Tribal Winds Casino in East Windsor on pause due to COVID-19

Wednesday 9th December 2020

EAST WINDSOR, Conn. (WTNH) -- The state's tribal casinos - the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe - made an announcement Wednesday the Tribal Winds Casino project in East Windsor is still very much alive, but on pause because of COVID-19.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe say the future of Tribal Winds Casino in East Windsor will happen "when the markets improve" during a Zoom meeting citing COVID's unprecedented challenges the casino's are pressing pause.

Tribal leaders say, "We need to focus our efforts on the successful operation of our existing facilities."

For the first time in history, the Tribes closed both of their facilities on March 18. Since reopening, both casinos have operated at 25% capacity. And recently Foxwoods announced more than 120-furloughs.

Tribal Chairs in a statement say, "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."

The Town of East Windsor laid the groundwork for the economic development in both Planning and Zoning and on the Board of Selectmen. In a statement, First Selecman Jason Bowza says, "We want this project to succeed and we respect the long view approach the tribes must take to make sure all the elements of success are in place before making a major investment. I want to thank the chairmen for their candor as they work through the ramifications of the pandemic."

For his part, the governor said this location was a source of aggrevation to other operators who wanted in on the game. Lamont says closing this casino location is not a condition of passing sports betting in Connecticut.

The governor said, "Now they are pulling back let's face it bricks and mortar casinos are in distress right now just like brick and mortar retail and restaurants the world is moving on line and I think gambling is no exception."

No timeline was detailed on when the project will resume. Construction is estimated to take two years. The governor would not say when he will meet face to face with the tribal leaders to talk about sports betting.

The tribal leaders thanked State Senator Saud Anwar, Representatives Hall and Foster, and First Selectman Bowsza for their understanding, patience and continued desire to work together.

"I want to thank the chairmen for being forthright and honest at every step of this project," said State Senator Saud Anwar. "While the cause of this recent delay was beyond their control, their clear desire to move forward when conditions improve is evident. I remain optimistic and look forward to a long partnership with the tribes in the years to come."

"I wanted to thank the tribes for keeping us well-informed as we try to navigate through this very difficult business climate," said State Representative Carol Hall. "I am very disappointed that COVID has delayed the progress of this project but unfortunately, we understand that there are many devastated businesses and that it is looking no different for the tribes at this point. I have complete confidence that once we get through this pandemic this project will move forward. We have been assured by the tribes that this is the number one project on their radar once they can get their home base operations in good stead."

"While I've yet to be sworn in, I know from talking with so many people in my community that East Windsor is eager for economic development opportunities," said State Representative-elect Jaime Foster. "I appreciate the chance to talk to the chairmen and learn about this project and where it stands currently. I look forward to being an advocate for endeavors that bring jobs and economic benefits to my district."

In 2019, the U.S. Department of the Interior gave the project the green light. Lawmakers passed legislation in 2015 for the addition of a casino off the reservation properties in Southeastern Connecticut. In 2017 a request for proposal narrowed down the site to East Windsor 171 Bridge Street.

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