Past, Present Winners & Losers in Casino Competition CT Tribes Once Started

 

The Pequot and Mohegan Tribes were once one tribe, but war with colonists, differences with other tribes, and different tribal and colonial alliances caused a split that continues to this day. The Mohegans were allies of John Mason against the Pequots in the Great Pequot War in 1637.  Will the Mohegans & Pequots re-unite in the Great Casino War of 2020?  Read on…..

Over 250 years after the Pequot War (which almost eradicated the entire Pequot Nation), a bingo hall rose on what was left of the Mashantucket Pequot reservation in 1985 beginning the history of gaming in New England and competition once again between the Mohegans and Pequots.

Previous to 1992, both tribes fought for federal & state recognition as well as keeping land claims. Then governor Weicker agreed to give the Pequots a monopoly on slot machines in return for 25 percent of the slot machine revenue with the state guaranteed $160 Million,. A year later, in 1993, the Pequots  agreed to share the gaming business with the Mohegans, a tribe with whom they have lived for centuries, but the Indian monopoly is extended to all casino games.

After the Tribes Are Recognized

Here is a quick little history lesson since then:

Foxwoods started it all with a Bingo hall.

Foxwoods started it all with a Bingo hall.

  • 1992 – first New England Casino as Foxwoods opens its doors in Mashantucket, CT
  • 1992 – Rhode Island approves VLT gaming machines (class II) at Lincoln Greyhound Park & Newport Jai Alai
  • 1996 – the Mohegan Tribe opens the second NE casino in Uncasville, CT
  • 2005 – Hollywood Slots Hotel & Raceway opens in Bangor, Maine
  • 2007 – Lincoln Greyhound Park turns into Twin River Casino with class III gaming; Newport soon follows
  • 2008 – MGM joins Foxwoods with additional hotel / casino
  • 2011 – MA legislature approves construction of 3 casinos
  • 2012 – Oxford Casino opens in Oxford, Maine, making two casinos in Maine
  • 2015 – MA opens first of three (4?) casinos in Plainville, Mass at Plainridge Park – slots only.

 

I should mention that casino gambling found a home in the 1800’s in Newport, Rhode Island, not to mention the numerous greyhound, horse tracks and  parimutuel parlors throughout New England. Jai Alai frontons in Milford & Hartford CT, and Newport, RI were also popular for a while in the 1970 – 90s until Foxwoods opened. Rhode Island’s Lincoln Greyhound Park became Twin River Casino later.greyhound

Future Casino Landscape in 2015

In 2015, the country was filled with new casinos and New England followed the trend. The two CT tribal casinos in New England began a gaming explosion that appeared to include:

  • Connecticut – 3 casinos – a joint casino venture (MMCT) with Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun
  • Rhode Island – 2 Twin River Casinos
  • Massachusetts – 4 casinos, plus an additional Tribal Casino in the Southeast
  • New Hampshire – 2 Casinos, wherever?
  • Maine – 2 casinos
  • Total = 13 casinos in a combined area slightly larger than the state of Washington, which has 28 Indian casinos in operation.

The Many Casinos That Never made it

For those in the country that don’t equate New England with gambling still, it may be a surprise that New England has had more casino proposals not make it to construction than the Las Vegas Strip. For those of you living here, remember these possibilities?

Mohegan Palmer Casino

Mohegan Sun’s rendition of Mohegan Palmer Casino

  • Penn National Casino in Springfield, MA (2013)
  • Caesars Casino proposal in Boston, MA (2013) partnering with Suffolk Downs
  • Mohegan Sun Casino proposal in Palmer MA (2013)
  • Hard Rock International Casino proposal in West Springfield MA (2013)
  • Mashpee Wampanoag “First Light” Casino in Tauton MA (2013) [not daed yet]
  • Nunes/Foxwoods Casino proposal in Milford MA (2013)
  • Rush Gaming Slots-only proposal in Worcester MA (2013)
  • Racino proposal in Scarborough ME (2013)
  • Cordish Gaming Slots-only proposal in Foxboro MA (2013)
  • Penn National opts out of Casino in Springfield, MA, to set sites on slots-only in Plainville (2013)
  • New Hampshire proposes three separate casinos (2012, 2013, 2015), but none to show for it.
  • The Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians casino proposals ME
  • Mohegan Sun Casino proposal for Revere MA (after MGM chosen for Springfield (2014)
  • Maine Casino Proposal @Scarborough Downs (2014)
  • Foxwoods Casino Proposal in New Bedford MA (2014)
  • Rush Gaming Casino in Brockton MA (2014 – 2018)
  • York Casino Proposal ME (2015, 2017)

    Foxwoods New Bedford (top), Rush Gaming’s Brockton Proposal, which is hanging on by a thread.

Where am I going with this?  To tell you the truth, I don’t know…..does anybody know?  Let’s be honest, the news of an economic gambling war between New England States could go in many directions.  Twin River buying Dover Downs in Delaware and moving Newport Grand (closed) to Tiverton with table games and a nifty hotel is an example of New England casinos jockeying for additional advantages.

That’s all for now.  All I know is, for now, and the foreseeable future, we will have  9 casinos when Encore Boston Harbor is finished in 2019. Actually, it will be 10, since the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe on Martha’s Vineyard, MA has been approved for a small class II casino.

My head hurts………

Binbin

Wynn & MGM Rumors Abound in Massachusetts

Matt Maddox (left & Steve Wynn (right) courtesy of CNBC

Wynn Resorts new CEO Matt Maddox reported on CNBC Wednesday that “Boston’s not up for sale. What Boston represents for us is a good growth opportunity……I like that market. I found that land. I pursued that deal. I entered the agreement with the host community five years ago. I liked that market then, I like that market now.”

Rumors have been spreading daily over the two new casinos in Massachusetts.  It all started when Steve Wynn, then CEO of Wynn Resorts, Wynn, was accused of demanding sexual favors from female employees over the last three decades. Since these allegations became public, and his resignation as Wynn Resorts chairman and CEO on Feb. 6, a firestorm of speculation has whirled around Everett, MA.,  spreading to Springfield, MA and even Connecticut’s tribal casinos.

MGM BOSTON HARBOR?

MassLive reported that “gaming officials are exploring the sale of Wynn Boston Harbor, with MGM Resorts International as a top candidate to purchase the project.”  MGM Resorts International has been urged on by John DeCree of Union Gaming stating “purchasing Wynn Boston Harbor could result in a double-digit increase in return on investment for MGM than their casino project in Springfield.”  But state gaming regulations only allow a casino operator to hold more than one gaming license in Massachusetts.  Selling their MGM Springfield project would then be necessary to purchase the Wynn property in Everett.

MORE RUMORS

Meanwhile, back in Springfield, MGM this week has reported a new opening date – earlier than the previously announced late September.  MGM Springfield is now prepared to open (mark your calendars!) August 24th, 2018.  This report is not a rumor, but will the casino in Springfield be owned by MGM by that time?

With a series of “what-ifs” and “thens,” check out this possible 5+ step scenario:

  • 1. MGM purchases Wynn Boston Harbor, becoming MGM Boston Harbor
  • 2. MGM sells Springfield casino.
  • 3A. Mohegan Sun buys Springfield, becoming Mohegan Sun Springfield (the Mohegan tribe lost out to Wynn for the Boston license with their proposal in Revere. or
  • 3B. MMCT Joint venture between the Pequot & Mohegan tribes in CT change it’s prospective 3rd CT casino in South Windsor to Springfield, MA.
  • 3C. The prospective 3rd CT casino in South Windsor continues as a joint venture between the Pequot & Mohegan tribes in CT
  • 4. The prospective 3rd CT casino in South Windsor is not built, leaving Foxwoods out of the mix, until….
  • 5. Connecticut opens bidding for Bridgeport Casino, as Foxwoods & MGM become prime suitors to battle it out for the NYC market.

It seems like fun to make these rumored projections, much like a mock draft on Draft Day.  But it isn’t fun and games for the city of Springfield. MA. Casino opponents in Springfield always warned that “something like this could happen with MGM’s track record.”

MGM Springfield

Remember when this beautiful tower was going to enhance the Springfield skyline?

AND WHAT ABOUT SPRINGFIELD?

According to MassLive, “Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said Friday he has been assured by the top executives of MGM Resorts International and MGM Springfield that it remains committed to building a first-class resort casino in the city, despite unconfirmed reports that the company is in discussions to purchase the under-construction Wynn Resorts casino in Everett.” Residents have made it known that they need MGM for its economic and jobs promises. Some note that MGM has already changed its plans when they changed the 30-story hotel tower and decreased the casino floor.

Other residents have noted that businesses have been reluctant to break ground in Springfield to accompany the opening of MGM Springfield.

MGM has stated, “We do not comment on rumors or speculations around transactions. We remain fully committed to the opening and success of MGM Springfield.”  But it is the Boston market that will pay the most dividends.  Springfield has always been, to some, a questionably lucrative project.

CONCLUSION

Many events would have to happen in order for Wynn Boston Harbor to become MGM Boston Harbor. The summer will prove to be interesting, as state legislatures business is coming to a halt soon in both states, putting a hold on possibilities.  Besides the Wynn Boston Harbor mess and the MMCT situation in CT, sports-betting is also on the table in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

For Springfield’s sake, I hope the next throw of the dice isn’t “snake-eyes!”

Binbin

Dr. Clyde Barrow & the Proposed Bridgeport Casino

Attorney General Jepson

Attorney General George Jepsen has advised Connecticut legislators to test the market for opening Connecticut to commercial casinos. He seems to think it wouldn’t jeopardize $260 million in slots revenue the state expects to collect this year under the exclusive deal with the tribal owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Mohegan Sun.

But this is a questionable tactic in my mind, and so does Clyde Barrow.

Who is Clyde Barrow?

Dr. Clyde Barrow is considered a gaming industry specialist. In a comprehensive study, he stated that a new Connecticut casino (referring to the joint venture between the Mohegans & Pequots) would recapture 46 percent of the 9,300 jobs and $337 million in revenue that would otherwise be lost to out-of-state competition, especially that from Massachusetts.

Casino Consultant, Clyde Barrow

Casino Consultant, Clyde Barrow

Dr. Barrow goes on to say recently, “Precedent has already been set. According to Barrow, “in October of 2010, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council “stopped sharing revenue from the casino along New York’s northern border with the state, claiming the exclusivity provisions of its gambling compact has been violated…..In other words: if the State of Connecticut grants a commercial gaming license to any operator other than the State’s two Indian tribes under an open competitive bid process, then the tribe’s current combined revenue sharing payments of $267 million annually could cease immediately (Connecticut Division of Special Revenue 2017).”

Connecticut’s Tribal Tax Revenue

Foxwoods Resort Casino has operated a Class III casino under a compact with the State of Connecticut since February 15, 1992 and Mohegan Sun Casino has operated a Class III casino under a compact with the State of Connecticut since October 12, 1996. Connecticut’s two tribes have a combined Gross Gaming Revenue that is the 4th largest in the United States.  The top three are California (where 62 of the 109 California tribes own 69 casinos), Florida (2 tribes operate and own 8 casinos) and Washington state (32 tribal casinos owned by 23 tribes). Remember, only two tribes with only two casinos in the third smallest US state.

But all that revenue from slots at both tribal casinos would be lost with a competitive process for the 4th casino in Bridgeport.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed MGM Bridgeport casino.(Image: MGM Resorts International)

As reported by Brian Hallenbeck, the Day staff writer, Dr. Barrow said “Assuming the third Connecticut casino gets built — and few consider that a slam dunk — a fourth, competitively bid casino would have to generate nearly $1.1 billion in annual gross gaming revenues to offset what the state would lose when the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes stop sharing their casinos’ slot-machine revenues, a new report concludes. And the probability of a Bridgeport casino pulling in that kind of cash “is almost zero [because] not a single commercial casino in the United States currently generates that level of gross gaming revenue,,”

 

Let’s look at a few other considerations:

  1. The traffic from New York of prospective gamblers will cause studies and improvements in the dangerous, time consuming highway that is I-95. Improved infrastructure should be paid for by any perspective Bridgeport Casino project, or that will cut into Connecticut’s tax revenue, diminishing the already smaller revenue expected without the tribal tax revenue.

    I-95 traffic congestion on SW CT.

  2. Potential developments in New York, where a constitutional moratorium on New York City casinos expires in December 2022, also threaten the success of a Bridgeport casino, Barrow contends. “There is nothing to prevent the State of New York from locating a new casino even closer to the Connecticut border, where it could intercept casino traffic from New York City and capture traffic from Fairfield County. The anticipated traffic from New York City will never materialize for a Bridgeport casino because New York can easily and quickly pre-empt a new competitive threat from Connecticut by building an even more lavish casino that is more convenient to New York City customers.”
  3. If newly built New York Casinos and NYC close Empire and Resorts World Casinos are already cutting into the tribal revenue, what kind of a terrible impact would a border war with New York AND Massachusetts bring without the CT tribal revenue when the exclusive pact with the tribes is broken.

I believe Dr. Barrow’s analysis.  But maybe MGM International also believes he’s right.  I guess that’s how stalling tactics, and MGM is real good at not showing its hand. Meanwhile, MGM Springfield continues – full speed ahead, while Connecticut is still waiting for in first gear.

Bin bin