The leaders of the two federally-recognized Indian tribes in Connecticut reassured state lawmakers that they remain committed to the opening a tribal casino in close proximity to the Massachusetts state line.
Rodney Butler, Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and Kevin Brown, the Chairman of the Mohegan Tribe, confirmed that the two tribes have spent about $14 million on the project of their Tribal Winds casino so far, despite the fact that the process of obtaining final federal approval for the project was already delayed.
The site where the casino is set to be constructed has already been purchased and cleared, and the two tribes have actually been given most of the necessary approvals from state and local authorities. The two National American tribes have also reached a project labor agreement with construction unions. Now, they wait to receive the final approval of the federal government or proposed state legislation to be given the nod during the current legislative session – a move that would eliminate the necessity of federal approval.
At an informational hearing of the Public Safety and Security Committee, the leaders of the two Indian tribes confirmed that they still see a jointly-developed East Windsor casino as a project of paramount importance for staying competitive in a dynamic gambling market. Apart from that, the realization of the Tribal Winds casino project is expected to create new jobs in the region and to generate more revenue for the state.
CT Tribes say when they get final approval – they’ll hire 2,000 people for casino in East Windsor #wfsb
— Susan Raff (@SusanRaff1) January 29, 2019
Connecticut Tribes Remain Interested in a Bridgeport Casino, Too
The two tribes’ existing casinos situated in the southeastern part of Connecticut compete with the new Springfield casino of MGM Resorts.
The Tribal Winds casino project has been originally developed as a joint satellite casino entity to be established as a direct rival of the MGM’s project. It was also intended to start operation before MGM did in August 2018, but the US Department of Interior crushed these intentions by refusing to sign off on an upgraded revenue-sharing agreement between the state of Connecticut and the two Indian Tribes.
Currently, a federal investigation into Ryan Zinke, the former Interior Secretary, and his agency’s handling of the issue is carried out. Both chairpersons of the two Indian tribal nations have shared opinions that the lack of federal approvals is due to heavy lobbying by their competitor MGM.
Still, some lawmakers believe that it would be better for the state to actually permit a casino to be constructed elsewhere, including Bridgeport, which is currently the most populous city in Connecticut. An opening of a Bridgeport-located venue has also been considered by the Mohegan and the Mashantucket Indians, with the two tribal leaders reiterating their interest in opening a casino there.
Currently, the two National American tribes own the exclusive rights to casino gambling in the state, in return to a 25% portion of their slot machine revenues at their current casino venues to state coffers. In case that state legislature allowed an outside entity such as MGM to open a private casino in Connecticut, this agreement would be violated.