Some two dozen of us gathered at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Hartford on Tuesday despite a snowstorm that began just as we prayed our way into the meeting. This was the second meeting of the Coalition Against Casino Expansion in Connecticut, a burgeoning group led by our own Legislative Advocate, Michele Mudrick. (Check out the website www.nomorecasinosinct.org for the list of fifteen faith-based and non-profit organizations that have joined the cause!)
I was there because I recently agreed to join the CTUCC’s Advocate Corps. And because I find it nearly impossible to say “no” to Michele, with her tireless commitment and passion for justice.
Casinos were not so much on my mind at the time, but I had already decided to step up my involvement at the state Legislature this session. I heard The Rev. William Barber, the founder of the Moral Mondays movement, speak last summer. He encouraged people of faith to get involved at the statehouses, where many of the laws that impact the most vulnerable in our society are enacted. With the drastic changes being contemplated at the federal level, the huge state budget deficit, and the Legislature almost evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, Hartford is one place where we can really make an impact.
So, what’s the deal with the casino? In response to the new $950 million MGM casino being built in Springfield, MA the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes have asked the legislature to allow them jointly to open a $200-300 million “convenience” casino in the Hartford area.
In 2015, legislative leaders enacted a bill inviting interested towns to submit proposals to the tribes. Once the tribes choose a proposal, the town will have to approve it by referendum or other means. The Legislature will then vote on whether or not to legalize off-reservation commercial casino gambling, which is currently illegal in Connecticut.
The tribes have narrowed their search for a host town to East Windsor and Windsor Locks. They are expected to make their choice and the Legislature to vote on legalization during the first half of 2017. In view of the fact the first bill passed by only four votes in the Senate (20-16), it is likely to be a very close vote.
Former state Congressman Bob Steele and other Coalition leaders make a compelling case against the expansion of casinos in the state. Expected job and revenue growth may not materialize in a declining industry in a state already saturated with casinos. Plus, a vote to allow this new casino would open a Pandora’s box of “off-reservation” gambling that could impact communities elsewhere. Spend a few minutes and read this summary “Twelve Reasons to Oppose Legalizing Commercial Casino Gambling and Opening a Hartford Area Casino” to learn more.
There are currently seven bills dealing with this issue that may come in front of the Legislature this session. The Coalition recently held a press conference and is gearing up to present written and oral testimony at public hearings. We are committed to having constituents contact every state Senator and Representative to express opposition to the new casino.
And in the process, we’re honing our advocacy skills and building relationships with lawmakers that will surely be important for other social justice causes that will be the subject of legislation this year (Michele counts over 90 bills in these categories!).
We invite all lay people and clergy in the Connecticut Conference to roll up your sleeves, volunteer with the Coalition and Advocacy Corps, put the state legislature in your GPS, and join us in Hartford. For what does the Lord require of us but to “do justice and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God?”
Use this form to join the CTUCC Advocate Corps, or contact Michele Mudrick.
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