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Casino, sports betting bills scheduled for hearing Tuesday

In his budget address last week, Gov. Ned Lamont mentioned the state’s need to “enact new sources of revenues, such as sports betting and internet wagering.”

He said nothing about casino expansion.

Nevertheless, there figures to be plenty of talk about such topics in the weeks ahead, starting Tuesday, when the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee takes testimony on four gaming bills, one of which seeks to “fix” the 2017 law that authorized the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to build an East Windsor casino.

Another bill would create the Connecticut Gaming Commission and launch a competitive-bidding process for a resort casino. A third bill deals with the legalization of sports betting while a fourth would legalize sports betting and online gambling and keno.

The hearing is set for 10 a.m. in Room 1E of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

State Sen. Cathy Osten, a Sprague Democrat, and a host of other southeastern Connecticut lawmakers are behind the bill that would eliminate the requirement that the two casino-owning tribes secure federal approval of their amended gaming agreements with the state before proceeding with the East Windsor project. That requirement was a condition of the law that authorized the project.

While the U.S. Department of the Interior has recognized the Mohegans’ agreement, it has not acted on the Mashantuckets’ agreement, prompting the state and the tribe to pursue a federal lawsuit against Interior, and members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation to call for Interior's inspector general to investigate.

The state and the tribes believe MGM Resorts International, the Las Vegas casino operator, managed to influence Interior’s handling of the tribes’ agreements, derailing the East Windsor project. Amid the delay, MGM has opened a nearly $1 billion resort casino in Springfield, Mass., siphoning business from the tribes’ southeastern Connecticut casinos.

Proponents of the East Windsor “fix” believe it can be taken up — and passed — as is, without being tied to other gaming proposals.

Some lawmakers, including many in the southeastern delegation, also believe sports betting can be dealt with as a separate issue. Another bill submitted by Osten would allow the Mashantuckets and the Mohegans to provide sports betting at their casinos and via mobile devices from anywhere in the state. The measure also would authorize the Connecticut Lottery Corp. to operate online keno within the state “pursuant to agreements” with the tribes.

Rhode Island introduced sports betting at two casinos late last year and is considering authorizing mobile sports betting from within that state. Massachusetts also is considering sports betting legislation.

Rep. Joe Verrengia, the West Hartford Democrat who co-chairs the public safety committee, has said he favors a comprehensive approach to gaming legislation as well as the creation of a commission, modeled on the one in place in Massachusetts, to oversee state-approved gaming.

The creation of a Connecticut Gaming Commission is part of a bill that would establish a competitive-bidding process for a resort casino in the state. MGM Resorts, which has proposed a Bridgeport casino project, is pushing the legislation for a third time. While a 2017 bill proposing competitive bidding failed to reach the floor of the House, last year’s version was approved there, 77-73, but did not get a vote in the Senate.

Fifteen lawmakers representing the Bridgeport and New Haven areas have signed on to this year’s bill.



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