EAST WINDSOR – The town of East Windsor is beating out several others in the running for Connecticut’s third proposed casino but it’s facing backlash from some within its borders who feel they didn’t get a fair say in the matter.
“From the beginning, we’ve said that we want to site our new facility in a town that’s eager to have us. With the unanimous vote by the Board of Selectman, East Windsor fits that bill, and we’re thrilled to enter into a partnership with them,” said Rodney Butler, Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.
At Saturday’s town meeting, some community members raised concerns to the board asking why they didn’t hold a vote. Some, also reached out to FOX61 with concerns.
"I'm very upset and disturbed by our First Selectman's decision not to give its residents the opportunity to vote on the proposed casino location," a viewer wrote in an email.
East Windsor Cost Cutters employee, Lori said this topic has been a conversation starter for her customers and she’s heard several people express concerns about not having a voice.
“They think it’s pretty sad that people didn’t get to have their say,” she said.
First Selectman Robert Maynard, said the town is not planning on holding a referendum saying it is not required, it would cost about five thousand dollars and it wouldn’t be binding.
Maynard said the property, former Showcase Cinemas, right off I-91, is an eyesore which, “shows a declining town.”
He said the property is zoned for commercial recreation and that’s what a casino would be; therefore, it is zoned correctly.
“You can't have a referendum overriding planning and zoning,” he said.
The First Selectman explained that people can’t vote on what can be built on private property. He compared it to someone telling a homeowner what color they must paint their house.
On Saturday, the East Windsor Board of Selectman voted on and passed unanimously the development agreement.
While Lori is concerned about traffic in the area, she said she's looking forward to more jobs and an economic boost to the town she works in.
“I hope it’s a good thing. Let’s just look at it in a positive light,” she said. “I think it’s absolutely gonna change this whole area, it’s certainly not gonna be a tobacco/potato field town anymore.”
The proposed casino agreement states that MMCT will pay the town of East Windsor $3 million before the casino opens, at least 15 months ahead of time, and will continue to pay the town $3 million each year on top of regular tax payments. MMCT expects the total taxes to reach about $5.5 million per year.
The agreement states at least four percent of the casino workforce will consist of East Windsor residents, and at least 15 percent of employees will live within a 25-mile radius of the facility.
The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes plan to host two job fairs in East Windsor. About 75 percent of the positions at the new casino will be full-time, MMCT said.
"I think it's good. I’m excited," Cost Cutters employee Alice Amitan said. "Maybe I can get a second job at night to support myself."
MGM, who is building a casino less than 30 minutes north in Springfield, Massachusetts, released a statement Monday afternoon.
Before a casino can be built, a final decision falls in the hands of the state legislature.