‘Interim’ Casino? Conn. Ignores Warning Signs as Springfield, Greater Boston Consolidate

Whether it be members of the legislature or the executive director of the state airport authority, Connecticut officials seem intent on getting it wrong in the latest installment of “casino follies.” As projects in Massachusetts move forward, the whacky idea of an “interim casino” at Bradley International Airport is being floated, ignoring warning of gaming saturation and doing nothing to save supposedly migrating jobs.

The Hartford Courant reports that state Airport Authority Executive Director Kevin Dillon says a temporary casino could be up and running at the Sheraton Hartford at the airport within six months. Theoretically, gaming could be held at the hotel while a permanent casino is being built in Windsor Locks. Hartford, East Hartford and Windsor are also competing for a third Connecticut casino in the 1-91 corridor ostensibly to keep jobs and gamblers from heading north to the shiny new MGM casino resort in Springfield.

The problem is, building a smaller casino to try to stop a state’s residents from flocking to a nearby state is already being tried and it’s been a big failure so far. Massachusetts thought it would be a good idea to build a slots parlor in Plainville to stop gamblers from going to the larger, fancier Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island. After a big-time opening, revenue from Plainridge Park is a major disappointment and Twin River in thriving.

The idea of a third Connecticut casino was supposedly based on saving jobs from going to Springfield. In reality, its goal is to maintain revenue the state gets from the Indian tribe casinos. In any event, there’s no way am “interim” casino keeps any jobs—or gamblers—form heading north.

Casino dice

After stumbling out of the gate, MGM is moving forward. The city of Springfield has proven to be flexible and accommodating. The most recent move allowed the closure of two important roads through the project despite concerns from neighbors.

If Connecticut hoped to keep their Greater Boston area gamblers for as long as possible, news on that front isn’t good either. After posturing and at times being at each other’s throats, the city of Boston and Wynn Resorts have come to an agreement that would allow that project in Everett to move forward as well. Mayor Marty Walsh sued Wynn claiming the city was not afforded the proper consideration for the project just to its north. At least in Boston’s case, the adversarial moves were admittedly about money. The city gets some significant benefits.

Connecticut continues to play the “this-is-about-jobs game.” The state is already on the potentially losing end of a major lawsuit by MGM when it handed the Indian tribes the exclusive rights to develop a third casino. Now it seems it can’t wait to get started with the temporary casino that is likely destined to fail just like Plainridge Park.