Tribes, lawmakers discuss opening new casinos near state lines to keep gamblers in Connecticut

The two tribes that own Connecticut's casino resorts are holding discussions with lawmakers about opening new casinos near state boundaries with Massachusetts and New York to keep gamblers from going to the neighboring states, company executives said Thursday.

Leaders of the Mohegan Tribe and the Mashantucket Pequots have been meeting with state lawmakers to craft a bill for consideration this year to authorize new gambling halls. The two federally recognized tribes have exclusive rights to offer casino-style gambling in Connecticut under an agreement that provides the state with 25 percent of slot-machine revenue.

The tribes' casinos, Mohegan Sun and the Foxwoods Resort Casino, have been struggling to reverse slumps in a regional gambling market that is only going to become more competitive with the planned construction of new properties in Massachusetts and New York.

"This ultimately is more of an issue of preserving tax revenue and jobs," said Mitchell Etess, chief executive of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

One proposal calls for a small-scale casino along Interstate 91 north of Hartford that might have 1,800 slot machines, some table games and perhaps some restaurants, Etess said. He said it would have very limited amenities compared to Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods, but enough to entice visitors who might otherwise travel north to Springfield, Massachusetts, where MGM Resorts International is planning an $800 million casino.

Kevin Brown, the Mohegans' chairman, said Thursday that the highways connecting Connecticut with neighboring states would be obvious places to open facilities to "intercept any sort of convenience gamer."

Brown spoke at news conference on plans for a second hotel at Mohegan Sun, a project that casino executives say would allow them to recapture the nearly 500,000 room nights turned away in 2014. The seven-story, 400-room Earth Hotel is expected to open in the fall of 2016 at a cost of $120 million.

A spokesman for the Mashantucket Pequots did not respond to a request for comment.