Liquor law change would let casinos clear alcohol on floor after serving deadline
A provision in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed overhaul of the state's liquor laws would cut the casinos some slack when it comes to clearing the last round of drinks from their gaming floors.
Casino employees would be able to clear drinks later than 2 a.m. - the proposed legislation's seven-days-a-week limit on hours of operation - provided the drinks are served before then.
For the casinos, which asked for the provision, it's a fairness issue.
"With the size of our facility, to clear the drinks by 2 o'clock, or 1 o'clock during the week (as the law currently requires), we're giving last call 30 to 45 minutes before anywhere else has to," said Chuck Bunnell, chief of staff for the Mohegan Tribe, which owns Mohegan Sun.
"It puts us at a disadvantage with competition in surrounding states."
Liquor is served at New York state's gambling facilities until 4 a.m., while Atlantic City casinos serve 24 hours a day. Twin River, the Lincoln, R.I., slots parlor, stops serving shortly before 1 a.m., according to a spokeswoman for the facility.
Malloy's overhaul, which would allow retail alcohol sales on Sundays among other things, is meant "to allow Connecticut businesses to be more competitive and to give consumers a break on costs," said Andrew Doba, the governor's director of communications.
A couple of years ago, talk of 24-hour liquor service at the casinos failed to gain traction.
Foxwoods Resort Casino stops serving alcohol in its gaming areas an hour early, said Bill Satti, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe's director of public relations. Again, it's because of the sheer size of the tribe's casino, including MGM Grand at Foxwoods, he said.
Under the provision, "it shall be lawful for casino permittees at casinos ... to allow the presence of alcoholic liquor in glasses or other receptacles suitable to permit the consumption thereof by an individual at any time on its gaming facility … provided such alcoholic liquor is served to a patron of such casino not later than two o'clock a.m."
"Isn't that better than telling them they need to chug it?" Bunnell said. "From a public safety standpoint, it's better to say to someone 'take your time' than it is to pressure them to drink."
Current regulations prohibit patrons from ordering multiple drinks before liquor service ends.
Bars and nightclubs in the casinos would still have to clear drinks in strict accordance with state-mandated hours of operation.
Many bars in the state typically give last call within 15 to 20 minutes of closing time.
"This doesn't put them at a disadvantage - it gives us parity with them," Bunnell said.
"We take the service of alcohol very, very seriously," he added. "I'd make the argument that no one else in the state takes it as seriously as we do."