he US federal government green-lighted on Thursday the East Windsor casino project in Hartford County, Connecticut. While lawmakers had overwhelmingly approved the deal, they were waiting on the feds to do the same.
The casino is expected to be located where the old Showcase Cinema in East Windsor once was.
"This is a done deal now. We are ready to move forward on East Windsor. Construction will start as soon as construction season opens up probably in the next month or so," said Democratic State Senator Cathy Osten.
She has been one of the biggest supporters of the third casino.
The old East Windsor movie theater was demolished a year ago, but plans were put on hold because the Mohegans and the Mashantucket Pequots were still waiting for approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The tribes formed a partnership shortly after MGM announced plans to build a casino in Springfield, concerned about losing business and jobs.
The East Windsor facility may keep some casino goers from going further up north on I-91.
East Windsor will generate money and state will get a 25 percent cut from both slots and tables.
It’s also expected to create more than 2,000 construction jobs and between 3,000 and 4,000 casino employees.
Some money will also be used for problem gambling.
MGM isn't too happy with the no bid process, saying in a statement “we will continue to pursue all legal options, including litigation, to defend our right to compete in Connecticut.”
"MGM has been spending tens of millions dollars in an effort to derail Connecticut revenue and Connecticut jobs and I expect they will continue, but I think this is great news for the people in the state of Connecticut,” said Republican State Senator Paul Formica.
Channel 3 looked into how much of an impact MGM has made on the state since opening in August of 2018.
While Mohegan Sun still pulls in more than $40 million a month and Foxwoods makes more than $30 million a month, business has dropped on average 3 to 4 million dollars per month at both properties.
MGM has recently pulled in anywhere between 13 and 14 million dollars a month, but it's still not meeting the projections of $34 million a month it had.
MGM doesn't share guest information, so the exact breakdown of Connecticut players won't be known, but there's no doubt people are crossing the border to play.
Construction is expected to start soon, and the plan now is to have a casino by next summer.
Former Gov. Dannel Malloy never took a stand on the East Windsor casino.
On Thursday, Gov. Ned Lamont said he’s pleased with the ruling.
The governor's office released a statement saying "We are very pleased that the Interior Department has decided to approve the amendments to Mashantucket Gaming Procedures and Memorandum of Understanding. Approval of these amendments ensures that any state law authorizing MMCT to operate a commercial casino off of the tribal reservations will do no harm to the state’s existing revenue sharing agreements with the tribes. We remain committed to working with the tribes toward a global resolution of all outstanding legal issues or obstacles that may arise out of this decision, including any lawsuits third parties may bring against the state law that now authorizes MMCT to operate a commercial casino in East Windsor.”
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, released a statement on Thursday saying “I applaud the actions of the Department of Interior and extend my sincerest gratitude to Assistant Secretary Tara Sweeny and the Office of the Solicitor at the Interior Department for their assistance in resolving this matter. Now that the approval of our Amendment is secured and our exclusivity agreement with the State of Connecticut is reaffirmed, we will move forward with construction on Tribal Winds Casino in East Windsor and preserve much needed jobs and revenue.”
Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy released a statement on Thursday saying “Today’s action by the Department of the Interior is welcome news, albeit long overdue,” said the members. “The Department had failed to approve these amendments to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe Gaming Procedures for nearly two years—long since staff at the Bureau of Indian Affairs recommended an approval. This unnecessary and unethical delay has prompted a grand jury investigation, which remains ongoing, and an inspector general review of the department’s actions. We look forward to their findings.”