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Conn. Lawmakers Vote To Authorize New Casino — Just Miles From Soon-To-Open Mass. Casino

Workers gather for the Springfield casino project's groundbreaking in 2015. (Stephan Savoia/AP)
Workers gather for the Springfield casino project's groundbreaking in 2015. (Stephan Savoia/AP)

The MGM Resorts casino that's currently under construction in the western Massachusetts city of Springfield will likely face competition from another casino just 16 miles away.

Early Wednesday, the Connecticut House of Representatives voted 103-46 in favor of a bill that allows the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to build a casino in East Windsor to compete with the MGM casino.

The two tribes operate Connecticut's Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos, respectively.

The bill previously passed the state Senate and now heads to Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy's desk. While Malloy has not advocated for a third casino in Connecticut, he has said he preferred the tribal proposal over another bill that would have opened up the process to other casino developers.

Mohegan Tribal Chairman Kevin Brown said families of casino workers at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun were "breathing a sigh of relief" that the legislation passed. The tribes have warned that thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in slot machine revenues to the state could be at risk if the border casino was not approved.

"With this vote, we have all demonstrated a commitment to protecting the state of Connecticut and the good jobs of its residents," Brown said.

But some Connecticut lawmakers voiced concern about granting the tribes exclusive rights to build a new casino on non-tribal land. Democratic Rep. Joe Verrengia, of West Hartford, predicted the facility could be bogged down by legal challenges for years.

There's no timetable yet for when the East Windsor casino could open.

The Springfield MGM casino is slated to open next year.

In its rating of MGM last year, Fitch Ratings said the return on investment for MGM Springfield is "less certain given the Connecticut tribes' effort to build a casino that would cut off the Hartford traffic going north to Springfield." The Fitch forecast assumes a third of MGM Springfield's revenue will originate from the Hartford area.

With reporting by The Associated Press, State House News Service and the WBUR Newsroom

This article was originally published on June 07, 2017.

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