HARTFORD, Conn. – At Connecticut's casinos, you can gamble around the clock, but state law cuts off cocktail service soon after midnight. The CEO of the Foxwoods Resort Casino says that puts them at a disadvantage in the region — and he wants the state to revisit the policy.
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Atlantic City casinos serve alcohol at all hours, liquor is served until 4 a.m. at New York's gambling facilities, and Foxwoods chief Felix Rappaport said he expects casino developers in Massachusetts will lobby for changes to the law cutting off service there at 2 a.m.
A proposed exemption to Connecticut liquor laws is among the topics Rappaport is looking to raise with the newly re-elected Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
"I'm not sure being able to play blackjack until 2 or 3 morning and get a drink is a bad thing," Rappaport said in an interview this week. "I think at the very least we ought to look at it because it's a competitive disadvantage."
As the tribes that own Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have reported slumping gambling revenue, Malloy has worked more closely with them than any other Connecticut governor to aid the casinos, which contribute 25 percent of their slot revenue to the state's general fund and help drive the economy of southeastern Connecticut. The state increased the casinos' free play allowance and renegotiated agreements that require the tribes to reimburse the state for regulatory and public safety services.
Pushing off last call may be a harder sell. Currently, casinos have to end liquor service at 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends. The idea of casino exemptions was floated in 2008 but gained little traction with Connecticut lawmakers, partly because of concerns over drunken driving. A spokesman for the Malloy administration didn't comment on the new proposal.
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Rep. Stephen Dargan, House chairman of the legislature's Public Safety and Security Committee, said there could be ways to address public safety concerns, but it's not clear that extending bar service would bring in significantly more revenue.
"We need to have that discussion," Dargan said. "It might increase problems more than it does anything."
Rappaport, a veteran casino industry executive who was named the CEO of Foxwoods last week, said that other issues he would like to raise with the governor include state investment in tourism promotion and possible transportation improvements to make it easier to reach the casino.
"Now that the election is over we want to get on the docket with him and see what is possible," he said.
Chuck Bunnell, a spokesman for the Mohegan Tribe, said they look forward to working with the governor and legislature on efforts to protect economic development, especially as MGM prepares to build a casino close to the state line in Massachusetts. He declined to say whether the tribe, which owns Mohegan Sun, would push for changes to liquor laws.