Published January 20, 2018
BRIDGEPORT, CONNECTICUT – Back in September, giant gambling operator MGM introduced a proposal for a lavish casino resort on the Bridgeport Harbor worth $674 million. MGM CEO Jim Murren even visited Bridgeport last Thursday and met with the Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim to discuss their hopes of bringing a casino resort in the seaport city.
Until very recently, all these events seemed to go unnoticed by the Native American tribes; however, the situation has now changed after the Mohegan and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribes revealed interest in building the Bridgeport casino.
Many believe that this particular issue could be a real battle between MGM and the Tribes as well as a major question for the 2018 political scene of the state. Even though the tribes have so far left an impression of perceiving the MGM proposal as a stunt, they now seem invested in the topic and are ready to compete. Competition, however, is welcome according to MGM executives that have stated that anyone can enter the run in Bridgeport. Nevertheless, they are certain that have the best site on the harbour and find it unlikely that other parties could find a better spot for a casino. Moreover, they didn’t fail to mention the strong support of both Bridgeport and New Heaven.
This stance seemed to motivate the tribes to take the threat more seriously and send a letter to legislative leaders. Signed by the chairmen of both the Mohegan and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribes, the letter was a reminder of the $7 billion given to the Connecticut thanks to the compact between the tribes and the state. Namely, the 1993 agreement gave the tribes exclusive rights to operate slot machines within the state borders, but in return they annually pay 25% of slots revenues to Connecticut.
The letter, additionally, highlighted the shared history between the tribal leaders and the state; namely, the tribes point out the “mutually beneficial partnership” that lasts over two decades between Connecticut and the two tribes. They also mention that their requests for building three commercial casino resorts have been denied in the past and thus demand involvement in any discussions for building such facilities in case “the circumstances have changed”.
However, as competition grows in neighbouring states, tribal casinos has witnessed a sharp drop in revenues. MGM didn’t miss the opportunity to mention that the state used to receive huge revenues of $430 million from the compact back in 2007, but last year the number was drastically lower $265 million; therefore, the operator hinted that Connecticut would be better off without the tribes and partnering with MGM instead.
The Mohegan and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribes operate the Mohegan Sun and the Foxwoods Resort Casino; they work together as a company named MMCT and are currently building a small gambling facility in East Windsor. East Windsor was presented as the first gambling expansion in Connecticut since 1996 and it was designed to keep gamblers from the state visiting the MGM Springfield facility, whose opening date is scheduled for 2018. If the Bridgeport Casino becomes reality, it will be the fourth gambling venue in Connecticut and a serious problem for the tribal gambling revenues.