Delays in Mass. Casino Projects Benefit Connecticut

Early in the 2015 session of the Connecticut General Assembly, lawmakers were in a bit of a panic over losing revenue it gets from the two Indian casinos due to competition from new resorts in Massachusetts. The legislature decided to slow down a bit and pass a bill establish a two-tiered process for a third Connecticut casino. Now, both approved Massachusetts casino projects as well as a potential third project are on hold for one reason or another. That gives the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegans a temporary reprieve from competition.

The casino project in Greater Boston, located in Everett, is mired in a lawsuits from both the city of Boston and neighboring city of Somerville. The Boston legal action, spearheaded by Mayor Marty Walsh, claims the process by which the permit was awarded was rigged in favor of Steve Wynn’s Wynn Resorts.

The Mass. State Ethics Commission is now looking into a possible conflict of interest on the part of gambling commission chairman Stephan Crosby who had a longstanding friendship and past business dealings with one of the owners of the Everett land sold to Wynn for the project. Wynn plans to build a $1.7 billion gambling resort on the property. It beat out a competing bid by the Mohegans.

Artist rendering of Great Boston casino resort
Artist rendering of Great Boston casino resort

The Boston lawsuit claims the state gaming commission violated its own rules, failed to disclose conflicts and generally rigged the competition. Commission spokesperson Elaine Driscoll denies the allegation. “The commission made each license award based solely on a meticulous, objective, and highly transparent evaluation of each gaming proposal…We are confident that this complex licensing process was administered in a comprehensive and fair manner, although disappointing to interested parties seeking an alternative result,” she said.

The city of Somerville’s lawsuit makes claims similar to those of Boston.

An entirely different reason could hold up the Springfield casino project by up to a year. MGM broke ground in March for its $800 million resort casino—the project that has Connecticut lawmakers freaking. But now there is word that instead of opening in 2017, the MGM Springfield resort would wait until the completion of the I-91 construction project which won’t come until 2018.

Artist rendering of MGM resort in Springfield
Artist rendering of MGM resort in Springfield

MGM plans to talk to the Mass. Gaming Commission about its opening date at the panel’s June 26 meeting.

Meanwhile, commission chairman Crosby’s name has popped up again for possible conflict problems, this time with a potential bid for the yet-to-be-granted license for a casino in Southeast Massachusetts. The city of New Bedford is looking for a suitable developer to build a resort on its waterfront. The city has received several extensions to present a plan. Now there is question about the “social” relationship between Crosby and New Bedford Mayor Jonathan Mitchell.

All of this could be a blessing for Connecticut at least in the short term. The legislature passed a bill laying out a process by which the two Indian tribes could open a third casino, probably north of Hartford. Gov. Malloy has yet to sign it but apparently plans to. However, a deal has yet to be struck with the tribes. The state reaps 25 percent of all slot machine revenues from the existing casinos.

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