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Major gambling expansion could help lower property taxes in the state

Politics

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Democratic and Republican lawmakers from all corners of the state came together Wednesday to roll out a major gaming bill and to say it’s time to modernize gaming and create jobs.

They say it will not only secure and expand jobs in the gaming and entertainment business in Connecticut, but it could also help to lower property taxes.

Appropriations Committee co-chair Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) explained that the bill gives them the ability to modernize gaming, saying, “That’s what we have here, an ability to modernize gaming. It’s being done in states surrounding us. It’s being done across the country.”

That echoes what Governor Ned Lamont has been saying about gaming for months, and this proposal calls on him to finish negotiating amending the state’s agreement with the two tribal casinos in the state – Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun – by October.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) added, “We are leaving a lot of money on the table if we do not pass legislation like this.”

In part, the plan allows the Mashantuckets and Mohegans to operate both retail and online sports betting. It would also allow them to jointly run a casino operation in Bridgeport, and create tribal ‘entertainment zones’ in New Haven and Hartford.

“This is an issue that impacts not only Eastern Connecticut very strongly, but all of the state of Connecticut as we do need to work hard to secure our partnership for the long-term with these tribes.”

– Deputy Senate Minority Leader Sen. Paul Formica (R-Niantic)

It is estimated that these expansions of legal gambling will grow the amount of money that is wagered by the public and the plan includes a mechanism to more than double the amount of revenue sharing that goes to the cities and towns from gambling. An increase large enough, the proponents say, to actually lower some property tax mill rates.

Both tribes support this proposal. MGM, which operates gambling facilities in Springfield and Yonkers, says they want to continue to try to compete for a casino license

Here’s the complete list of proposals included in the “Act Concerning Jobs In and Revenue From the Gaming Industry”:

  • Directing Governor Lamont to negotiate and amend the existing tribal compacts by Oct. 1.
  • Allowing the tribes to operate both retail and online sports betting.
  • The creation of a new casino in Bridgeport to be jointly operated by the two tribes.
  • The creation of tribal ‘entertainment zones’ in Hartford, New Haven, and one other town to be determined.
  • Extending Connecticut’s deadline for serving alcohol in casinos from 2 a.m. until 4 a.m.
  • A new system for allotting some of the new tribal revenue, including 10% of gross gaming revenue (not from video slots) to be earmarked for statewide tourism efforts, and 15% to be deposited into the General Fund.
  • An increase of $88 million (from $51 million to $139 million) of gaming revenue to be distributed annually to all 169 Connecticut cities and towns.
  • If remaining funds allow, additional grants of $750,000 each to be distributed annually to Bridgeport, East Hartford, Ellington, Enfield, Hartford, New Haven, Norwalk, South Windsor, Waterbury, West Hartford, Windsor, and Windsor Locks.
  • If remaining funds allow, additional grants of $750,000 each to be distributed annually to East Lyme, Groton, Ledyard, Montville, Norwich, Stonington, and Waterford.
  • If remaining funds allow, additional grants to $375,000 each to be distributed annually to Bozrah, Franklin, Griswold, Lisbon, North Stonington, Preston, Salem, and Sprague.
  • The City of Bridgeport may impose property taxes on the planned Bridgeport casino for up to 10 years.
  • The Connecticut Lottery Corporation may conduct online lottery ticket sales, with age confirmation.
  • The state Department of Consumer Protection must, within available resources, inform the public about programs designed to prevent, treat and rehabilitate compulsive gamblers.
  • The state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) must establish a program for the treatment and rehabilitation of compulsive gamblers.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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