Connecticut's Airport Authority released a trove of documents that detailed the authority's vision for what a casino may look like for passengers and other visitors to Bradley International Airport.
The Town of Windsor Locks and the airport have each demonstrated an interest in being a site for the state's third casino, which would be jointly run by the Mashantuckett Pequot and Mohegan Tribes, the only two federally recognized tribes in Connecticut who operate Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, respectively.
CAA Executive Director Kevin Dillon said the documents and renderings merely show that the board has been working to figure out how a casino might work and look.
“It’s unfortunate that MGM tries to distort what the process is here that the airport is using to try to come to a conclusion whether or not the airport could actually host a casino” he said. The most substantive discussions about the casino concept were only mentioned during executive sessions of the CAA Board. Despite their legal authority to hold meetings in private, MGM said that's precisely the problem.
MGM executives said the documents that include emails, plans from designers, and discussions with Windsor Locks officials, show a plan concocted in secret without public input.
“Projects like this need to have public input and they need to have public buy-in right from the start," said Alan Feldman, an Executive Vice President with MGM Entertainment.
Feldman and MGM contend that they have been shut out of the bidding process to run a third casino. Feldman said the fact that the tribes are running the site selection process and not the state, makes the entire venture anything but transparent.
"They've turned the process on its head," Feldman said.
MGM is currently building a casino in Springfield, Massachusetts, just miles from the proposed location in Windsor Locks. Feldman said even though MGM initially wanted to keep information the Springfield project confidential for a time, he said that was before a site was selected.
He said the two projects are very different.
"There was a huge public process that included several public meetings held by the state itself in Springfield.”
The renderings, which are merely concept Dillon said, show a facility with a dramatic glass facade at Bradley International Airport. He describes the opportunity as a "good amenity for passengers and a way to drive non-airport revenue."
Feldman said he would prefer to see a casino project competition for a Fairfield County location.
He envisions a Northeast strategy for the corporation that could have included Springfield and Fairfield locations. At the end of the day, he said, it is about opportunities to make money for MGM, and provide an avenue for healthy competition between commercial and Native American casinos.
Feldman said, “Of course it’s about our bottom line. We’re a business. We’re not a public Feldservice but it’s not because we’re in Springfield and want to stultify competition. We believe this is a very busy healthy growing market if you handle the market properly."
Dillon said MGM is trying politicize the issue and use information to fit a narrative. Their arguments, he said, ignore the number of steps left in the process before a site will be selected.
"The town of Windsor Locks has made it very clear that they will conduct a referendum on whatever is ultimately proposed. It's also very clear that our board, a public body, will have to vote on any deal that we reach in public. There will be a public debate and a public vote by our board and the legislature will eventually make a decision on the issue. We have a long way to go."