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Finance committee allows its third-casino bill to die

One of two legislative proposals calling for a competitive bidding process that could lead to a third Connecticut casino died last week when the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee failed to forward it to the House floor.

The deadline for the committee to report out bills was Friday.

Raised Bill 7319, which the committee had introduced three weeks ago, would have authorized the state Departments of Consumer Protection and Economic and Community Development to issue a request for casino proposals and to select an entity to develop, manage and operate “a possible casino gaming facility in the state.”

The other competitive-bidding proposal, House Bill 7239, and a third measure, Senate Bill 957, which would enable the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to develop a casino in East Windsor, were reported out of the Public Safety and Security Committee earlier in the legislative session. Neither has been put to a vote in either chamber.

Bill 7319 encountered considerable opposition as well as some support at an April 17 public hearing.

Sen. Cathy Osten, a Sprague Democrat whose district includes the tribes’ respective casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, testified at the hearing that opening up the casino bidding process would jeopardize thousands of Connecticut jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

The bill called for bidders to agree to invest at least $500 million in a casino project and commit to paying 35 percent of a casino’s gaming revenues to the state. A gaming expert who testified on behalf of the tribes said the numbers were too high.

The other competitive-bidding bill seeks a $300 million investment and calls for an operator to pay the state 35 percent of a casino’s slot-machine revenue and 10 percent of revenue from tables games.

The tribes are jointly pursuing the East Windsor project as a way to protect their existing casinos from the competitive threat posed by MGM Springfield, a $950 million resort casino being built in Massachusetts. Senate Bill 957 would require the tribes to pay 25 percent of all gaming revenues generated by an East Windsor casino to the state.

Under current revenue-sharing agreements, the tribes pay the state 25 percent of their existing casinos' slots revenues. Their table-games revenues are not taxed.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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