Airport authority touts ‘captive audience’ in casino pitch

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Connecticut Airport Authority touted how a casino at a Bradley International Airport terminal and new transportation center could “capitalize on a captive audience” in a pitch to Connecticut’s federally recognized tribes, according to documents released Friday.

The authority noted how more than 17,000 passengers pass through the Windsor Locks facility on a daily basis.

“No other location within the state of Connecticut can offer the opportunity for that amount of dedicated non-casino traffic to pass by the casino entrances daily,” according to a proposal the authority submitted last year to the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes. Both are considering locations for a proposed jointly-owned, satellite casino to blunt competition from MGM Resorts International’s planned casino in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The authority’s proposal, however, was shelved in June after it became clear the timeline for any potential development of the casino would not be compatible with construction of the $225 million transportation center. MGM released a copy of the proposal on Friday to the media after obtaining it through an open records request.

The airport authority has stressed that other locations for the casino still exist at Bradley.

The tribes, who own and operate Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino in southeastern Connecticut, have yet to announce a location for their joint venture. They also still need local approvals and the consent of the General Assembly and governor.

According to the proposal, the authority offered various options for the tribes to consider, including adding gambling space before and after security checkpoints. One version suggested a rooftop casino where patrons could watch the planes, suggesting it’s an “extremely important component of the overall entertainment experience.” Plans also included restaurants and other entertainment.

Kevin Dillon, executive director of the airport authority, acknowledged that alternative locations at the airport won’t offer same level of foot traffic the terminal and transportation center locations provided. However, he said the airport is still a good location for a casino, noting the easy accessibility from highways.

MGM on Friday accused the airport authority of not being transparent, arguing that the documents show the casino project would have been much larger than the satellite casino concept suggested by the tribes.

“Calling this a `satellite casino’ — which is how they all referred to this in public — is like calling the Grand Canyon a hole in the ground,” said Alan Feldman, executive vice president for MGM.

Dillon denied the claim, saying the proposed gambling facility would have been incorporated into the new ground transportation center, which will house rental car companies and other transportation services. Dillon also argued the authority has discussed the project publicly and released its proposal after pulling it from consideration by the tribes.

MGM has taken various steps, including legal action, to challenge the satellite casino proposed by the two Connecticut tribes. The casino giant contends the state’s process for possibly allowing a third casino has been unfair.

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