Northeast Casino Saturation – Here We Go Again

“Northeast casino saturation looms in the background of MGM Springfield opening.”

That’s according to Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports. In his article on  August 21, 2018 he goes on to write, “See if this sounds familiar. At a gaming conference in Atlantic City, a panel debated the casino saturation point for the Northeast U.S. gaming market.  “There’s a finite amount of gaming revenue out there,” said one panelist. “We are in a very volatile time and we’re in a frenzy of gaming expansion. It needs to stop.”

“Those comments were made three years ago.”

We have heard this since Maine opened a second casino, and wanted a third.  It was said by opposition to the Massachusetts Casino Law.  The demise of 5 casinos in Atlantic City started saturation talk as Pennsylvania added numerous casinos.  The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is still considering keeping only three casinos instead of the original four, worried that the the additional southeast Mass. license would cannibalize Encore Boston Harbor and Plainridge Park patronage. Rhode Island’s legislators are also concerned about the impact on Rhode Island’s Twin River and Tiverton Casinos.

Stutz writes “MGM expects to draw business from Massachusetts communities – Springfield is 90 miles west of Boston. At the same time, the property will try and poach business from Connecticut’s two large Indian casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. Springfield is just 26 miles north of Hartford, Connecticut, and roughly 70 miles from the two casinos……The whole Northeast has been on a casino development streak since long before Massachusetts passed its gaming legalization plan, with casinos opening in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Rhode Island.”

Since 2015, the following has happened:

MGM National Harbor

  • MGM National Harbor opened in Maryland
  • Resorts World Catskills opened (80 miles northwest of New York City.)
  • Plainridge Park Racetrack, & MGM Springfield opened
  • Oxford Casino, Maine opened its hotel with casino expansion
  • Twin River Casino will open its hotel and has already moved the Newport Grand operation to the MA/RI state border battle lines with their new Tiverton Casino & Hotel
  • Pennsylvania approved the addition of “mini-casinos” to the 12 brick-and-mortar casinos which are raking in record gaming revenue from their existing operations.
  • New York State has added three casinos, but have under-performed so far.\
  • Resurgence and growth in Atlantic City with Ocean Casino Resort & The Hard Rock Cafe Casino Resort opening in place of the closed Revel and Taj Mahal, respectively.

Will Encore Boston Harbor, a true destination resort, with table games and other expanded amenities, be considered the final straw in the New England Camel’s saturated back?

Connecticut’s two immense resorts, Mohegan Sun Resort Casino & Foxwoods Resort Casino, are expected to feel the brunt of all this expansion. Revenues dipped in September with the opening of MGM Springfield, but no where near what was expected. Michael Pollock, managing director of casino industry consultant Spectrum Gaming Group doesn’t believe Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun will succumb to the new competition.

“The existing properties [in CT] are not without their arsenal,” Pollock told the Hartford Courant. “Both … have made significant capital investments in their properties. They have their own databases covering a huge swath of New England. They are going to be leveraging that.”  After visiting and staying at MGM Springfield, I truly feel the MGM name and its vast MLife members will be what keeps it on the cusp of being called a “destination casino.”  Next year when MGM completes its acquisition of Empire Casino and Yonkers Raceway in New York – just 15 miles north of Times Square and the heart of Manhattan – we could be discussing the “S” word again.

And then there are always the improbable, but still breathing, additions of:

First Light

First Light Resort Casino, Wampanoag Tribe, Taunton

  • Mashpee First Light in Massachusetts (although it seems to be on it’s last leg)
  • The 4th SouthEast MGC casino license in MA (delayed by MGC)
  • The MMCT joint venture for an East Windsor casino by Mohegan & Foxwoods tribes (which received a huge blow by federal court)
  • THE MGM BRIDGEPORT RESORT (CT’s gambling laws would have to be rewritten, with the state losing all of its revenue from the tribes)

A related posts you might find interesting is

“CASINO SATURATION IN THE NORTHEAST 2017” by NETG  and

“Northeast’s casino landscape growing crowded” by

Brian Hallenbeck

In Martin Derbyshire’s fascinating post for PLAYUSA.com, entitled “ARE NORTHEAST CASINOS REACHING A TIPPING POINT?” he writes, “So many casinos have been built across the Northeast, market saturation looks like its right around the corner.”

After seeing 150,000 enter the MGM Springfield opening, I don’t see the corner yet.

Binbin – “Embrace the math in Gambling, not the myth!” 

The Monday Link – Atlantic City’s History Of Second Chances & Salt Water Taffy

THE MONDAY LINK

Dr. David Schwartz is a historian, Director of the Center for Gaming Research & instructor at UNLV, and former casino employee who writes about casinos, gaming, tourism, & Las Vegas. I first heard of him listening to one of my favorite, and the original, Vegas podcast “Five Hundy by Midnight.”  I also listened to him on the old Vegas Gang podcast and actually met him at VIMFP (vegas internet mafia family picnic), a get-together of Vegas Nerds, one of the original gambling meetups.

Dr. Dave Schwartz, Professor at UNLV

But nothing got my attention from Dr. Dave more than his books. “Roll The Bones” (The History of Gambling) & “Grandissimo” (about Vegas entrepreneur Jay Sarno) should be staples in anyone’s gambling resources.  Check out our NETG posts about them: “Roll the Bones” is a MUST READ! & Another Must Read From Dr. David Schwartz – “Grandissimo”

After visiting Atlantic City twice in one week, wouldn’t you know I would come across an article in Forbes which Dr. Dave now writes for and is the pick for our Monday Link. Mr. Schwartz was born in and grew up in Atlantic City. His perspective on AC’s many upturns and downward spirals is always genuine and thought worthy. Enjoy his latest article in Forbes entitled:

Atlantic City’s History Of Second Chances & Salt Water Taffy

 

Here ARE A few of HIS books – Tales From The Slot Floor is his LatesT

GrandissimoTales from the PitBoardwalk PlaygroundRoll the Bones Casino Edition

 

 

An AC Trip Report – A Vote For Spontaneity

The group of us who bring you NETimeGambling.com tend to be calculating in our casino vacation plans. Even our Vegas vacations start with an itinerary for each day that’s followed about 75%. (Except Miguel – he’s more of a “go with flow” kind of guy in Vegas).

So, after the three of us returned from our July FlyBorgata trip to Atlantic City, which we always love (Bread & Butter, Amphora Lounge, & “Human Nature Concert,”  – yahoo!), I was surprised to hear Bert say – “let’s just go back and take advantage of the Tier Matching at Hard Rock and Ocean in Atlantic City!”

Due to a calf injury, I was stuck at Borgata while Bert & Miguel went to see both new casinos, with Bert getting a free room at both.  So we called, booked the rooms and four days later drove to AC – 4 1/2 hours later, we checked into Hard Rock.  Here’s our Trip Report, divided by the pros and the cons in a relatively random presentation.

PROS

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

Second Floor escalator looking down toward casino floor. Fabulous digital signage. Courtesy of http://www.downtownmagazinenyc.com

  • Room renovations seem successful, at least from our room.  Check -in was quick and service was friendly and helpful. (See below about getting into our room).
  • Card Rewards Center was very helpful in getting your card and Tier Matching.  My Diamond card from TR boosted me to Rock Royalty, the top tier.  Leap at Mohegan Sun, Platinum at Foxwoods, and Gold at MLife (MGM/Borgata) will also get you there, until Labor Day weekend.  It includes $150 Free Slot Play, 2 comp nights (w/ resort fees), 2 buffets, 2 comedy club Tix (weekend only) and of course line passes, which come in handy at HRC right now because the place is packed at night with card newbies lines getting very long quickly.  The Rock Royalty gets you a visit to the VIP lounge, but it was closed for a private function.
  • REALLY COOL – in most casinos I’ve played in, the PIN number screen is always the same – 1-5 at the top, 6-0 in the second row.  But not at HRC! – Miguel reported that the numbers are randomly different every time you enter your PIN for added security. Love it.
  • Food court is outstanding.  Quite the selections, and good choices without the usual chains.  And they have their own WhiteHouseSubs, a famous locals’ place.
  • Free T-shirt after 1 hour of play – Yahoo.
  • I only played Pai Gow Poker, which is only found in the high limit / Asian Gaming area.  Dealers and Pit were very friendly. Limits start at $20 and includes Fortune side bet.  After 90 minutes of play, I was up $200, and I had the table to myself.  It was a great play.

    Once we got into our room, we liked it.

  • Kiosk for additional cards and the Rewards Kiosks had some problems.  Twice, we had to go back to Rewards Center because promo ticket wouldn’t print.  There are a lot of them around, and were tons of people for the opening, so word was they couldn’t keep up with the ticket paper in the kiosks.  I feel, while it was annoying, it’s understanding that it could occur first month.
  • The entertainment line-up is amazing. And checkout the free bands in the Center Bar Lounge – every time I passed by, I quality of music was outstanding – afternoon and evening.

Ocean Resort Casino

Aerial View of Ocean Resort

  • This place is beautiful and earns the title of Resort. Spacious, with lots of areas to just chill.
  • Free Parking for Everyone – Bravo!
  • This place can just take you away – you tend to forget you’re in Atlantic City (not that being in AC is a bad thing).  The pools, the view, the scent, the casino, the service, and the appearance inside and out makes me feel like I could be in Aria or Cosmo in Las Vegas.
  • Check – in was very smooth, and you receive a nice gift bag with hats and water.  Nice touch.
  • Tier Match from HRC’s Rock Royalty top tier gives your Ocean Black Card.  This includes $100 Free slot play, 2 buffet passes (but no buffet yet), free entrance to Premier Lounge and VIP Lounge in High Limit throughout the day.

    Premier Lounge

  • Food options are good, better than in many Diamond Lounges.  The same menu is served all day.
  • Room was terrific, larger the HRC, and bathroom is 2-sink, large with a shower big enough for an entire basketball team (well, maybe not that big.) Great room, very quiet. Great view of the ocean, too.
  • The highest VIP lounge is small, similar food to Premier Lounge, open later and only open for Black Card members. (Premier is available for Platinum Member with 10 credits.)
  • Casino is spacious, modern with swirling lines of slots and video poker.  Very easy to get around.
  • Video Poker is better than HRC, if you play $1 and up. Full Pay JOB at $1 and 9/6 DDB at $1.

CONS

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

  • When we arrived at our assigned room, we couldn’t get in.  Yes, the key was working, but something I have never seen kept us from getting into the room – the security latch from the inside kept the door from opening about an inch.  After waiting for 20 minutes and two phone calls downstairs for help, I finally had to go downstairs myself.  Again, being friendly usually brings helpful service – no ranting or complaining.  With 5 minutes, we had a new room with a pleasant conversation and my new friend Wes, and we were on our way.
  • Video poker is not a good thing at HRC, period. 8/5 JOB at $1 Level?  C’mon…….
  • The slots areas, which seem to be everywhere, feel a little stifling and close. I think they fit in as many as they could.
  • The casino is very warm at night.  If you don’t like the freezing cold of other casinos, then this one’s for you.  But for the most part, add smoke and it can get a tad uncomfortable.
  • The Buffet is smaller and underwhelming than expected.  Dinner is $37.50.  NETG was very disappointed – good thing it was free with Tier Matching.  If you have to pay, stay away.

    Dessert station only saving grace in Fresh Harvest Buffet

  • No Breakfast at the Buffet?!!!! Really? Just dinner & supper.

Ocean Resort Casino

  • The whole property tends to be easy in getting lost. Casino is on level 6, Hotel lobby a couple floors above that.  The slot floor, while and easy to get around, is also easy to get lose on.  When you circle by the Food Truck for the second time, you know you’re lost
  • Wanted to play Pai Gow Poker late morning – $50??? only table open.  Later at night had $25 low limit, but still better at HRC.
  • Retail shops are not really open yet except for fitness center, coffee place, and a couple clothing options.
  • Sorry, but I have to say the Ocean uniforms with this “yacht” theme don’t look good on most of the staff.  Nice try, but doesn’t work.  They DO stand out – maybe that’s what they are going for.

RECOMMENDATIONS

If you prefer a high energy, young, loud music filled atmosphere, go to Hard Rock, where a great tier match is waiting for you.

If you prefer the luxury of a resort, with better gambling, VIP lounges and the feel of a high-end stay, go to Ocean.

Both are great additions to the Boardwalk.  HRC may cause the most competition for Borgata for a while.  The options of HRC, Ocean and lower end but dependable Resorts makes a nice trio at the south end of the boardwalk.

Binbin & Bert