Conn. casino expansion gets host responses.

Author:Haigh, Susan
Position:News

Byline: Susan Haigh

HARTFORD -- While at least one community has already said no dice to hosting a proposed casino in northern Connecticut, others aren't ruling it out.

They're busy preparing for the possibility of the General Assembly passing legislation this session, authorizing up to three satellite casinos to be run by the state's two federally recognized Indian tribes. The goal is to blunt out-of-state gambling competition and ultimately protecting jobs at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino.

''We certainly don't want to rule ourselves out from a $300 million economic development project,'' said Jason Bowsza, a selectman in East Windsor.

Denise Menard, the town's first selectman, said she and her town planner started talking about possible locations when the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans announced their plans on March 10. The tribes' top priority has been shoring up gamblers who might be lured away by the planned MGM Resorts casino, planned in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts. There are several vacant properties visible from I-91 in East Windsor, including a former movie theater, Wal-Mart and a wedding venue.

''We have sort of hit the ground running, with any kind of analysis any of us find,'' Menard said. ''We're prepared if the legislation passes.''

She said town officials have pulled together information on everything from traffic issues to host-town agreements in other communities with casinos.

In East Hartford, local officials recently met with the tribes and a team of developers interested in locating the new casino at an old movie theater complex off I-84.

Meanwhile, at least one northern Connecticut community has already taken steps to remove itself from consideration.

In Windsor, the town council unanimously adopted a resolution opposing any legal gambling facilities in the community. The move came after local officials said they heard strong opposition to a casino among residents. In Enfield, the town council recently decided not to act on an identical resolution, and instead wait and see what happens with the legislation.

''There are just a lot of open questions,'' said Enfield Mayor Scott Kaupin.

Matt Copler, Enfield's town manager, said the town is open to having discussions but the project ultimately ''has to be beneficial to the...

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