East Hartford, Ellington, Enfield, South Windsor, Windsor Locks, and Hartford are slated to each receive $750,000 annually from the tribes as compensation for impacts to those communities. The two tribes have been looking for the green light to build a new casino resort in East Windsor, Connecticut for some time. The joint venture is called MMCT and they have been working hard to see the project come to fruition. The Tribal Winds Casino would create a lot of new jobs, as well as put more money into the local economy. Tribes' $1M payment to CT moves E. Windsor casino project forward Rendering Tribal Winds Casino A rendering of MMCT's proposed $300 million casino in East Windsor. Share on Facebook.
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s two federally recognized tribes have received long-awaited approval from the federal government to push ahead with plans for an off-reservation casino in East Windsor.
The Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegans, which created the joint venture MMCT, can now “move forward with construction on Tribal Winds Casino” along I-91, Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot, said Thursday.
First discussed publicly in 2014, the joint venture was originally supposed to open before MGM Resorts opened its casino in Springfield, Massachusetts, last August, in the hopes of blunting competition from the newcomer. But those plans were stymied by the U.S. Department of Interior, which had refused to sign off on amended agreements required by a 2017 state law authorizing the casino project. The satellite casino has been pitched by the tribes as a way to help protect jobs at their existing Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino in southeastern Connecticut.
A memo posted Thursday by the U.S. Department of Interior says the agency’s assistant secretary of Indian affairs on Tuesday approved proposed amendments to two documents, including the Mashantucket Pequots’ memorandum of understanding, or revenue-sharing agreement, with the state of Connecticut.
“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,” Butler said.
The lack of action by the U.S. Department of Interior on the tribe’s plans in Connecticut has been the subject of a federal ethics investigation, one of several pending against former Secretary Ryan Zinke. The state of Connecticut and the tribes also filed a lawsuit against the agency in 2017, alleging improper and undo political influences and pressure, including from MGM, was behind the decision not to sign off on the agreements. Both Zinke and MGM have denied any wrongdoing. In a January interview with The Associated Press, Zinke also denied reports he may have lied to the Interior Department’s inspector general, saying he was asked twice about the casino decision and was truthful both times.
The AP previously reported the inspector general had referred an investigation into Zinke to the Justice Department.
Thursday’s decision comes amid continuing debate at the Connecticut state Capitol about the future of casino gambling in the state. Lawmakers have been sparring over whether to scrap the required federal approval in order to allow the East Windsor project to finally move forward, or to create a competitive bidding process for a new casino, possibly in Bridgeport, as proposed by MGM. The latter could risk the state’s 25 percent share of slot machine revenues from the two casinos, which amount to about $270 million annually and is part of the deal granting the two tribes exclusive rights to certain forms of gambling.
Best new online casino usa. The General Assembly’s Public Safety Committee earlier this week advanced two dueling bills that would scrap the federal approval requirement and create a bidding process.
“Tribal Winds is now approved, and I look forward to the ribbon-cutting and the jobs it will bring to central Connecticut,” said state Senator Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, who has pushed for the legislation bypassing the Department of Interior process. “I always thought this decision was just a matter of time, I just didn’t know how much time it would take.” Slot mount standoff post.
But Rep. Joe Verrengia, D-West Hartford, the committee’s co-chairman, predicted “more serious legal pitfalls” still lie ahead for the East Windsor project.
“MGM has been very clear of their intention to sue on the constitutional issues,” he said. “That’s really where my concerns lie from the outset.”
MGM has already legally challenged the state’s ability to give the tribes exclusive rights to casino gambling off their reservations. Uri Clinton, MGM’s senior vice president and legal counsel, said Thursday the gambling giant “will continue to pursue all legal options, including litigation, to defend our right to compete in Connecticut.” Clinton said MGM “remains steadfast” in believing Bridgeport is the best location for a commercial casino.
“A transparent, competitive process is in the state’s best interest,” he said.
Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s spokeswoman, Maribel La Luz, said the administration is pleased with the federal agency’s decision, which she said ensures no harm will be done to the state’s existing revenue-sharing agreement.
“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,” she said.
Earlier this year, tribal leaders said they have spent about $14 million so far on the $300 million project. The site has been purchased and cleared; most state and local approvals have been obtained; and a project labor agreement has been reached with the construction unions, they said.
Tribal gambling in Connecticut
Connecticut currently has two tribal casinos – the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville and the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is the piece of legislation that allows for these facilities.
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The Mashantucket Pequot tribe operates the Foxwoods, which opened in 1986. The Mohegan Sun, operated by the Mohegan tribe, opened in 1996 after it got federal recognition in 1992.
The two casinos have the exclusive right to operate slot machines in Connecticut. In exchange for this exclusivity, the tribes pay 25% tax on all slot machine revenues. This is big business, as the casinos generated almost $13bn in slot machine revenue in the most recent financial year on record.
Potential casino resort
The two tribes have been looking for the green light to build a new casino resort in East Windsor, Connecticut for some time. The joint venture is called MMCT and they have been working hard to see the project come to fruition.
The Tribal Winds Casino would create a lot of new jobs, as well as put more money into the local economy. The main stumbling block is that the proposed site is not tribal land. Numerous parties, including MGM Resorts, have been blocking progress as a result. The objecting parties claim it is unconstitutional not to have a competitive bidding process if the casino is not on tribal land.
After MMCT got initial approval in 2017 to begin development, they were stymied by numerous instances of legal action that stopped them from going ahead. This led to MMCT suing President Donald Trump and the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Ryan Zinke.
The tribes claimed that some donors to the Republican Party campaign were representing MGM Resorts and that they were under pressure to not give the project approval.
Zinke handed in his resignation in December 2018 after an ethics investigation. The main reason for MGM’s resistance is that it operates the MGM Springfield in Massachusetts, which is close to the proposed tribal casino resort site.
Following a change in the federal tribal laws for gaming, the casino project is back on the table.
This casino plans to have a casino floor of more than 100,000 square feet. It will have about 1,800 gaming machines, as well as 50 gaming tables and 10 poker tables. In total, the development cost will be around $400m, and construction will likely take up to two years.
The construction phase will create about 2,000 jobs, with the same amount of permanent jobs being created once the casino opens.
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont is in support of this project. However, he believes the tribes will have to wait for some time before they can go ahead. Lamont thinks it will likely be the next legislative session before legislation passes allowing for the start of the casino project. There is still some opposition on a state level since the issue gained federal approval.
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Talking about this progress, Lamont said: “We’ve had a very strong bond and contract going back well over a generation. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that contract stays intact. We are working together going forward.”