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Contested public hearing Thursday for proposed third CT casino

HARTFORD — Supporters and opponents of a third proposed casino gathered at the State Capitol as early as 5:30 a.m. for a Public Safety and Security Committee hearing that began at 8:30 a.m.

The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Tribes want to build a jointly run "satellite casino" in East Windsor in order to compete with MGM Springfield, a casino and entertainment complex being built just across the border in Springfield, Mass.

The two tribes argue a third casino would protect state jobs and revenue from going over the border.

The committee is considering two bills, one allowing the East Windsor project, and the other opening the process up to other parties interested in submitting a bid.

"For certainty we know that we're going to lose several thousand jobs and hundreds of millions in revenue and 70-80 million in slot revenue for the state," said Rodney Butler, Chariman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe.

There will be 2,000 slot machines and 50 to 150 table games. The facility would pay a 25% tax on its slot machines and a 25% tax on its table games, similar to what the MGM casino under construction in Springfield, Massachusetts will pay. MGM said the border casino isn't in the state's best interest.

The table game tax rate will be split, with 10 percent of the revenue going directly to the state and 15 percent going to support state tourism initiatives according to the tribes.

East Windsor town officials reached an agreement with the tribes last month to build the casino on the land formerly occupied by the Showcase Cinemas off of I-91, near Route 5 and Route 140. Since the land had been zoned for entertainment, the proposal did not have to be voted on by town residents, according to town officials.

"Assuming that we all agree that this is the best approach to take on protecting jobs and revenue in the state of CT, with approval in the Spring in the legislature, we'll be on track to compete head to head with MGM," said Butler.

No word on when a vote whether a vote on the bills would be scheduled soon.