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Inside Gaming: MGM Announces Plan for Connecticut Casino

MGM Bridgeport (artist's rendering)
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  • MGM announces Bridgeport, CT casino plan, but lawmakers and tribes don't see it happening.

  • Nevada gaming panel to consider how casinos should navigate state's new recreational marijuana law.

This week in Inside Gaming we share MGM's new plan to build a casino in Connecticut (as well as others' objections to it), we tell how Nevada officials will soon be considering how the state's gaming industry might need to address its fledgling new recreational marijuana industry, we note the four-year anniversary of one of the United States' few online poker sites, and we share how Mississippi casinos have been faring of late.

MGM Stirs Pot in Connecticut, Announces Bridgeport Casino Plan

This week MGM Resorts International announced plans to build a casino in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a decision that will result in "placing the company at odds with both tribal gaming operators and the gaming plans of Connecticut's state government," reports MassLive.

The new casino — to be called MGM Bridgeport (an artist's rendering appears above) — was first introduced in a media advisory, followed by a press conference on Monday at which further details were outlined.

However, the plans "do not appear to fit within Connecticut's current casino laws" notes MassLive. That's because Governor Dannel Malloy signed an act in July that allows only the state's two federally recognized tribes, the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans, to build a new gaming facility.

The Mashantucket Pequot tribe currently owns and operates the Foxwoods Resorts Casino on its reservation in Ledyard, while the Mohegans own and operate the Mohegan Sun property in Uncasville.

The tribes have joined together to build a new casino in East Windsor near the state's northern border, less than a half-hour's drive away from the MGM Springfield casino also currently under construction. Both of those casinos are scheduled to open in 2018.

The two tribes have "described MGM Springfield as a major threat to Connecticut's economy and government revenues," while "MGM has launched an aggressive legal and public relations campaign" criticizing the tribes' East Windsor project, reports MassLive.

In June MGM Resorts International found itself on the wrong side of a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Connecticut that dismissed MGM's lawsuit against the state claiming a competitive disadvantage that unfairly favored the two tribes.

Now that suit "could potentially be relitigated" following Connecticut's formal go-ahead to the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans to proceed with their plans in East Windsor and MGM's announcement this week of "a competing and unauthorized plan."

Since the announcement, an advertising blitz from MGM has followed touting the jobs and other benefits to the state of the Bridgeport project, notes the CTPost. But Gov. Malloy has maintained the project won't be happening at all without legislative approval, something he doesn't expect to happen given the need for the tribes' support as dictated by the state's compact with them.

"I can't imagine any scenario under which the tribal nations would agree to open up the compact on those grounds," Malloy told the CTPost.

Nevada Governor Asks Gaming Policy Committee to Address State's Pot Law

We turn from stirring the (metaphorical) pot to a consideration of how pot's legalization might potentially affect Nevada's gaming industry.

On July 1 of this year Nevada legalized sales of recreational marijuana. On Wednesday Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval announced he had signed an Executive Order reconvening the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee "to gather information, engage in discussion, and provide recommendations on policies related to the potential interactions between Nevada's gaming industry and the state's fledgling marijuana industry."

"Gaming regulators have been clear on the prohibition of marijuana consumption on licensed gaming properties," noted Sandoval in a press release. "But there are additional policy considerations such as industry events and business relationships that should be contemplated."

"The Gaming Policy Committee is the right organization to take up these important issues unique to Nevada due to the state's recent legalization of recreational marijuana and our gold standard gaming reputation," added Sandoval.

A list of matters to be addressed by the committee included the propriety of licensees hosting events catering to or promoting the sale of marijuana, having business relationships with those engaged in the new industry, or receiving financing from those involved in the industry.

The current law only allows recreational marijuana use in private homes and prohibits its use in casinos, bars, parks, restaurants, and other public areas.

It's a relevant concern to casinos and gaming businesses, since their licenses require they not violate federal law. As U.S. News clarifies, "as long as marijuana remains illegal under federal law, licensees are not to be a part of the cannabis industry."

WSOP.com Reflects on Four-Year Anniversary

Staying in the Silver State, WSOP.com marked its four-year anniversary this week, having first launched September 19, 2013. WSOP.com is currently one of only two legal online poker sites operating in Nevada along with Realgaming.com that went online in early 2014.

To mark the occasion, the Las Vegas Sun shared a Q&A with the site's head of online poker Bill Rini and Vice President of Corporate Communications at Caesars Interactive Entertainment Seth Palansky.

According to Rini, the number of people who have opened an account on WSOP.com in Nevada "is 35,000-38,000." The site "might have 1,200-1,500 unique active users playing" during any given month, and "if you go online at any given time, you'll see 100 to 200 players," he adds.

The pair address various challenges faced during the site's first four years while sharing their hopes for more states to join the online poker game again. "Hopefully we can implement some interstate compacts allowing the liquidity to flow among those states and allowing the customers to play each other," says Rini.

Mississippi Casino Revenue Down in August

Finally, WKRG.com reports that Mississippi casino revenue was down in August, with the Mississippi State Revenue Department reporting that "gamblers lost $168 million statewide last month, down 2 percent from August 2016's $171 million."

The 12 coastal casinos were actually up a little under 1 percent for the month, while the 16 river casinos were collectively down more than 4 percent year-over-year.

For the year as a whole, revenue among the state's casinos is down more than 2 percent from January-August. The figures don't include Choctaw-owned casinos, as they do not report earnings to the state.

Image: MGM Resorts.

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