Mohegan Sun executive: 3rd Connecticut casino near Massachusetts possible to better compete

Industries Associated Press

The tribal authority that runs the Mohegan Sun and rival Foxwoods Resort Casino could join forces to operate a third Connecticut casino near the Massachusetts state line to compete with new casinos opening in the Bay State, its chief executive said.

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Mitchell Etess, chief executive officer of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, told The Day of New London (http://bit.ly/1EsNgTP ) it's "very easy" to see a solution drawn up by the Connecticut legislature.

"We have the exclusive right," Etess said, referring to the tribes' Connecticut gaming compacts that would be amended to account for expanded gambling. "It's very easy to foresee some type of legislative solution that would be owned by the tribes — that would maintain revenue for the state of Connecticut."

A key state legislator said that although expanding gambling to make up for lost revenue might yield an agreement among the tribes and state officials, it wouldn't be easily arrived at.

"It's always an uphill battle when you want to expand gaming to offset revenue losses," said Rep. Stephen Dargan, House chairman of the legislature's Public Safety and Security Committee.

Falling revenue at both casinos has cut state revenue, calculated as 25 percent of slot machine bets after prize payouts.

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State revenue from slots has declined from a peak of $430.5 million in 2007 to $279.9 million in the budget year that ended June 30. The deep recession and weak economic recovery that crimped consumer spending is partly to blame, the state's two casinos also face withering competition from gambling in New York and elsewhere in the Northeast.

In addition, casinos licensed for Springfield and Boston and possibly a third in southeastern Massachusetts are expected to hammer casino revenue, prompting Etess to suggest a new approach.

The two tribal casinos in southeast Connecticut and state officials "could do something to stop revenue from leaving," Etess said. A casino or another type of gambling center between Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks and Enfield would "cut off most of that business" headed to MGM Resorts in Springfield, he said.

"I could envision something that would do very nicely up there," Etess said.

A representative of the Mashantucket Pequot tribe that owns Foxwoods did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Dargan told The Associated Press on Wednesday he hopes to soon convene a meeting of representatives of the two casinos, legislators, problem gambling experts and others to discuss the prospect of a third casino or other ideas to boost gambling revenue.

In the just-ended political campaigns, "Democrats and Republicans talked about promoting the economy and keeping businesses in the state," he said. "That will be the discussion we need to have, how we structure that."