Malloy doubts CT public has appetite for expanded gaming

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy didn’t take a position early Monday on the prospect of expanded casino gaming in Connecticut, though he did predict the preliminary proposal offered by the Mohegan tribe would not go forward at this time.

Malloy was out of state most of last week when the tribe first discussed the basic concept of a gaming facility in north-central Connecticut to compete with new casinos planned in Massachusetts, particularly an $800 million venue in Springfield.

But the governor, who talked with reporters after an address to a statewide municipal police officers convention at the Hartford Marriott, said if the state’s recent dalliance with keno showed anything, it’s that Connecticut isn’t looking to expand gaming.

I don’t see Connecticut doing it, but, you know, that’s a legislative matter, at least initially,” the governor said. “I don’t think that there is a consensus in Connecticut that people want a lot more gaming.

Keno is played in restaurants and bars “in every state around us but isn’t played in Connecticut.”

The governor and his fellow Democrats in the legislature’s majority enacted a biennial budget in May 2013 that allowed the state to legalize keno in restaurants and bars here. But that authorization was revoked one year later, before the game had even been implemented, after strong public criticism.

The governor added that he doesn’t know if anyone in his administration has spoken with the tribal leaders about their proposal, but said, “My administration is not playing a lead role in this, is not playing a direct role in this. I’ll have discussions with legislative leaders if, and when, they want to have those discussions.”

Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, the leader of the state legislative panel that oversees gaming issues, said last week that he wants to hold an informational hearing later this month on ways to preserve the casino industry Connecticut has developed.

Dargan, who is co-chairman of the Public Safety and Security Committee, said Connecticut casinos face growing pressure, not only from as many as three casinos being planned in Massachusetts, but from two relatively new gaming facilities in Rhode Island.

Kevin Brown, the Mohegan tribal chairman, said Monday that, “Gaming competition is accelerating in New England, and construction in Springfield will have an impact on jobs and tourism at Connecticut’s resorts. The most effective way to address that competition, and to protect jobs here is for all of the involved parties to sit down, and gather data and community input and to develop an appropriate and effective plan.”

Brown added that, “What we are discussing is not expanded gaming, but a smart and well-considered plan to make sure that some of the most successful and profitable gaming resorts in the world — who together employ 20,000 individuals and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in vendor business and tourism dollars in Connecticut — continue their successful operation.”

 

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