The East Windsor, Connecticut Board of Selectmen has taken the first steps toward using eminent domain to seize a property owned by the state’s two Native American tribes originally pegged for a new casino.
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe purchased the land, a former Showcase Cinemas property, in 2017 under a joint tribal venture, MMCT, with plans to build the state’s first commercial casino there. That plan was approved by the state legislature and then-Governor Dannel Malloy, who hoped to keep revenue in the state that otherwise would go to MGM’s new casino just over the Massachusetts border in Springfield.
Last year, the tribes abandoned plans for the project, which was to be called Tribal Winds Casino. In March 2021, current Governor Ned Lamont negotiated with the tribes to amend their compact to bring online gaming and sports betting to the state. As part of that arrangement, the tribes agreed to not build Tribal Winds for at least 10 years.
East Windsor officials were upset, not only by the fact the tribes had promised payments of $40 million a year for the first five years the casino operated and cancellation of what would have been a $400 million project along with jobs and investment in the local community, but by the prospect of the site remaining fenced off and abandoned for a decade.
Last week town officials took the first steps toward seizing the property under eminent domain, to free up the property for public use.
“We have tried to be reasonable with the tribal nations, meeting with them on several occasions, to discuss how to develop the parcel,” First Selectman Jason Bowsza said in a press release. “The clear economic harm to East Windsor, as a result of that property being left undeveloped for 10 years, is unacceptable.”
“East Windsor deserves the opportunity to pursue economic growth, provide jobs, and transform this now blighted space into productive use,” Selectman Sarah Muska added in the press release. “We know where the Lamont administration and MMCT stand, and it is not where we need to be.”
Deputy First Selectman Marie DeSousa added to the release, saying, “The stalled development was not the outcome we were promised. Therefore, I have no choice but to pursue this avenue to bring jobs and development opportunities to this community.”
“To have this parcel, which is in the center of our business district, locked out from any development for 10 years, is something we simply cannot allow to continue,” Selectman Alan Baker told the Journal Inquirer.
The board unanimously took the first step in the eminent domain process, by establishing the site as a redevelopment district. Future action is expected soon.