for Connecticut's next casino. The push comes as the tribal project in East Windsor, which is being developed by the Mohegans and the Mashantucket Pequots, has been delayed, pending federal approvals. The state and the two tribes are suing the federal government for failing to act.
"It's the elephant in the room," said Democratic state Rep. Chris Rosario, of Bridgeport. "If the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) approved it, then we'd be working on other opportunities for Bridgeport to get jobs."
Rosario and his colleagues argue that inviting various casino developers, including MGM Resorts and the tribes, to compete to build a commercial casino would be a better deal for Connecticut in terms of jobs, economic development, community benefits and support for local businesses.
But the tribes, which last week began demolishing an old movie theater to make way for their planned casino in East Windsor, contend the border facility is needed to compete with the MGM Resorts casino that will open this fall in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts, and to protect thousands of jobs at their existing casinos, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino in southeastern Connecticut. They expressed confidence that their project will ultimately receive the necessary approvals. And they're not worried by the Bridgeport and New Haven lawmakers' efforts.
"We're not concerned about it," said Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Tribal Council. "We know the state's been with us and will continue to be with us."
Some lawmakers want Connecticut to be prepared in case the U.S. Supreme Court rules that additional states can offer legalized sports betting, a possible moneymaker for the state.
"Connecticut should be ready to go from both a regulatory and operational standpoint," said Democratic House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, of Berlin. New Jersey is challenging the 1992 law forbidding all but Nevada and three other states from authorizing gambling on college and professional sports. The Supreme Court is expected to rule in June.
Legislators have already received some input from professional baseball and basketball representatives, as well as fantasy sport companies. The bill up for debate Tuesday would require the consumer protection commissioner to take action depending on what the nation's highest court decides.
OTHER GAMBLING BILLS
Lawmakers are expected to hear testimony about legislation that would allow the Connecticut Lottery Corp. to sell lottery tickets for lottery draw games, such as Powerball, Mega Millions, Lucky for Life, Lotto, Keno, Cash5, Play3 and others on the corporation's website.
The program would require the lottery to verify the person who establishes an online account is at least 18 years old.
Lawmakers will also hear about legislation that would exempt the name and residential address of anyone who redeems a winning lottery ticket worth more than $1 million from public disclosure, and require an independent study of all forms of gambling in the state. That study would include recommendations concerning any possible expansion of gambling in Connecticut.
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