One site for a third casino in Connecticut has been eliminated from consideration, according to the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal chairmen who on Wednesday said they’ll now enter “the next phase of discussions” with the communities of Hartford, East Hartford, and Windsor Locks.
A deadline of a final decision was not given by the tribes, which operate the Foxwood and Mohegan Sun casinos. It also now appears unlikely that a return trip to the legislature to get final approvals will happen this year. The two tribes’ original plan was to make the announcement regarding the site by December 15, and to have ready a proposal for the General Assembly’s consideration upon its return to the state Capitol this month.
Chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, Kevin Brown, said that that while East Windsor’s obvious desire to host the new casino made choosing difficult, the fact that the developer removed one site and the property owner failed to submit others, made it “extremely challenging” to pursue a facility there, as reported by the Hartford Currant. Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler said that the site was a good fit for a variety of economic development projects, it was not however, the right fit for the tribes’ planned project.
With the narrowing of location announced, the proposal will be discussed in detail when officials from each of the towns meet with staff from the tribes. Meetings will also begin with businesses and residents in the interested communities. During 2016’s short legislative session, which runs until May 4, the tribes plan to work with state leaders to address various project concerns, such as how the existing revenue-sharing agreement between the tribes and the state will be affected by a third casino.
The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes joined forces last year to form MMCT Venture in Connecticut in order to compete with MGM Resorts International’s $950 million mega resort in neighboring Springfield, Massachusetts currently under construction and slated to open in the fall of 2018. Last year the tribes were allowed by the state legislature to search for site, but approval is still needed from lawmakers. Casino gaming would be expanded off tribal reservations in Connecticut by the legislation for the first time. With the March 15 deadline for submitting the bill to the committee nearing, final approval is far from guaranteed because legislators are divided on such an expansion’s merits.
Of the four sites remaining, two are in Windsor Locks. The Connecticut Airport Authority has proposed building the casino either as part of a new transportation center or on the site of the old Murphy Terminal. To get the casino up-and-running sooner, the idea of an “interim” casino at Bradley’s Sheraton Hotel has also been floated by the authority. In addition, property has been proposed by Sportech Venues that contains Bobby V’s Restaurant and Sports Bar and an off-track betting parlor as a location. Perhaps the best developed plan and one which has gained key local approvals is the proposal by Anthony W. Ravosa Jr. of Glastonbury to convert the long-vacant Showcase Cinemas in East Hartford into a casino.
If final legislative approval was sought by the tribes this year, the effort could be impeded by a bill being drafted by Connecticut lawmaker Rep. Chris Perone, which is for a second market study to elicit another opinion on how casino revenues, gambling taxes and employment opportunities will be impacted by the state’s third casino. The concept was raised by Perone last week in the legislature’s commerce committee and on Wednesday he said the bill would more than likely get a public hearing on March 10.