Assessing New England’s Casinos In 2020

After taking a little break during the week before Christmas, NETimeGambling was back to look to the New Year. Casino gambling’s immediate future in New England had never looked so bleak. So it was time to assess the year and evaluate 2021’s expectations. In a two-part series, NETimeGambling will first look at the year far from normal in the gambling industry and the rest of the world. So here is Assessing New England’s Casinos in 2020.

Related PostNew England Casinos – A Look at 2020, Before the Pandemic

Here is Assessing New England’s Casinos in 2020

People Are Staying Away

In my opinion, New England’s Casinos did their best to protect their guests. Safety has been the number-one governing principle for every casino’s reopening. Protocols, plexiglass, disinfecting playing surfaces, and game pieces have been implemented from Uncasville to Bangor. However, as Holiday surges become the norm, confidence in a normal visit was still at an all-time low. The new vaccines’ effectiveness wouldn’t be seen until the spring of 2021.

Revenue Needs a Boost Across New England

If casino guests don’t visit to spend discretionary money, revenue will continue to tumble. Connecticut’s two mega-casinos are shadows of themselves. Massachusetts and Maine casinos can’t bring people in the doors. Pandemic hours of operation are making short nights where people’s excitement once filled the air.

Connecticut Casinos

Connecticut’s Tribal Casinos’ advantage of sovereignty has dwindled. Both were able to open a month before the rest in June 2020. Gov. Lamont and the tribes worked together on protocols, but potential visits from gamblers in surrounding states don’t seem to be a big enough plus anymore on the fall.

Connecticut’s tribal casinos slot-machine revenues tanked in November, falling to levels not seen since the 1990s. Foxwoods Resort saw a 43.7% decline from the previous November. Mohegan Sun witnessed 37.7% from a year ago. “It’s all pandemic-related,” Jeff Hamilton, Mohegan Sun’s president and general manager, reported.

Assessing New England's Casinos in 2020

Massachusetts Casinos – Assessing New England’s Casinos in 2020.

Same Story as above. Gaming revenue fell at all three Massachusetts casinos, dealing with tightened pandemic restrictions. Together, Plainridge Park Casino, MGM Springfield, and Encore Boston Harbor generated 35% less revenue in November than the previous month of October.

Assessing New England's Casinos in 2020
Just Before Opening

Massachusetts casinos opened in July but operated under strict COVID precautions. For example, MGM Springfield’s hours are only from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily. Only about a third of the spots at its gambling tables were open, and nearly half of its slot machines were available. The property still had the hotel, the movie theater, and the spa closed. Foodservice was extremely limited at all three casinos as well as all nine New England casinos.

“It’s all pandemic-related,”

Jeff Hamilton, Mohegan Sun’s president, and general manager

Rhode Island Treads Water With Sports Betting Help

The 2020 fiscal year marked the debut of legal mobile sports betting in Rhode Island. Mobile wagering was a reality in the Ocean State, added to its already popular legalized sportsbooks in 2018. That one bright spot has kept Rhode Island’s Casinos from the similar despair of their surrounding competition.

Assessing New England's Casinos in 2020
Then Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo,

Gov. Gina Raimondo closed the state’s two casinos, the Twin River Casino Hotel in Lincoln and the Tiverton Casino Hotel, for the first three weeks of December in 2020. As a result, the total amount transferred to the State for fiscal 2020 decreased $113.4 million compared to the year ended June 30, 2019. Before the pandemic, Twin River saw about 15,000 daily visitors. At the end of 2020, it is operated under 40% capacity.

“Fringe players,” those looking at the casino for entertainment and dining opportunities, have all but disappeared.

Dealer, Twin River Casino

No Better News Downeast

In Maine, the Oxford Casino and Hollywood Casino Bangor revenues dropped 54.91% compared to the same time period in 2019. Maine was the fourth-worst among the states across America surveyed. However, it fared slightly better than Michigan, which saw a revenue decrease of 57.99%.

Maine joined the overwhelming majority of states tightening restrictions.

In part 2, we look at how New England’s Casinos could increase visitation and revenue. Employees needed jobs, but without guests, the need for more staff was still low. The reinstatement of live poker rooms could have helped to bring an additional clientele not seen in months. But only Connecticut and New Hampshire would open the rooms up. So it has been a long climb out of those dark casino days in New England. But the jury is out, and the verdict is “the pandemic is to blame; COVID -19 did it.”

Related Post – Opening Casinos During Covid-19.