Lamont asked tribes to ‘look into’ a Bridgeport project

Gov. Ned Lamont has asked the chairmen of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to consider a development of some sort in Bridgeport, Kevin Brown, the Mohegan chairman said Saturday.

"We've had discussions, primarily based on our government-to-government relations," Brown said. "During those discussions, he (Lamont) asked, 'Would you be interested in looking into Bridgeport?'"

Brown said that if the tribes, respective owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, did propose a Bridgeport project, it wouldn't necessarily be a resort casino.

"That's our primary business model, but there could be other things that involve gaming, betting and the entertainment world," he said. "A casino could be in the mix but nothing's been decided. The spectrum is wide open."

MGM Resorts International, the Las Vegas casino operator that opened MGM Springfield, Massachusetts' first resort casino, has proposed building a $675 million casino on Bridgeport's waterfront. It is expected to renew its push for the establishment of an open bidding process for a casino.

Brown said he and Rodney Butler, the Mashantucket chairman, have discussed Bridgeport on two occasions with Lamont, a Democrat who took office Jan. 9.

"The Governor talked to them, as he has with a number of stakeholders, about his vision for economic development in towns and cities across the state, including Bridgeport," Colleen Flanagan Johnson, a Lamont spokeswoman, said in an email Saturday.

In 2015, the tribes formed a partnership, MMCT Venture, to pursue a third Connecticut casino and the first on nontribal land. They settled on a site in East Windsor, some 12 miles from the MGM Springfield site.

Brown said the tribes would pursue a Bridgeport project "under the same MMCT-type construct."

"There's no guarantee it will happen," he said.

The tribe expects to introduce sports betting at their casinos and perhaps online if the state enacts a law permitting it. Brown said ongoing negotiations with the state involve the tribes, Sportech Venues, which operates the state's off-track betting facilities, and the Connecticut Lottery Corp.

***

A Shelton lawmaker who introduced a bill calling for the state to seek casino proposals, said Saturday the bill's language mistakenly includes a provision seeking repeal of authorization for the East Windsor casino.

"That's not what I intended. That got put in there in error," Rep. Ben McGorty, a Republican, said.

McGorty said the bill's language apparently had been lifted from a bill submitted last year and that he did not know who was responsible for the mistake. He said he meant to propose only that the state adopt a competitive-bidding process for a casino somewhere in the state, a process that would be open to tribal and commercial operators.

A supporter of a Bridgeport casino, he said he had no intention of proposing repeal of the 2017 law that authorized the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to jointly develop a casino in East Windsor, a project that has yet to materialize.

"Bridgeport needs help," McGorty said. "It's absolutely the best place in the state for a casino. It's the biggest city in the state and it's got a deep water port where you could bring in cruise ships and ferries from New York City."

McGorty's district includes parts of Shelton, Stratford and Trumbull, towns north and east of Bridgeport.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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