Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Eliminate East Windsor from Their List of Potential Casino Sites
The joint venture between Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casino has narrowed its list of casino sites from four to three. The city of East Windsor, a part of the Hartford metropolitan area, was eliminated in the last round.
The that leaves three sites still in the running to be a part of the satellite casino owned by the two tribes: Hartford, East Hartford, and Windsor Locks. The two Connecticut gaming tribes said they would enter a second round of negotiations with the three remaining towns.
The tribes did not set a deadline for a final decision. They also did not give an indication of when they would return to the legislature for a final approval on their plan. In fact, that approval might now be in doubt.
Alliance between Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun
The Mohegan Tribe and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, who own the two casino-resorts in Connecticut, are long-time rivals in the regional gambling industry. The two tribes have joined forces to build a third casino in the state, this time in the Hartford area.
The tribes convinced Connecticut lawmakers to approve the third casino to act as a firewall against defection by Connecticut gamblers to the coming integrated casino-resort in Springfield, Massachusetts: the MGM Springfield Casino. The upcoming casino, which is supposed to open in 2017, is going to be a short drive across the Massachusetts-Connecticut border.
Hartford Satellite Casino
The casino is expected to maintain gamblers in the Hartford area and along the Hartford-Springfield Corridor in the state. Critics have called the satellite casino a “slots-in-the-box” style establishment. MGM Resorts criticized Connecticut politicians, saying they froze out competitors to maintain their duopoly, and the third casino is further evidence of their bias.
The $950 million MGM Springfield Casino is expected to open in the fall of 2018. The gaming establishment not only will draw customers from Western Massachusetts, but it is a threat to collect gamblers from northeastern Connecticut. Springfield is roughly 30 miles from Hartford.
Mohegan Tribe Made “Really Difficult” Decision
Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, said the tribes were pleased by the interest shown by East Windsor, but trouble with the potential development sites had caused the tribes to go in another direction.
Brown said, “East Windsor’s clear desire to host this facility made this decision really difficult. However, the fact that one site was removed by the developer and others were not submitted by the property owner made pursuing a facility there extremely challenging.”
Disappointment for East Windsor
East Windsor was one of the first towns to show interest in the tribal casino. In the early stages, it appeared to have a strong chance of receiving the casino. Centerplan Cos., which built a minor league baseball stadium in the area, once had a proposition for a 33-acre development. They lost control of that real estate, due to local opposition. That left Showcase Cinemas and Wal-Mart to put together proposals, but they had to scramble to put together a plan.
In the end, the local leaders were unable to agree on a concrete plan. East Windsor First Selectman Robert Maynard told the Hartford Courant, “I would have liked to see it go to a referendum, I’ve heard both pros and cons for the project. It would have been good economic development but people brought up a lot of reasons as to why it wouldn’t have been.”
Dargan’s Opinion on a Vote
Rep. Stephen D. Dargan is the co-chairman of the Connecticut legislature’s Public Safety Committee, which has regulatory authority over casinos. He Wednesday is the March 15 deadline for submitting a bill to the Public Safety Committee. If the bill is not submitted by then, it will not be voted on by the legislature this year.
Dargan does not believe there will be a vote in 2016.
He told the Courant, “I’d be surprised if we actually see something this year. I think the bottom line is whatever happens, they want a complete package for the legislature to vote on, not bits and pieces.”
It sounds like the quick casino that the two tribal gaming interests wanted might not happen as quickly as they might have hoped. The longer it takes to get a casino approved and built, the worse it likely is to be for its chances to make a full impact. Two lawsuits have been filed to stop the building of the casino in the first place. While those might not succeed, they might slow down development until the MGM Springfield opens.
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