Changes to plans for a casino in East Windsor have been approved by federal officials.

Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods have been cleared to begin construction on a combined tribal casino in East Windsor. The Department of the Interior this week approved paperwork that will allow the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes the green light to begin construction on the Tribal Winds Casino in East Windsor, just 20 minutes from MGM Springfield. 

On Thursday, Governor Ned Lamont’s Director of Communications Maribel La Luz released the following statement on the decision by the U.S. Department of the Interior:

“We are very pleased that the Interior Department has decided to approve the amendments to Mashantucket Gaming Procedures and Memorandum of Understanding.  Approval of these amendments ensures that any state law authorizing MMCT to operate a commercial casino off of the tribal reservations will do no harm to the state’s existing revenue sharing agreements with the tribes. We remain committed to working with the tribes toward a global resolution of all outstanding legal issues or obstacles that may arise out of this decision, including any lawsuits third parties may bring against the state law that now authorizes MMCT to operate a commercial casino in East Windsor.”

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler also released a statement, saying, in part:

“Today is a great day for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the State of Connecticut, especially given our 400-year history together…Now that the approval of our Amendment is secured and our exclusivity agreement with the State of Connecticut is reaffirmed, we will move forward with construction on Tribal Winds Casino in East Windsor and preserve much needed jobs and revenue.”

MGM International said they’ll continue to explore their legal options to try and compete to open a casino in Connecticut, but Bridgeport is the location they’re after. 

One Massachusetts resident said the competition from more casinos could benefit the customer.

“I feel like if there is a competition between different casinos, I think more customers are going to want to go to the one with more entertainment, more lively type of deal,” said Alex Campurciani of Westfield.

Mohegan Sun has said  MGM’s opening hurt their revenues. The Tribal Winds Casino, a joint venture between the tribes that own Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, is an effort to keep jobs and money in Connecticut.

The Tribal Winds website says the casino will annually contribute $70 million to the state’s general fund, and bring around 2,000 jobs. 

But MGM International said they want the opportunity to compete for contracts in Connecticut, while the tribes maintain that their agreements with the state mean they have exclusive rights to operate there. 

MGM International said this “no-bid approach” leaves Connecticut open to lawsuits. 

“I think it’s gonna work out,” said one local resident. “I think as long as they’re making money and the business is still going, go right ahead.”

MGM wants to open a casino in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and lawmakers in Connecticut have filed legislation to try and create an open bidding process for casinos in the state. 

Tribal Winds in East Windsor would be the state’s first casino off tribal land. According to their website, they could be open within 18 to 24 months of receiving final approval.