The damper placed by Weicker on additional casinos was temporary and illusory. Rather, the demand for additional casinos only escalated and the desire to place a casino complex in Bridgeport, the state's most distressed city, never waned.
Fueled by the indefatigable efforts of the gaming industry and local supporters a Bridgeport casino over the last year moved closer to inevitability. Late last year, then-candidate John Rowland threw his support behind the plan and with his backing, the future of a Bridgeport casino has hinged on two concerns. First is the potential $160 million to $200 million annual payment by the Indian-operated casinos and its impact on the state's finances, even within a state budget in excess of $9.5 billion. We can find no better example in government today of the tail wagging the dog than the machinations surrounding these payments.
The effect of the Pequots' payment on state legislators and on the decision-making process in general is an unfortunate indication of how badly our lawmakers have failed to control state spending. That Connecticut lawmakers favor this “voluntary” taxation from its citizens doesn't alter the fact that these “voluntary” payments, as well as rest of the rest of the gambling revenue, sap the general economy as much as any other non-productive government tax.
In some ways we agree with those who claim that improving the economic environment in Bridgeport may be a nearly insurmountable task without something on the order of a $1 billion casino plan. Unfortunately, while a casino will mean financial rewards for many, we're far less certain that the overall economic impact will benefit the region - or even Bridgeport and its citizens.
And we are very concerned about the potential impact on the city of New Haven and its position as the entertainment and cultural center of the state. Can New Haven's fragile entrepreneurial-based entertainment economy compete with a $1 billion entertainment complex? That consideration seems lost in a much smaller, far less important and certainly more parochial discussion designed to support a single special-interest group: existing gambling facilities.
While we are sympathetic to the needs of these businesses, we find it incredible that the concerns of some lawmakers remain so narrowly focused. More importantly, many of these same lawmakers have consistently failed to act as thousands of jobs and hundreds of companies were lost due to Connecticut's imposing cost structure, much of it created by government itself.
Should businesses in the region support a casino in Bridgeport. We suggest you take your own counsel, and let your state legislators hear your voice.