Connecticut is home to two major, resort style casinos – Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. Located just 10 miles apart from one another in southeast Connecticut, their owners – the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and Mohegan Tribe respectively – have been stiff rivals for years. Now, with a new threat on the horizon via MGM Springfield (Mass.), the long-time adversaries are teaming up to compete with the multi-billion-dollar corporation from Las Vegas.
Last year, the owners of Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods became unlikely allies in a joint venture to build a new, smaller casino in northern Connecticut. The purpose was clear enough – to rival the $950 million mega-resort currently being built in Springfield, Massachusetts, just 30 miles north of Hartford.
On Monday, the tribal operators said they were still working out a site for the new casino, but that they hope to have the location set and ready to present to the state legislature in the coming weeks. However, they also stated that they may not be ready to present to their plan to legislators before the current session is out.
“We don’t want to go to the legislature with a half-baked plan,” explained Mohegan Tribal Council Chairman Kevin Brown. “We have to come back with a chosen location, and so, for everyone’s benefit, it’s best we make sure we take our time and do it right.”
He went on to say that the group is certain “whether it’s this session or the next, we’ll get something passed, and we will get a shovel in the ground.”
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council Chairman Rodney Butler shared similar sentiments on Monday, saying he anticipates the group’s prime selections to be narrowed down “within a few weeks”. From there, a second round of negotiations should determine which site gets the final nod.
Location, Location, Location…
The four cities that the tribes are looking most closely at are East Hartford, East Windsor, Hartford and Windsor Locks. Proposed sites for the new casino have been made in each locality, some with as many as three locations in mind.
Representatives of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have stated that the construction of a new – albeit smaller – casino in north central Connecticut will serve as a great benefit to the community at large. Competing with MGM Springfield, scheduled to open across the northern border sometime in 2018, won’t be easy, but the tribes believe this new gambling destination will help preserve state gambling revenue, as well as industry jobs.
State legislators agreed with their estimation, voting in favor of the new casino and passing the appropriate legislation to get it done. However, they demanded the tribes return with an exact location before approving a permit for the new casino.
Once final approval is given, it will mark the first time Connecticut has acquiesced to the construction of a commercial casino off tribal lands.
The tribes aren’t just grappling with a location for the casino, but choosing a community that supports their efforts. With that in mind, the group continued its campaign efforts on Monday, hoping to gain the support of local business owners and employees who they say will ultimately benefit from the new casino; likewise, who will face detriment without it due to the outflow of revenue and tourism to MGM Springfield.
MGM Contests New Casino in Connecticut
MGM Resorts has already moved to halt the approval of a commercial casino in Connecticut off tribal lands. The Las Vegas gambling giant claims that Connecticut’s passage of a statute to allow the casino gives unfair advantage of the tribes, excluding participation by other operators and permitting tribes to operate a casino off tribal lands.
Suffice to say, it could be a long road ahead before the new casino moves beyond the planning phase. However, the ultimate goal of the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes is to get the $200-$300 million casino – estimated to house 2,000 slots machines and 100-150 table games – up and running before MGM Springfield cuts its own ribbon two years from now.