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Big gambling expansion plan faces more opposition

Politics

(WTNH)–The co-chairman of the legislative committee that oversees all forms of gambling is joining the Governor in turning ‘thumbs down’ on that big gambling expansion proposal.

Lawmakers from Southeast Connecticut, Greater Bridgeport, and North Central Connecticut all are pushing this big plan and want a Special Session called, but that does not appear to be in the cards.

The Mashantucket Pequot tribe, operators of Foxwoods, Connecticut’s first casino complex released an economic impact study Thursday showing them to be among the state’s top employers with a payroll of $180 million. It’s obviously aimed at convincing state lawmakers that they, along with the Mohegan Tribe, are the best bet for any expansion of gambling in Connecticut.

But the co-chair of the legislative committee that oversees all forms of gambling, Rep. Joe Verrengia (D-West Hartford) does not like the idea of giving all forms of gambling expansion just to the tribes saying, “I don’t believe giving the keys to our lucrative gaming market here in the state of Connecticut to one entity is a good idea.”

The big plan leaves out the state’s 16 ‘Off Track Betting’ facilities (operated by a company called ‘Sportech’) where Connecticut residents wager about $150 million a year on horse and dog racing as well as Jai Alai. They issued a statement statement implying legal action but declined an interview request.

The tribes’ strongest supporter, State Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague), is the key legislator pushing the big proposal giving the tribes control over all new gambling. Here’s what she said today about including the ‘Off Track Betting’ facilities in the deal, “I’m certain that one of our leaders in the House will eventually bring that to us as an amendment to this bill.”

The Democratic leader in the State Senate has been noncommittal on Osten’s desire to take up the plan in a Special Legislative session.

The Republican leader in the Senate, Sen. Len Fasano (R-North Haven) says the Governor was right to reject this proposal adding, “We, as leaders, have always felt that this deal has to be orchestrated by the Governor’s office.”

Fasano says that has to happen because this is like dealing with a foreign government and whatever the deal is, the Governor will have to live with it in terms of future state budgets.

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