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Connecticut Legislature Approves Casino To Compete With MGM Springfield

      A bill to allow construction of a third tribal casino in Connecticut cleared the legislature early this morning meaning the yet-to-open MGM Springfield casino could face a competitor just a few miles away down Interstate 91. 

        The House of Representatives in Hartford, just before 2 a.m., voted 103-46 for a bill that allows the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to build a casino at the site of a former movie theater in East Windsor, just 13 miles from where MGM is building a $950 million casino in downtown Springfield.  The bill previously passed the Senate and now heads to Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy.

       The vote culminated a campaign by the tribes that begin shortly after MGM was awarded a license three years ago to build a casino in Springfield.  The tribes, which operate competing casinos in eastern Connecticut, joined forces and argued that without head-to-head competition, MGM’s western Massachusetts casino would cost Connecticut thousands of jobs and tens of millions in tax revenue.

     As lobbyists for MGM Resorts International fought the tribes’ satellite casino plan in the state capital in Hartford and in the courts, construction has continued on the Springfield casino, which is on pace to open in September 2018.

     MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis has consistently downplayed the threat posed by a third Connecticut casino.

     "From out standpoint competition will come, competition will go, we just want to make a really compelling destination," Mathis said recently.

     Even with the specter of a new casino in Connecticut and the Rivers Casino that opened in Schenectady earlier this year, Mathis said he believes the gambling “pie” is large enough.

   " Yeah, we believe so. Our experience in Maryland has proven we can grow the market. The power of the MGM brand, the loyalty of our customers, will bring new people to the market who are not here  now," said Mathis.

       MGM forecast that a third of the customers for the Springfield casino will come from the affluent suburbs of Hartford.

    Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Enrique Zuniga said earlier this year that if Connecticut green-lighted a third casino, commissioners would discuss updating revenue projections for the MGM casino.

   " Sure, a third casino in Connecticut may have some affect in the overall gaming market, but another facility would also grow the market a little bit so then it becomes how is that market split up," said Zuniga.

   The state will tax the MGM casino at 25 percent of the gross gaming revenues. 

   MGM committed to create 3,000 jobs to operate the resort casino in Springfield.  The gaming commission, last month, approved the company’s workforce development plan.  Mathis said efforts to recruit potential employees have already begun.

  " We are talking right now to a lot of local workforce development partners," he said.

   MGM has invested in the development by Holyoke Community College of a new culinary arts training center in a renovated mill building in downtown Holyoke.

    A gaming school, operated by Springfield Technical Community College with facilities provided by MGM, is tentatively scheduled to open in downtown Springfield by the end of this year.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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