Connecticut’s two federally recognized Indian tribes are one step closer to establishing a casino in East Windsor as a bill that would allow them to do so was approved by the Appropriations Committee on Monday.
Senate Bill No. 957, which will allow the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation to build a casino in East Windsor at the old Showcase Cinemas site off I-91, skated by the legislature’s appropriations committee in a 33-13 vote.
Two amendments were defeated, however, one narrowly so when 20 lawmakers from north central Connecticut opposed to allowing the bill to move forward proposed an amendment which would require a referendum be held by East Windsor to approve the project, with the tribes responsible for the cost. The other amendment that was defeated in the 20-19 vote, would have seen the owners of the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino provide payments to the towns surrounding East Windsor.
The committee’s co-chairman, Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague (pictured) said further discussions regarding payments to the surrounding towns would be forthcoming, according to local news agency, Hartford Courant. An ardent supporter of the legislation, Osten’s district is located in the southeastern portion of Connecticut. The opening of MGM Resorts International’s $950 million MGM Springfield currently under construction in neighboring Massachusetts would threaten jobs and patronage, directly impacting the two tribe’s southeastern Connecticut casinos.
Osten said 6,000 employees of the two casinos live in her district but the casinos also employ workers from 149 of the state’s cities and towns. She said funding is provided by the tribes for all 169 towns and for some special taxing districts in Connecticut, according to CT News Junkie.
The aim of MMCT Venture’s, the partnership between the casino-operating tribes, East Windsor Plan for a satellite casino is to lessen the impact expected by Springfield on the gaming industry in Connecticut once MGM’s 850,000 square foot resort casino complex opens in late in 2019. However, a competing bill is also on the table which would open up the bidding process allowing more operators to submit proposals for a commercial casino in the state. MMCT Venture recently released a digital attack ad aimed squarely at MGM.
Currently, Connecticut strictly limits its gaming to the two casinos managed by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal nations. The tribes chose East Windsor as the host community due to its location which preempts north-heading traffic to the new MGM casino in Springfield.
It has been suggested by MGM, which has lobbied against the bill and is prohibited from building another casino within a 50-mile radius of Springfield, that a better location than the East Windsor one is Fairfield County due to its proximity from New York City; a market that it could potentially capture. However, if the state doesn’t give the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribe’s exclusivity, it will lose the revenue sharing agreement it currently has with them.
The tribes pay the state 25 percent of their slot revenue and the concern is that a third non-tribal land casino could potentially initiate a reduction or elimination of the amount of slot revenue currently shared by the tribes, by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The BIA must approve any revenue sharing agreement between the tribes and the state.
At the new casino, the tribes would share the same 25 percent of slot revenue and the same percentage of the table games.