The quest for a third casino to compete with MGM Springfield has been slow – very slow. But remember the old tale about the tortoise and the hare.
Slow seems to be working. MMCT, the joint venture by the Mashentucket Pequots of Foxwoods & the Mohegan tribe of Mohegan Sun fame, are narrowing down the possible locations. Frankly, I haven’t been too pleased with the suggestions and the locations denied. I have always been a proponent of something close to highway access, like East Hartford. And now, I see another possibility that fits that criteria and is closer to the MA/CT border – Windsor Locks.
I have always thought the only location MMCT was looking at was Bradley International Airport. Recently, Brian Hallenbeck, Day staff-writer, detailed a new front runner. “A Windsor Locks tobacco field could be the leading contender for the site of the third Connecticut casino the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes are pursuing.” The 76-acre tobacco field, known as the Thrall Tobacco Farm, is located on Old County Road, two minutes from the airport and one minute from I-91. It’s closer proximity to the Massachusetts line makes it a better to compete with “the impact of MGM Springfield, the $950 million resort being built in western Massachusetts just a few miles from the Connecticut border.”
A former Showcase Cinemas building on Interstate 91 in East Windsor also is a potential casino site, with good highway access as well. But this land is closer to Hartford than the MA border.
According to Kenneth R. Gosselin of the Hartford Courant, “State Sen. Timothy Larson, D-East Hartford and a supporter of the expansion, said the timeline for selecting a site is to be expected.” After reading Mr. Gosselin’s report, I can see why it seems to take so long. “Larson added: ‘They [MMCT] are just being very particular. MGM has hired every lobbyist in America to find out what is going on, getting into those towns and upsetting the apple cart.’ ”
Now would MGM do that? You betcha. MGM Springfield has been rumored by some analysts to be considered one of MGM Resort International’s riskier new properties. Connecticut’s third casino would be that much more competition with a loyal base of customers to compete with one of the casino industry’s biggest companies, also with a larger customer base ranging from Las Vegas to their new National Harbor Resort in Maryland.
MGM Springfield’s progress has been dynamic. MMCT needs to be careful in picking the project location, but MGM is wasting no time north of the border. If the Nutmeg State started soon, I still don’t know if they could overcome MGM’s zeal to get Springfield up and going.
Instead of a race to the finish, it could be just a race to the beginning of a battle for many years to come.