The legislature’s public safety and security committee voted in favor of a bill Wednesday that codifies Gov. Ned Lamont’s agreement with the two tribal nations and the Connecticut Lottery over sports betting and iGaming, but not everyone is happy. The deal halts development of an East Windsor casino.
“I think that what we have now is a 30-acre parcel of commercially marketable property between highway exits. I think that there needs to be something meaningful to happen to that,” East Windsor First Selectman Jason Bowsza said.
The town of East Windsor had hoped the former Showcase Cinemas property off I-91 would be a bustling casino but the development has not materialized, and there’s now concern the property will remain vacant for at least a decade.
Bowsza said the most important thing is to be able to develop the property so it can contribute to the tax base. But the deal between the governor and the two tribes requires the tribes to put a halt to the Tribal Winds Casino project.
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“For me the commitment we’ve had to East Windsor and our belief in that project quite frankly was the most difficult part of agreeing to some type of delay as a part of this deal,” Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler said.
Butler said they spent $20 million on that project and they wanted to see it move forward.
“That came from the governor’s office. He’s been public about that for what he’s described to me as legal concerns,” Butler said.
“All three parties, Gov. Lamont’s administration, the Mohegan Tribe, and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe came to an agreement which included a halt on all development of the East Windsor site for the initial period of the agreement,” Max Reiss, the governor's spokesman, said in a statement.
“What we don’t want to have is people driving by the highway seeing vacant commercial properties,” Bowsza said.
Lawmakers who voted against the proposal Wednesday cited the East Windsor casino as their main concern.
“I agree with probably everything else in that bill except the piece that eliminates the casino,” Rep. Carol Hall, R-Enfield, said.
What’s next for the property?
“I also think that the Lamont administration, that the Department of Economic and Community Development and the legislature have an obligation to help this property be developed,” Bowsza said.
He added that “getting us back to a vacant building isn’t the highest and best use for that property. We need to make sure this parcel gets to its highest and best use and is a contributing entity to the town of East Windsor.”