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It's the law: Malloy signs 3rd-casino bill

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the bill Tuesday that authorizes the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to jointly operate the state’s third casino — and first commercial one — in East Windsor, where it’s hoped it will stem the flow of Connecticut gamblers expected to head next year to MGM Springfield, the $950 million resort casino scheduled to open in Massachusetts.

The signing came nearly three weeks after the state House of Representatives passed the measure, 103-46. The Senate had approved it two weeks before that, 24-12.

“Over the years, our state has maintained a longstanding partnership and compact with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribal nations, who employ thousands of Connecticut residents at their casinos,” the governor said in a statement. “Make no mistake about it — the legislation I signed today is about jobs for the residents of Connecticut, and securing those jobs in our state.”

The tribes, citing a gaming expert’s analysis, had maintained that failure to counter the competitive threat posed by MGM Springfield would jeopardize thousands of direct and indirect jobs in and around Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, their southeastern Connecticut facilities, and across the state.

The new law calls for MMCT Venture, the partnership the tribes formed to pursue the third casino, to pay the state $1 million to cover the initial costs of regulating the facility. Once the casino is operating, the state will receive 25 percent of gross gaming revenue generated by the casino’s video facsimile games, or slots, and 25 percent of gross gaming revenue from its table games. Ten percent of the table-games revenue will be dedicated to tourism promotion.

In addition, MMCT will contribute $300,000 annually to the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, and pay regulatory costs incurred by the state Department of Consumer Protection.

Under a deal East Windsor signed earlier with the tribes, the town stands to get about $8.5 million a year in casino revenue, including $3 million to mitigate the casino’s impact on local services and an estimated $5.5 million in property taxes. The tribes also will make a $3 million upfront payment to the town no later than 15 months before the casino opens.

The casino is to be built off Exit 45 of Interstate 91 on a site now occupied by a vacant Showcase Cinemas building.

Revenue the state receives from the casino will provide annual grants of $750,000 to each of six towns surrounding East Windsor — East Hartford, Ellington, Enfield, Hartford, South Windsor and Windsor Locks.

“With a stroke of the pen, we are that much closer to turning our proposal for an entertainment and gaming facility in East Windsor into reality,” Kevin Brown, the Mohegan chairman, said in a statement. “We’re excited about the future, and tremendously thankful for the leadership of the governor and the many legislators from both parties who rallied to protect jobs in our state that would otherwise have been lost.”

Rodney Butler, the Mashantucket chairman, said last week the tribes expect to obtain the necessary approvals to launch construction within the next six months. Thereafter, he said, the casino could open in another 18 months.

MGM, which had lobbied for a bill calling for the establishment of a competitive bidding process for a third casino, has indicated it likely will sue to prevent the East Windsor project from moving forward.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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