The two Native American tribes of Connecticut, the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes, have announced that they are dropping plans to develop the joint Tribal Winds casino in East Windsor, as they look to concentrate on their current casinos in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and in the hope of seeing sports betting expanded throughout the state.
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Mohegan Tribe said in a joint statement that they need to reflect on Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, which have faced “unprecedented challenges” over the past seven months.
They stated: “Every day brings new challenges and we’re doing our best to navigate these waters because we know how important our businesses are to the surrounding communities, our employees and the state as a whole. The best thing we can do right now for each of those stakeholders is to focus foremost on the success of Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods. We’ve been through so many ups and downs when it comes to the Tribal Winds project. There have been many moments where it was clear the easiest path would be to just walk away. And while there’s no way we could have accounted for this latest delay, we still believe Tribal Winds is a viable project that will come to fruition once markets improve and we’ve taken concrete steps toward restoring normal business operations.”
With Foxwoods furloughing 100 staff members and cutting operating hours last week, both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos have been operating at just 25 percent capacity.
In order to prevent MGM Resorts International lawsuits, Governor Ned Lamont wanted the tribes to shelve proposals for the East Windsor initiative, which would only have postponed the implementation of sports betting.
He said: “It was a source of aggravation to some of the outside casino places that had objections there. We’re trying to reach an accommodation where we can get sports betting and even iGaming going in the state — doing it in a way that doesn’t prompt a litigation war of sorts, and we’re trying to work that through. It’s going to take a little bit longer.”
Rodney Butler, Mashantucket Pequot tribe chairman, added: “The easy solution, in the interim, if we can’t figure out all the bigger gaming issues, would just be to have sports betting at Mohegan and Foxwoods, and then we can save the more difficult conversations for down the line.”
Rep. Sean Scanlon predicts that because of ‘overwhelming bipartisan support to get this done,’ sports betting will be legalised in 2021.
“The tribes understand that because the economy has changed,” he said. “More and more people in the legislature, and certainly in the executive branch, are aware of the fact that our neighbours are doing it. I think that the stars are aligning.”