House Speaker increasing odds for casino gambling expansion

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HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– The Speaker of the Connecticut House says he is increasing the odds that an expansion of casino gambling will pass this year.  The prediction comes in the aftermath of greater red ink, and as a third Native American Tribe says they can increase the stakes for the state.

The third tribe is the state recognized Schaghticokes. You will recall they got federal recognition 13 years ago, only to have the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs reverse their ruling in the aftermath of massive public and political pressure here in Connecticut.  But the Schaghticokes say they still have friends in the gambling industry that will bankroll them.

Lead by tribal chairman Richard Velky, members of the Kent based Scahghticoke Tribe invaded the Capitol complex today, urging that they be allowed to compete for a third gambling casino that they would like to establish southwest of New Haven to take advantage of what all parties agree is the potentially lucrative metropolitan New York City area.

“Anywhere in Fairfield County, preferably for me, probably be Bridgeport. We have always show an interest in Bridgeport. Bridgeport has always shown an interest in the Schaghticoke,” said Velky.

Their push comes as the plan for the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegans to open a third casino in East Windsor is gathering momentum. A key legislative committee has now endorsed that plan, and it has near-unanimous support among lawmakers from both political parties in Southeastern Connecticut.

“We’re all on the same side of jobs and what you think about casino gambling aside, they’ve proven to be great community partners, great providers and great economic activists for our state,” said Sen. Paul Formica (R-Niantic).  Sen. Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) added,  “It saves jobs in our area. We have 12,000 jobs that are in Eastern Connecticut, actually 140 towns send workers down to the casinos.”

There’s also the matter of the approximately $250 million the state will get this year from the 25 percent cut in slot revenue. The East Windsor plan would also include a 25 percent cut from the table games.  But the Schaghticokes note that the competing bill calls for a 35 percent cut of all gambling revenue, which they say with a Bridgeport gambling facility, would more than make up for the lost revenue from the two existing casinos.

Speaker of the House Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin) said today:  “We’re getting close to around 65 to 35 that there’s going to be expanding gambling within the state of Connecticut bill as part of a budget or stand alone bill this year.”As recently as last week, the Speaker was only giving 50-50 odds on a gambling expansion bill passing this year.  The expanding red ink has apparently increased those odds that one of these two bills will pass.

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