House Begins Debating Bridgeport Casino Bill – Hartford Courant

With proponents and opponents making passionate arguments in a high-stakes face-off, legislators resumed debating Friday on whether the legislature should authorize a potential new casino in Bridgeport.

The battle lines have been drawn at the state Capitol over those who want the Park City to be transformed into a major gambling mecca and those legislators who believe that the state already has enough gambling with two tribal casinos in southeastern Connecticut.

While Bridgeport has been mentioned repeatedly as the most likely spot for a new casino, lawmakers stressed that the bill calls for a “request for proposals’’ for a casino that could be built anywhere in the state. The word “Bridgeport’’ is not mentioned in the bill.

The measure calls for a total investment of $500 million and the creation of at least 2,000 jobs. Any applicant to the state would be required to submit an application fee of $5 million in order to ensure that bids are being made by qualified casino operators. Any non-succesful bidders would have the $5 million fee refunded back to them.

“This is a jobs bill,’’ said Rep. Steven Stafstrom, a Bridgeport Democrat. “This is an economic development bill. This is a tax bill.’’

Under a two-step process in the bill, the legislature would need to vote again — after the bids are received — on whether to authorize any new casinos.

One of the biggest issues facing lawmakers is that the state receives more than $270 million in the current fiscal year from a slot-machine revenue sharing arrangement that the state negotiated with the tribes in the 1990s. Since the tribal casinos were opened more than two decades ago, the state has received more than $7 billion cumulatively in shared slot-machine revenues.

The money that the state receives is expected to decrease

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