It’s time to diversify Connecticut’s gaming industry

Connecticut is at a dangerous crossroads. We can choose to do nothing and lose hundreds of millions of dollars in projected revenue for the state from our two casinos, or we can go on the offensive, diversify the industry and get back in the game. Connecticut can easily strengthen its existing gaming industry by allowing the addition of 10,000 slot machines at the three pari-mutuel gaming facilities in Connecticut, where enthusiasts already make wagers on horse and dog races, and by adding additional machines to the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos. This will bring thousands of dollars of gaming revenue into the state, and create new, full-time jobs for Connecticut residents.

In the early 1990s, Connecticut and its taxpayers struck gold when an agreement was reached to allow the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan tribal nations to build two state-of-the-art casinos in our state. Under this arrangement, 25 percent of slot-machine revenue goes directly into the state budget to help pay for things like education, transportation and financial aid to our towns and cities.

Unfortunately, the days of being the only game in town are nearing an end and if we are not careful, our state could lose its edge. Attendance at Connecticut’s two casinos is down and it’s only going to get worse now that neighboring states are expanding into the gaming business.

New York already allows video lottery terminals, a device similar to slot machines, at the Yonkers and Aqueduct racetracks. There are approximately 5,500 video lottery terminals at each facility, generating substantial revenue. Andrew Cuomo has authorized three additional full-sized casinos to be developed in New York. Massachusetts is also considering building three major casinos. This week, the mayor of Springfield awarded the city’s gaming rights to MGM Resorts International. Other proposed sites for resort casinos include the town of Palmer, the greater Boston area, and a site to be determined in the southeast portion of the state. Rhode Island already has slot facilities in Newport and Twin Rivers.

Increased gaming in New York and Massachusetts will be devastating to Connecticut’s casino industry and to the state’s bottom line. We can stop our financial bleeding by giving Connecticut residents more reasons to stay closer to home with greater accessibility to similar-type venues.

This is why it is critical to act now and add 10,000 slot machines at Connecticut’s three pari-mutuel gaming locations. Shoreline Star at Bridgeport, Sports Haven in New Haven and Bradley Teletheater in Windsor Locks are operated by Sportech and along with Foxwoods and Mohegan could easily be outfitted with slot machines at very little expense. Demographic studies done by the Cummings Report have shown that this type of wagering is conducive to attracting “day trip” gaming enthusiasts by providing locations within a short driving distance of their homes.

Connecticut has a strong potential for day-trip gaming, which has not yet been capitalized on. By introducing these new slot machines, Connecticut will retain its place in gaming with a projected excess of $200 million a year in new revenue. As many as 3,000 new full-time jobs, employing Connecticut workers, would be directly created by these facilities, in addition to the economic growth the expanded gaming will bring to surrounding regions.


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