Fairfield officials lukewarm to Bridgeport mega-casino

FAIRFIELD — Local officials aren’t convinced that gambling on a casino next in Bridgeport is a great idea.

MGM Resorts International has unveiled plans for a $675 million waterfront resort, near the Steelpointe Harbor development. The privately financed casino and entertainment complex promises 2,000 permanent jobs, a 300-room hotel, a 900-foot boardwalk, a 100,000-square-foot casino, 2,000 slot machines, 160 table games, and 30,000-square-feet of retail space.

“I’ve opposed the casino expansion in East Windsor, and anywhere in this state,” state Sen. Tony Hwang, R-28, said. Any expansion, he said he’s argued in the past, is a slippery slope that would lead to a casino in Fairfield County. “(Monday’s) announcement is a realization of that,” Hwang said.

Hwang pointed out that the state’s agreement with its Indian tribes would mean a loss of revenue from the Mohegan Sun and Foxwood Resorts casinos. “There is so much uncertainty, and it seems we’re betting the future of our state’s well-being on gambling success,” Hwang said. “That is troubling, and, for me, the wrong path to go down.”

While First Selectman Mike Tetreau said he sees “some great numbers, especially for the city of Bridgeport,” and could serve as a “ray of hope, since the city doesn't seem to be getting the help it needs from the state,” he said he hasn’t seen enough detail, and is concerned about introducing more gambling.

State Rep. Brenda Kupchick, R-132, recalled a previous attempt to open a casino in Bridgeport, back when she worked for then-U.S. Rep. Chris Shays.

“Frankly I’ve never been a proponent of casinos in Bridgeport,” Kupchick said, noting how Shays worked with Richard Blumenthal, who was then the state’s attorney general, to stop a Bridgeport casino.

“Studies show that they basically depress anything around them,” Kupchick said. “Some people might feel excited, but the legislature would have to approve it, and the state would lose hundreds of millions of dollars, which it can’t afford to do.”

Police Chief Gary MacNamara said they are fortunate that police departments in the area already collaborate on regional issues, something that would prove helpful were the casino proposal to move forward beyond the discussion stage.

“I would imagine that a proposal such as this would include many regional discussions about the regional impact to public safety,” MacNamara said, “addressing issues such as increased crime, traffic, and limited resources. A casino would increase the demands of public safety in the region

Democratic Town Committee Chairman Steve Sheinberg said he would need to see more details before he commented. His Republican counterpart, James Millington agree more details are needed on the span and scope of the project.

“The largest impact on Fairfield would be additional traffic on Interstate 95,” Millington said. “The proposal acknowledges that they will be targeting casino clients from the New York City area. This will surely make an already bad traffic problem far worse.”

“It’s definitely too early to tell,” state Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-133, said. Though many people have expressed their opposition to the proposal, Vahey said, “I’m always willing to listen.”

But, she added, “There are a lot of questions with the casinos in our state, and it would go against our agreement with the tribes. I’ll listen, though.”

greilly@ctpost.com; @GreillyPost