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Connecticut tribes begin clearing East Windsor casino site; still no OK from feds

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Connecticut tribes begin clearing East Windsor casino site; still no OK from feds

EAST WINDSOR, Conn. -- Demolition crews on Monday began clearing the site of a planned casino that would be built to compete against MGM Springfield even though the federal government has not given its OK for the expansion of tribal gaming to the site.

"Maybe we should thank MGM," said East Windsor First Selectman Robert Maynard. "Without them coming to Springfield, maybe the tribes would not be building here. And this is a great site."

But in East Windsor, inaction by the U.S. Department of the Interior casts the casino project into doubt.

But that was about the only charitable thing anyone had to say about MGM Springfield and its parent, MGM Resorts International at Monday's event. MGM is lobbying hard to block the project, a joint effort of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes that operate casinos in Connecticut.

"There is not one thing right about about MGM trying to take this away from Connecticut," said State Sen. Cathy Osten, a Democrat representing towns in the eastern part of the state near the existing tribal casinos.

Osten said the East Windsor project is about preserving Connecticut jobs.

Connecticut jobs have been moving to Massachusetts with General Electric planning to move its headquarters from Fairfield to Boston and MassMutual consolidating 1,500 jobs from its Enfield campus at its Springfield headquarters.

The tribes still don't have the required federal permission to operate a casino on the site of the former Showcase Cinemas. It is unclear when, if ever, they'll get the OK despite heavy lobbying by Connecticut Gov. Dannell Malloy and the Nutmeg State's congressional delegation.

"We expect to get that approval in the late spring," said Mohegan Tribal Council President Kevin Brown. "We know we are on the right side of the law."

He said the tribes filed a legal response Monday in an ongoing court fight with the Department of Interior.

But President Donald Trump has had a well-known antipathy toward tribal gambling going back to his days running Atlantic City casinos, casinos that failed in part because of competition from Connecticut.

This East Windsor casino would be located just 13 miles south of the $960 million MGM Springfield casino that will open in September. The Mashantucket Pequot, owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino, and the Mohegan tribe, which runs rival Mohegan Sun, hope that an East Windsor casino will lessen the two tribes' losses  in business and traffic to MGM Springfield.

In a counter move, MGM Resorts International is lobbying hard for Connecticut to open up its casino agreements with tribes. MGM wants to build a $675 million waterfront casino in Bridgeport that would take a strategic position between the tribal casinos and the lucrative New York City market.

"We are in a competitive business," Brown said."Make no mistake."

If built, the East Windsor casino would be smaller than MGM Springfield, only 100,000 square feet versus 759,000 square feet of space.

The two tribes plan to spend $300 million to $400 million in East Windsor. They say the East Windsor casino would create 4,300 jobs both directly and in directly  mostly filled by folks who work for the tribes now at existing casinos. The tribes promised Monday to hire 650 Hartford-area residents.

The project is expected to create another 2,300 construction jobs.

Demolition of the old movie theater, which was built in 1994 and closed in 2008, is expected to take six weeks, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council President Rodney Butler said after the event.

The two chairmen don't have a firm date for the start of construction, saying they are still designing the casino and going through the town's approval process. 

Butler said they plan to be up and running within two years.

MGM Springfield opens in September.

Read more http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNF2XELs9mB_xez0vwbkX7mjfL0L0w&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&cid=52779822052026&ei=VSCeWqixB8HxhQH535XACw&url=http://www.masslive.com/business-news/index.ssf/2018/03/conn_tribes_clearing_windsor_casino_site.html

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