Connecticut Town Considering Acquiring Land Set Aside for Casino

Posted on: April 8, 2022, 10:01h. 

Last updated on: April 8, 2022, 01:30h.

The East Windsor, Conn., property on which a satellite casino was once proposed may be acquired by the town. It could be achieved through a legal process known as eminent domain, according to a published report.

East Windsor, Conn. vacant lot
The vacant lot in East Windsor, Conn., which was to become a casino site, pictured above. The proposal has been abandoned, and the town is considering acquiring the property through eminent domain. (Image: Jim Kinney/The Republican)

Town officials call the property prime commercial real estate, the Journal Inquirer, a Connecticut newspaper, reported this week. But the vacant land has continued to remain off the tax rolls under its present ownership through a joint venture called MMCT.

The joint venture was created by the state’s Mohegan Tribe and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Both own casinos in eastern Connecticut.

Under the joint venture, they had planned to build an off-reservation gaming property in East Windsor. It was called Tribal Winds. The plan was dropped, at least for now.

Casino Postponed for at Least 10 Years

In 2020, the tribes chose to abandon the plan for a gaming property on the site for at least 10 years. In exchange, the tribes were allowed to undertake sports betting and online casino gambling in the state.

“The bottom line is the sports betting bill last year left East Windsor in a bad position, and we haven’t seen any remedy to that since it was passed,” First Selectman Jason Bowsza told the Journal Inquirer.

It’s a prime piece of commercial real estate right off the highway, equidistant between Hartford and Springfield, five minutes from the airport, and right now the development market is on fire,” Bowsza added. “We have what is effectively a handcuffed parcel.”

To acquire the land, town leaders would set up a redevelopment authority. The process also needs to be approved by residents in a town meeting. If okayed, the town would purchase the land at market rate.

The property could then be sold by the town for commercial uses. Then it could be taxed. Estimates say it could generate tens of thousands of dollars a year in tax revenue. A new use would also lead to additional jobs. Bowsza said at least two developers are interested in purchasing the property.

So far, the tribes still own the land. They have not said what they plan to do with the property. The land is not part of either of the tribes’ reservations.

The East Windsor casino was seen as a competitor to the MGM Springfield, located 12 miles away in Massachusetts. MGM filed litigation against the satellite casino. The litigation has since been dropped.

Tribes Called Casino ‘Viable’

Two years ago, the two tribes issued a statement that said, “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.”

But among those who support considering the eminent domain option is state Sen. M. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor. “The taxpayers of East Windsor have been harmed by the decisions made between the state of Connecticut and the tribes,” he told the Journal Inquirer.