Due to the economic ravages of COVID-19, earlier this month leaders of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes said they are hitting pause on a proposed Tribal Winds Casino in East Windsor.
Casino and political watchers say the economic crisis brought on by COVID-19 may be the push Connecticut legislators and tribal leaders needed to get on the same page about sports betting. As casinos and Connecticut are hurting for revenue, they will both want to put squabbling behind them and make a deal, analysts have said.
Connecticut has been able to offer sports betting since 2018 but has not been able to develop a system to run it.
The tribes - which run Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos - said that sports betting is a casino game and that since they pay the state 25 percent of their slot revenue in exchange for exclusive casino-gaming rights, the tribes are the only ones who can offer the service.
Some legislators and gambling industry representatives argued that sports betting is outside of the realm of casino gambling and that the tribes cannot claim exclusivity.
In a joint statement, the tribes - which run Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos - said that economic restrictions meant to stem the spread of COVID-19 have sapped revenues at their existing gambling establishments. They said they would be pulling back from Tribal Winds and focusing on growing revenue at established casinos.
However, they are not calling it quits on Tribal Winds.
“We’ve been through so many ups and downs when it comes to the Tribal Winds project,” the statement said. “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.”
Tribal Winds was conceived as a way to compete with MGM Springfield, a casino in Massachusetts by the Connecticut border.
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