If ESPN can show games from previous years, NETimeGambling will dip into our archives and bring some of the best in our coverage of New England’s Casinos. So, today, we go back to 2013. We covered the Foxwoods and MGM joint venture and the break-up that followed. I hope you enjoy this look back sixteen years ago. This is one of our first posts at NETimeGambling. Foxwoods and MGM Joint Venture Ends in 2013
The Lion Will Roar No More in Connecticut
Foxwoods Resort Casino parted ways with Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International in 2013. They announced the end of the licensing agreement that enabled Foxwoods to brand its second casino tower MGM Grand at Foxwoods. The “Wonder of it All” used a six-month transition period to complete the change. (The end result was the Fox Tower & the Fox Casino) This is the rest of the story……
To be honest, the “lion” hasn’t really been roaring a lot in the past 6 years. Terrific entertainment in the MGM Grand Theater, a few outstanding restaurants and the club Shrine have been the highlights. However, the MGM property has been underwhelming. The small casino has very little personality. The fact that MGM had to go through Foxwoods’ Rewards Club also hampered their clientele. Being able to play in Vegas and spend in Foxwoods, or vice versa, would have definitely increased popularity and solidified future growth of the property, but both gambling companies seemed to have different paths in mind.
The Recession – Foxwoods and MGM Joint Venture
The tribe and MGM International — then known as MGM Mirage — signed the agreement in 2006. It was at a time when both were eager to pursue gaming opportunities in the Northeast. MGM Grand, built next to the tribe’s Foxwoods Resort Casino complex and cost more than $700 million. It opened on May 2008, just as the effects of the Great Recession were beginning to be felt. Here in New England, many thought, as yours truly, that this was an ill-timed project. Many casino giants thought they were recession proof. Originally, the “strategic alliance” reached between the parties in 2006 called for them to collaborate on projects away from the Pequot reservation as well. Due to the economic downturn, other collaborative projects never materialized.
(Please note – at the time MGM supported off reservation projects, as long as they were a part of it. Since 2015, MGM has done everything in its power to deny these projects happening due to competition in Springfield.)
Scott Butera, then Foxwoods president and chief executive officer, said the decision was related to an ongoing Foxwoods makeover. “We wanted to consolidate our property under the Foxwoods brand,” he said.
MGM Looks to Massachusetts
Both parties were “mutually agreeable” to the dissolution of the Foxwoods-MGM licensing agreement. MGM hopes were to develop a resort casino in Springfield, Mass., less than 80 miles from Foxwoods. MGM is quite confident they will be chosen over the other CT casino’s interests in Palmer by the Mohegan Sun, which ended up being true.
“With MGM working toward a significant presence on the East Coast, it was the opportune time to review our relationship (with Foxwoods) and dissolve the licensing agreement.” Recent attention to expansion into Maryland, Massachusetts, and even Great Britain presents a global expansion out of Nevada. It all follows MGM’s successful casino in Macau, China. (MGM Springfield did open successfully. And while it has continuously underachieved in revenue, MGM International continues to tweak things, adding better and more diverse gambling, a VIP Lounge, and extending more privileges to lower card members, such as free parking and many promotions.)
Foxwoods Looks To Build Another Casino
Foxwoods, was also involved in a Massachusetts casino proposal. It sought a license to build a $1 billion project in the Greater Boston town of Milford. However, community opposition and late deadlines due to changes in planning made Steve Wynn, their obvious choice from the beginning, the leader in this region.
In 2013, Foxwoods had made great changes and renovations, due to Butera’s national gaming experience. Between Butera, who jumped to MGM, and Felix Rappaport, Foxwoods sought to move toward other sources of revenue. Restructuring debt, putting 1,000 slots and 100 tables into storage were important to making their resort less gaming centric. The concentration was with amenities going from 20% of Foxwoods revenue base to 30%-35%, similar to the Las Vegas Strip properties.
Related Post – Thrill Rides and Family Entertainment at Foxwoods
Imagine the likes of Wynn, MGM, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in a radius of 90 miles. Competition can only be good for the consumer! (In fact, the additional three casinos, Rhode Island’s monopoly on legal sports betting, and saturation of casinos in the area have only recently started to present competition.)
That’s all for now.