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Department of Interior approves East Windsor casino

EAST WINDSOR – The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman says that after repeated delays, the Department of the Interior has approved a casino on non-tribal lands in East Windsor.

The project has been stuck in regulatory limbo. The tribal chairmen of MMCT — the joint venture between the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes – have been pushing a bill to bypass the federal approval they need to start construction. It appears that will no longer be necessary. A spokesman for the project told FOX61 “We’re golden.”

Mashantucket Pequot Chairman Rodney Butler’s statement reads:

“Today is a great day for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the State of Connecticut, especially given our 400-year history together,” says Rodney Butler, Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. “I applaud the actions of the Department of Interior and extend my sincerest gratitude to Assistant Secretary Tara Sweeny and the Office of the Solicitor at the Interior Department for their assistance in resolving this matter. 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.”

For three years, many in Connecticut have looked to the proposed casino off of I-91 as a buffer against the new MGM casino in Springfield, MA.  The tribes have already spent $14-million on the project, tearing down the old Showcase Cinema building and obtaining all their state and local permits.

MMCT has said that once they were allowed to begin construction, they could open the East Windsor casino, to be called “Tribal Winds”, within 18-24 months.  They blamed heavy lobbying by MGM for stalling the project. MGM also reacted to today’s decision, saying:

“The Attorney General’s office has repeatedly warned, as recently as last year, that pursuing a no-bid approach in East Windsor would expose Connecticut to significant legal risks. As MGM has always stated, we will continue to pursue all legal options, including litigation, to defend our right to compete in Connecticut.”

Governor Lamont’s Director of Communications, Maribel La Luz, also issued a statment on Interior’s decision, saying it “ensures that any state law authorizing MMCT to operate a commercial casino off of the tribal reservations will do no harm to the state’s existing revenue sharing agreements with the tribes.” The statement also says the Governor’s office will work with MMCT to resolve any legal issues “. . .including any lawsuits third parties may bring against the state law that now authorizes MMCT to operate a commercial casino in East Windsor.”

MMCT claims the casino will bring in $70 million dollars and 5,000 jobs.

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