The proposal for an additional casino two years ago, voted to keep jobs and gambling revenue in the state, has caused quite a stir. The $900 million MGM Resort in Springfield, Mass., well under construction, is threatening to lure away business from Connecticut’s two Tribal casinos.
- While Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun’s gaming revenue declined almost 50% between 2006 and 2015 (Source: State Department of Consumer Protection), recent months have showed some stabilization.
Now it seems more than just the MMCT (the joint venture by Foxwoods & Mohegan Sun) wants a pie of the pie – dwindling as it may seem.
Bridgeport representatives still want Southwestern Connecticut to be considered as part of an imminent gambling expansion. Bridgeport Dem. Representatives, have introduced legislation that would allow new gambling locations throughout the state, along with competitive licensing processes and a tax of 25 percent on gross revenue from slot machines and table games, saying “It would be beneficial for the Shoreline to team up with the tribes with slot machines, but we are not even given that opportunity.
State Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, is part of a new group, including religious organizations and people with gambling addictions, against any gaming expansion. During a recent news conference with other opponents, he said that while the tribes have been promoting the potential jobs and economic benefits of another casino, the industry is well past its prime. “We may be looking at an industry that is at a saturation point.” This could very well be true. But the quick fix that Connecticut lawmakers are looking for to help the state’s budget woes is still alluring.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy admits that additional revenue isn’t the best reason to consider a new gambling location. “We’re not talking about gobs and gobs of additional money,” Malloy said recently. “I think what the Indian tribal nations within Connecticut are saying is that ‘our market is under assault and we need help in defending that market.’ Ultimately that is a question for the Legislature.”
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen has been battling MGM in court since 2015, when the multi-national corporation, with resorts as far-flung as Macau and mainland China, charged that its rights were violated by the law passed to allow a new casino. “The District Court agreed that the state has not — at least to this point, in light of the limited nature of the Special Act — infringed on MGM’s rights and granted our motion to dismiss MGM’s lawsuit, and MGM has appealed that decision,” Jepsen said. “The appeal has been argued, and we currently await the Second Circuit’s decision.”
MGM – BRIDGEPORT PARTNER or INSTIGATOR
KEITH M. PHANEUF of the CT MIRROR, reminded us of an analysis prepared for the tribes by gaming consultant Clyde Barrow estimates that the MGM facility — which is more than halfway complete and expected to open in 2018 — would cause the loss of 9,300 jobs and $702 million in revenue to Connecticut’s casinos during its first three years of operation. MGM would prefer no competition. Instead, MGM sources did their own study, and amazingly suggested the Southeastern area as best for Connecticut. How nice of them to stir the pot AND get the competition away from them.
Instead, a Bridgeport casino would compete with much larger casinos in the New York City area, (Resorts World & Empire City) who are considered some of the largest revenue creating casinos in the country – all at the risk of losing 25% revenue from Foxwoods & Mohegan Sun. Any additional commercial casinos will negate the compact with both Pequots & Mohegans.
THE CT PROCESS CONTINUES
East Windsor’s Board of Selectmen voted 4 to 0 Saturday to accept terms of a development agreement with two Native American tribes to allow construction of a casino in a vacant movie theater just south of Springfield. The partnership of the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes told a legislative committee Thursday that it will decide on a site within days. According to Dave Canton of MassLive, “the East Windsor site is the former location of the Showcase Cinemas alongside Route 91. The Windsor Locks location is a former tobacco field near Bradley International Airport.
In presentations made before the vote, the partnership estimated the new casino would generate about 1,700 construction positions, and approximately the same number of permanent positions once the casino starts operations. About 75 percent of those positions would be full-time. The last hurdle for the project would be a gambling permit from the state. While the tribes have operated gambling casinos in Connecticut for many years, both are on tribal land and fall under federal laws. This would be the state’s first commercial, non-tribal, casino.”
One point that Connecticut legislative are missing is the fact by opening up the process to commercial casinos, it may postpone the process for years, which is playing right into the hands of MGM & Springfield. Add two more years at least to the process, and MGM Springfield will be firmly entrenched, while the expansion ion New York won’t give Bridgeport a chance. Talk of saturation in the market? Bridgeport & the tribal casinos will have no recourse than to cannibalize each other’s pie of the Connecticut gaming pie. Wynn Boston Harbor will even be competed before any Connecticut casino.
According to Bob McGovern of the Boston Herald, Mayor Sarno has had a lot to say about the duel between Springfield’s budding MGM presence and Connecticut’s third casino project. When asked whether the mayor was comparing the proposed Connecticut casino to a “glorified slots parlor,” Sarno’s spokeswoman said: “Yes.” According to Mr. McGovern, “Some Springfield politicians weren’t concerned with the prospect of a nearby casino, saying the MGM project will dwarf whatever facility the tribes attempt to hastily put up.” However, their arrogance seems to be blinding them to some simple facts:
- Connecticut’s MMCT casino won’t be a “slot’parlor” – with table games, dining options, modern gaming, and possibly a hotel, it’s far from a slot parlor. If they want to know what a slot parlor is, they should visit their own state’s version at Plainridge Park in Plainville, MA.
- MGM has touted itself as interested in the resort experience, not the gambling, per se. But, isn’t the gambling the revenue part that Massachusetts is looking for since the gambling, not the hotel and other amenities, is where the state revenue will come from?
- 126,262 total square feet – that is the now reduced size of the MGM Springfield casino – according to Peter Goonan’s report for MassLive. That’s not the “Casino Block” space, which includes Hotel, Retail, Food and beverage, Convention space, Residential living space, Operations. That is 50,000 sq. ft. less of casino space than Plainridge Casino’s gambling floor!
FINAL NETG ANALYSIS
In a short period of time, a site will be chosen by MMCT. But that might only be the beginning of expansion, if any in Connecticut. At this time, we all the possibilities:
- No Casino – yes, that’s right. In a quick Twitter poll on our NETimeGambling Twitter site, 60% responded to no casino, 20% for Bridgeport, and 20% for the Hartford area.
- MMCT gets their casino, the mess continues, but to no avail.
- All Hell Breaks Lose! – the process is revisited, commercial casinos apply for two licenses, and I’ll be writing about it well into 2020.
That’s all for now – that’s enough, don’t you think.