The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes began work on their proposed East Windsor casino yesterday without receiving federal permission to proceed on the project.
At a ceremony yesterday, the tribes commenced the demolition of a shuttered movie theater at the site that is planned for a 100,000-square-foot casino. The new casino would be 13 miles south of the 759,000-square-foot MGM Springfield, Massachusetts casino resort, which is scheduled to open later this year.
Despite the start of demolition, the tribes have not finalized a construction timeline for the project because of the uncertainty of federal approval. Mohegan Tribal Council President Kevin Brown insisted that federal approval for the East Windsor casino will be forthcoming.
“We expect to get that approval in the late spring,” he said. “We know we are on the right side of the law.”
The East Windsor project has been in limbo as a result of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s inaction on reaching a decision on gaming pact amendments that would enable the tribes to open a casino on nontribal land. The tribes and the state of Connecticut have filed a lawsuit against the department, and members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation have demanded that the department’s Office of the Inspector General investigate the matter.
MGM Resorts International, which proposed its own casino resort in Bridgeport, has been accused by the Connecticut congressional delegation of lobbying the Department of the Interior to prevent the East Windsor casino.
Uri Clinton, senior vice president and legal counsel for MGM Resorts, told the Associated Press that the tribes were “closer to legal approvals they require, and no closer to producing a realistic construction schedule than they were a year ago when they said construction would be completed in 2018. If ever there was a textbook example of there’s less-here-than-meets-the-eye, this is it.”