East Windsor town officials held a special meeting at East Windsor High School Saturday where they approved a development agreement between the town and MMCT Venture LLC, the joint Mohegan-Mashantucket Pequot company, that could pave the way for a third casino in the state.
In a forum earlier this week, representatives from MMCT said they were close to announcing their preferred location for the project, having narrowed it down to East Windsor or Windsor Locks.
The East Windsor location is at the site of the former Showcase Cinemas, just off Interstate 91.
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Casino allies have said this project is about economic growth, and maintaining critical employment in the state, along with crucial state tax dollars that come from the casinos. The tribes said a third casino in Connecticut is essential to compete with the new MGM Resorts International Casino that is scheduled to open in late 2018 near Springfield, Mass.
In the development agreement, the tribes promise to pay the town more than $8 million a year in fees and taxes. They would also hire about 1,700 people, and hiring will prioritize locals. The agreement also said that 75 percent of the jobs created will be full-time.
MMCT was pleased with the outcome.
"Listening to and speaking with each of the communities has been a top priority for both tribes," said Andrew Doba, Spokesman for MMCT Venture. "That's why the we held community forums, and that's why today's vote is so gratifying. We thank the Board of Selectmen for standing in support of this effort to save Connecticut jobs, and look forward to announcing a final site in the coming days."
Opponents still aren't sold. The Coalition Against Casino and Expansion has spoken against plans for a third casino in the state, saying that gambling has negative economic and social impacts.
Residents in East Windsor have also voiced concerns about traffic congestion and the toll on the town’s infrastructure and emergency services.
Voting on a real estate development agreement does not necessarily greenlight the project, but rather lays out ground rules, such as a time frame and how the design can move forward. Similar negotiations are still underway in Windsor Locks.
"If Windsor Locks approves it, they will have to choose one of us. So we are waiting to see which one they do choose. If they do choose us we are welcoming the casino here,” said East Windsor First Selectman Bob Maynard.
Lawmakers would have to approve a third casino. and the governor would have to sign off on any bill that made it to his desk.