Attorney General: Robert Werner, Division Of Special Revenue, 1992-034 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

December 21, 1992

Robert Werner
Executive Director
Division Of Special Revenue
555 Russell Road
Newington, CT 06111

Dear Mr. Werner:

You have sought the advice of this office relating to the operation of an off-track betting system in the State of Connecticut. Specifically, you inquire whether, under Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-167a(b), the operation of "an OTB betting branch facility in the Hartford Jai Alai Fronton would violate the proscription against locating a 'Facility' within 35 miles of the location of the Teletheater in the Town of Windsor Locks ... ?" It is our opinion that the provisions of Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-57la(b) would prohibit the operation of a branch facility at the Hartford fronton.

You inform us that the Division is presently considering placing an off-track betting office within the confines of the Jai Alai fronton located Hartford.1 Such an operation was not previously contemplated since Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-57la(b) had provided that "no such facility shall be located within any jai alai fronton...." This proscription has now been deleted 1992 Conn. Pub. Acts No. 92-17, 30 (May Session). However, other provisions of 1992 Conn. Pub. Acts No. 92-17 compel the conclusion that an OTB operation is not permitted in this fronton.2

Our office has often been called upon to interpret complex and oft-amended provisions of Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-571a. Particularly appropriate to the instant discussion is our opinion to Senator Larson dated March 28, 1990, in which we were asked to decide the extent of the "zones of protection" created by the then-latest amendment to Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-571a, found in 1989 Conn. Pub. Acts No. 89-390, 24(b). Our conclusion in that opinion, based upon the application of standard rules of statutory construction, was that the legislature intended "that the distance requirements of this Act are imposed only as between the tele-track/teletheater and other facilities with simulcasting capacities." 90 Conn. Op. Atty. Gen. (March 28, 1990). The conclusion that the mileage restrictions applied only to "facilities with simulcasting capacities" was based primarily upon the statutory language that "no such facility shall be located" within the established boundaries. (Emphasis added.)

It is an axiom of statutory construction that the legislature is presumed to know the manner in which existing statutory language has been interpreted. Phelps Dodwe Copper Products Co. v. Croppo, 204 Conn. 122, 134, 527 A.2d 672 (1987); Ralston Purina Co. v. Board of Tax Review, 203 Conn. 425, 439, 525 A.2d 91 (1987). Not only is prior judicial interpretation to be considered, Rawling v. New Haven, 206 Conn. 100, 105, 537 A.2d 439 (1988), but a prior interpretation of statutory language by the office of the Attorney General is germane to a determination of the effect of amendatory language. Anderson v. Ludgin, 175 Conn. 545, 555, 400 A.2d 712 (1978).

Thus, it is clear that at the time of the adoption of 1992 Conn. Pub. Acts No. 92-17, 30 (May Session), the legislature was aware of the fact that the Windsor Locks facility enjoyed a thirty-five mile buffer zone as against a competing simulcast facility. Nonetheless, in adopting the amendment under discussion,3 the legislature chose to delete any reference to "such facility", and, more importantly, inserted the phrase "no other facility" in referring to the thirty-five mile zone.

We are thus confronted with a statutory proscription that "no other facility shall be within thirty-five miles of the location of the teletheater in the town of Windsor Locks." It is well established that every word or phrase in a statute must be given meaning; 84 Century Limited Partnership v. Board of Tax Review, 207 Conn. 250, 263, 541 A.2d 478 (1988); State ex rel. Kennedy v. Frauwirth, 167 Conn. 165, 168, 355 A.2d 39 (1974); State v. Boucher, 11 Conn. App. 644, 647, 528 A.2d 1165 (1987); and that no word or phrase is to be interpreted in such a manner as to render it meaningless or superfluous. Zichichi v. Middlesex Memorial Hospital, 204 Conn. 399, 407, 528 A.2d 805 (1987); Hartford Principals' and Supervisors' Assn. v. Shedd, 202 Conn. 492, 497, 522 A.2d 264 (1987); Peck v. Jacquemin, 196 Conn. 53, 66, 491 A.2d 1043 (1985). This rule has particular significance in the instant case since other provisions of the same public act authorize the operation of four (and only four) simulcast facilities and, most importantly, specify the location of each:

"such [simulcasting] facilities shall be located in the town and city of New Haven, the town of Windsor Locks, within the dog race track in the town of Plainfield and within the fronton or dog race track in the town and city of Bridgeport...." 1992 Conn. Pub. Acts No. 92-17, 30 (May Session).

This language immediately precedes the statutory proscription that "no other facility" is to be located within thirty-five miles of the Windsor Locks operation. It would be a patent violation of the above quoted rule, strongly discouraging interpretations which render statutory language superfluous, to ascribe to the phrase "no other facility' a restrictive reference to a simulcast facility. Put another way, since the clear, unequivocal language of the statute fixes the only permissible locations of simulcast facilities, when the legislature imposed a thirty-five mile zone of protection around the simulcast site at Windsor Locks, vis-a-vis any other facility, it could only have reference to a branch office off-track betting operation.

Since the legislature clearly specified where the four simulcast facilities are to be located, the thirty-five mile radius limitation could not logically apply to simulcast facilities. If the legislature had intended otherwise, it could have accomplished this result with specific language. "It has often been said that the legislative intent is to be found not in what the legislature meant to say, but in the meaning of what it did say." Commissioner v. FOIC, 204 Conn. 609, 620, 529 A.2d 692 (1987) quoting Muha v. United Oil Co., 180 Conn. 720, 730, 433 A.2d 1009 (1980). See also, Local 218 Steamfitters' Welfare Fund v. Cobra Pipe Supply & Coil Co., 207 Conn. 639, 645, 541 A.2d 869 (1988).

Based upon the foregoing, we conclude that the provisions of Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-571a(b) prohibit the operation or establishment of an OTB branch office at the Hartford Jai Alai fronton.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Richard M. Sheridan
Assistant Attorney General

RB/RMS/td


1 We note that the city of Hartford is located less than 35 miles from the site of the Windsor Locks Teletheater.

2 This analysis is inapposite to the Milford fronton since it is located outside the thirty-five mile zone.

3 1992 Conn. Pub. Acts No. 92-17, 30 (May Session) is here reproduced in its "public act" form, i.e., bracketed phrases are deleted, capitalized phrases are inserted:

Sec. 30. Section 12-571a of the general statutes, as amended by section 1 of public act 91-309 and section 1 of public act 91-366, is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) [from April 22, 1981, to June 30, 1993, the] THE division of special revenue and the gaming policy board shall fit operate or authorize the operation of more than eighteen off-track betting branch facilities, except that the division and the board may operate or authorize the operation of any off-track betting facility approved prior to December 31, 1986, by the legislative body of a municipality in accordance with subsection (a) of section 12-572. Any facility approved prior to December 31, 1986, shall be included within the eighteen branch facilities authorized by this subsection. [For the purposes of this section, the tele-track facility shall not be considered an off-track betting branch facility.]

(b) The eighteen off-track betting branch facilities authorized by subsection (a) of this section may include [three] FOUR facilities which have screens for the simulcasting of off-track betting race programs [, seating to accommodate not more than fifty percent of the capacity of the tele-track facility authorized pursuant to section 12-571b on the effective date of this act,] and other amenities including, but not limited to, restaurants and concessions, provided, [(1) for any such facility authorized on or after July 6, 1989, no such facility] ON AND AFTER THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS ACT, SUCH FACILITIES shall be located in [any town which is (A) within fifteen miles of the location of the tele-track facility in] the TOWN AND city of New Haven, or, (B)] THE TOWN OF WINDSOR LOCKS. WITHIN THE DOG RACE TRACK IN THE TOWN OF PLAINFIELD AND WITHIN THE FRONTON OR DOG RACE TRACK IN THE TOWN AND CITY OF BRIDGEPORT, PROVIDED NO OTHER FACILITY SHALL BE within thirty-five miles of the location of the [proposed] teletheater in the town of Windsor Locks. [, (2) one such facility shall be within the dog race track in the town of Plainfield and (3) no such facility shall be located within any jai alai fronton which has been authorized for operation on or before July 6, 1989.] EACH SUCH FACILITY LOCATED WITHIN A FRONTON OR A DOG RACE TRACK SHALL BE OPERATED BY THE STATE IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE LICENSEE OF SUCH FRONTON OR DOG RACE TRACK AND ALL SUCH FACILITIES WITHIN A FRONTON OR A DOG RACE TRACK SHALL BE OPERATED IN SUBSTANTIALLY THE SAME MANNER. The location of each such facility shall be determined by the executive director with the consent of the gaming policy board and shall be subject to the prior approval of the legislative body of the town in which such facility is proposed to be located. The division shall report annually to the joint standing committee of the general assembly having cognizance of matters relating to legalized gambling on the status of the establishment or improvement of the off-track betting) branch office facility pursuant to this subsection.

(c) The division and board may operate any off-track betting branch office facilities not operated in the manner of the [facility] FACILITIES operated under subsection (b) of this section as facilities which have monitors for off-track betting information, bench seating and adequate public rest room facilities for patrons.


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