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East Windsor rolls out proposed agreement for third Connecticut casino

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EAST WINDSOR -- The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes are proposing a third casino to the state of Connecticut and East Windsor is listed as a potential destination.

The community got a first look at the development proposal between the town and MMCT Venture, Saturday, which the board of selectmen unanimously backed.

It maps out a 200,000 square foot commercial casino gaming facility, including 100,000 square feet of gaming floor and space designated to hospitality services like restaurants, shops, and entertainment. The casino would hold 2,000 slot machines and 50 to 150 gaming tables.

The agreement states the town of East Windsor would get a $3,000,000 up front payment, followed by annual payments of $3,000,000.

At the packed meeting, more than half of the people who spoke supported the proposal.

"I think the town needs the revenue," East Windsor resident John Simonelli said. "We haven’t been able to do anything for ten years, the school systems have taken a hit, services have been cut in town."

The proposal states MMCT anticipates approximately 1,700 construction jobs and 1,700 casino facility operating jobs. About 75% of the casino jobs would be full time.

Some residents expressed concerns that the proposal only calls for a workforce of at least 4% of town residents.

"They’re only saying they’re gonna hire 68 people from here," resident Denise Terry said.

Terry is a member of the Connecticut Coalition Against Casino Gambling expansion and said her concern is a casino will provide more negative than positive impacts.

"I think it will be very bad for this town I think it will result in increased crime, increased decay of infrastructure," Terry said.

If the casino closes in its first 10 years there are notice requirements to the town.

The East Windsor location is the Old Showcase Cinema building. Windsor Locks is the other location the MMCT Venture is considering.

MMCT Venture leaders said they're days away from unveiling a new casino site.

Photo credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Photo credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The MMCT Venture, the joint Mohegan-Mashantucket Pequot company, have been looking for months on a new location for another casino. The company both owns and operates the only two casinos in the state.

The casino representatives and the Town of East Windsor have been in talks for over a month of the proposed casino. The tribes held two "community conversions" to answer any questions that East Windsor residents may have had of the casino's effects on the town.

Tribal leaders predict the casino would create thousands of direct and indirect jobs in the area. They also predict it could bring in almost $80 million in tax revenue to the state and between $4.5 million and $6 million in tax revenue to East Windsor.

The Connecticut Coalition Against Casino Expansion is hosting an open forum March 27th at East Windsor High School at 7 p.m. to discuss the proposal further.

MGM issued the following statement Saturday:

The plan by MMCT outlined today is a terrible deal for taxpayers in East Windsor and the State of Connecticut.  There are so many problems, it’s hard to know where to start.

First, for a $3 million annual payment to one community the State of Connecticut could put in jeopardy the Pequot Fund which contributes over $200 million in annual payments to the State, which are shared by over 160 municipalities through the state. The risk posed to the Pequot Fund is reason enough to raise a red flag.  But in this terrible deal, there’s more:

Second, what MMCT is offering East Windsor pales in comparison to the deal that was offered to the town of Revere, MA to build a casino there.  The Mohegans offered annual payments of $25 million – that is at least 8 times more than what is being offered East Windsor.  And, unlike what the Mohegans offered in Massachusetts, there is barely a mention of a comprehensive community benefits agreement, leaving considerable costs to fall on local taxpayers. Specifically, the cost to mitigate negative impacts to local infrastructure, stress on emergency services, and utilities would be left to East Windsor. In this terrible deal, there’s still more:

Third, despite MMCT having publicly promised that there would be a referendum – they even offered to pay for it – today it was announced that there’s ‘no need’ for a referendum.  Local residents deserve to vote this plan up or down in a referendum.  The only conclusion one could reach after hearing today’s comments is that given the unfair terms of the deal, MMCT does not want a referendum because they know this bad deal would be soundly rejected.  In this terrible deal, there’s even more:

Fourth, this is what happens when you have a sham of a process, and developers – not the state – gets to drive the process.  All negotiations have been in secret, leading to a last-minute weekend meeting with minimal notice and no real debate.  Serious questions raised by the Attorney General remain unanswered.  Legislative concerns about the state leaving money on the table in the midst of a budget crisis remain unanswered.  The Legislature still needs to approve any agreement, and given the understandable skepticism expressed by legislators in recent days, only to be tossed this terrible deal, that’s hardly a given.

The only way Connecticut opens its first commercial casino in a way that benefits the entire state is by scrapping this charade and creating a fair, open, transparent, and competitive process.

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