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Approvals in place, East Windsor casino construction should proceed

It’s time to start constructing the Tribal Winds Casino in East Windsor to be jointly developed and operated by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, who now individually run the Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun casinos in southeastern Connecticut.

The state legislation is in place and a final barrier was breached Thursday when the U.S. Department of Interior announced it was giving its OK to the Mashantucket’s participation, as required by the state law. Please, General Assembly, don’t mess this up.

The timing of the Interior approval was strange. Political skullduggery appeared to be behind the long delay. About a year ago Politico reported Interior had been on the brink of giving approval in September 2017, based on staff recommendations from the department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Indian Gaming.

Then, on Sept. 14, 2017, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason met at the White House with Rick Dearborn, the president’s deputy chief of staff for policy. The next day the staff’s approval recommendation was countermanded. Instead, Mike Black, acting assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, issued essentially a no decision.

MGM Resorts lobbyists were working behind the scenes to ground the East Windsor project because of the threat it posed to MGM’s new casino in Springfield, Mass.

Connecticut’s congressional delegation requested an investigation by the Office of Inspector General. Last month the Washington Post reported that Zinke, who resigned in December, is under a grand jury investigation for potentially lying to investigators.

While it remains important to get the full story about what games were played, and potential laws broken, to gum up the works for the Connecticut casino project, the important thing now is that it can begin.

MGM Springfield, which opened in late August, wants to attract patrons away from the state’s two tribal casinos, and particularly those living in the greater Hartford area. The intent of an East Windsor casino is to keep some of that business, and the resulting state revenue, in Connecticut.

The tribes send 25 percent of all slot revenues to Connecticut under the terms of the 1994 Tribal-State Compact. Twenty-five percent of all gaming revenue from the East Windsor casino will go to the state.

As another delaying tactic, MGM has waved the false flag of interest in building a casino in Bridgeport. The legislature should not fall for the misdirection. Allow the East Windsor project to proceed as planned.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.


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