NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY

The New England Gambling History begins soon after settlers arrive in the New World. As a matter of fact, English settlers differed from their Puritanical neighbors in New England in many ways. Gambling was one way the early colonies continued traditional styles in a new world. It was considered a “harmless diversion, a popular and accepted activity.”

Lotteries were used to bail out the Early Colonies. Financial backers of the colonies began to see gambling as the solution to diminish finances for the war effort. All 13 original colonies established lotteries, usually more than one, to raise revenue.  

The Pequot War of 1637

The Pequot War of 1637 set the stage for the separation of Pequot & Mohegan Tribes. Over 350 years after, both tribes started the New England Casino expansion we see today.
The Pequot War of 1637 set the stage for the separation of the Pequot & Mohegan Tribes. Over 350 years after, both tribes started the New England Casino expansion we see today.

The Pequot and Mohegan Tribes were once one tribe. But war with colonists, conflicts with other tribes, and different tribal/colonial alliances caused a split. Over 250 years later, they separately started legalized gambling in New England.

New England Gambling History Begins

The finished 3600 seat Bingo Hall was the keystone that the World's largest casino would be built around
The finished 3600 seat Bingo Hall was the keystone that the World’s largest casino would be built around

1983 / 1985 – NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe gained legal control of their reservation. They received federal recognition by Congress in 1983. A bingo hall was built in 1985 on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation, beginning the expansion of casino gambling in New England.


1992

  1. The first New England Casino, Foxwoods, opens its doors in Mashantucket, CT. Despite initial plans to close the casino at 2 AM, gamblers just kept staying and gambling. Foxwoods has always been open 24/7 since that night.
  2. In 1992, the tribe added table games, followed by slot machines in 1993. Quickly, the Grand Cedar Hotel was built and opened in 1993.
NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY
The Rainmaker at Foxwoods Resort Casino – part of the original casino before many expansions.

3. Lincoln Downs opened on July 7, 1947. Initially, a horse racing venue was sold (in debt) in June 1977. Renamed Lincoln Greyhound Park, it began its first season of greyhound racing in 1992.

Originally built for greyhound racing, Twin River Casino is now a full casino.

In 1992, pari-mutuel handles were dropping. Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut brought huge gambling competition. Rhode Island authorized video lottery terminals (class II) at Lincoln Greyhound Park & Newport Jai Alai fronton.


A Dollar Coin from Mohegan Sun Opening
A Dollar Coin from Mohegan Sun Opening

1996

The Mohegan Tribe opened the second New England casino in Uncasville, CT. Casino officials estimated some 40,000 had passed through on the first day.


1997

Foxwoods opens Grand Pequot Tower.

Foxwoods Resort, CT

2001 – NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY in the New Millenium

Mohegan Sun completes Mohegan Sun Arena, a 10,000 seat multi-purpose arena. Also, the tribe completed the 119,000 square-foot Casino of the Sky. This second casino at Mohegan Sun made it one of the world’s largest gaming complexes.

Non-Smoking Tortoise Shell Gaming area in Casino of the Sky.

2005

Hollywood Slots Hotel & Raceway opens in Bangor, Maine. The property became a racino when Penn National Gaming won Maine’s slots’ bid and purchased the Bangor harness racing track.  It was the first licensed slots facility in the state.

Hollywood Casino, Bangor Maine
Hollywood Casino, Bangor Maine

2007

Lincoln Greyhound Park turns into Twin River Casino with Vegas Style, class III gaming. Newport Grand soon follows, redesigning without Jai-Alai. The jai alai fronton operated from 1976 until 2003 for a total of more than 27 years.

NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY
Twin River as Lincoln Park before Major Expansion
Newport Jai Alai. Credit – newportri.com

2008

  1. Foxwoods announced that they would lease the MGM Grand brand name for the new building project. MGM Mirage would be a partner in the expansion project. The expansion, entitled MGM Grand at Foxwoods, opened on May 17, 2008.
NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY
MGM Tower at Foxwoods – Right side.

2. Mohegan expands with Casino of the Wind, more dining options, and a 42-table poker room.

Mohegan Sun Poker Room since relocated to Casino of the Earth (2019)

2011 – NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY

 Current Casino Landscape Takes Shape

MA legislature approves the Expanded Gaming Act allowing construction of 3 Resort casinos & one “slot’s only casino.”

NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY
Massachusetts Regions for full casinos. Doesn’t include Plainridge Park Slot Parlor in Plainville.

2012

  1. Oxford Casino opens in Oxford, Maine.
Oxford Casino, Maine
Oxford Casino, Maine

2. Hollywood Bangor adds table games.


2013

  1. MGM pulls out of its Foxwoods partnership.

Related Post – Foxwoods and MGM Joint Venture Ended in 2013

MGM Ends Agreement with Foxwoods
Sign of a change, MGM Ends Agreement with Foxwoods

2. Oxford Casino – In March 2013, Black Bear Development agreed to sell the casino to Churchill Downs Inc, which currently owns the property.

3. Twin River Casino adds over 80 table games, cutting into Connecticut casinos table game traffic. This becomes the first sign of competition and saturation seen in the New England gaming landscape.


2015

  1. Plainridge Park Casino Opens at Plainridge Raceway. It was the first Massachusetts casino (slots-only) authorized under a 2011 state law. The Bay State Expanded Gaming Act approved for up to three casinos in Massachusetts.
NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY
Plainridge Park Casino in Massachusetts

2. Foxwoods opens Tanger Outlet Mall between the two hotel towers with 85 stores.

Foxwoods Resort with the Tanger Mall added connecting Fox Tower and Grand Pequot Tower.

3. Twin River adds a Poker Room.


2016

The Earth Tower officially opened on November 18, 2016. It is the second hotel option at Mohegan Sun.

New Earth Hotel, at Mohegan Sun.

2017

NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY
Oxford Casino, Oxford ME, adds Hotel, expanded casino, and Ox Pub.

Oxford Casino Expands. In November 2017, the hotel, new dining venues, and an expansion of the gaming floor opened. The new name was now Oxford Casino Hotel and Events Center.


2018 – A Very Busy Year

New England Gambling History – Many Openings

  1. MGM Springfield Resort Casino opens. More than 10,000 people entered the casino in the first hours after its grand opening. Before that, the festivities included a parade consisting of hundreds of MGM officials and workers, construction workers, local and state dignitaries.
NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY
MGM Springfield

2. 3. Tiverton Casino & Hotel opens. It was considered a “convenience” casino. This local property began with 1,000 slot machines and 32 table games. It officially opened to the public on September 1st, 2018.

NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY
Tiverton Casino/ Hotel.

4. Twin River Casino adds Hotel

NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY
Twin River Hotel Lobby

5. Mohegan Sun opens Earth Expo Center. It has an innovative design with 125,000 square feet of contiguous, column-free exhibit space. In addition to a 20,000 square foot ballroom, it boasts 15 additional meeting rooms and pre-function areas for a total of 175,000 square feet.

NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY
Mohegan Expo Center

Closings, Sports Betting, and a Loss for Wynn

Newport Grand Slots Casino closes. Newport voters rejected proposals in 2012 and 2014 to add table games to the casino. Twin River Management Group bought Newport Grand in 2015. After getting voter approval to build a casino in Tiverton with table games, the company obtained state permission to transfer the license there.

NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY
Newport Grand Slots, Newport, RI

6. Rhode Island approves and opens the first Sports Betting in New England  – Both Twin Rivers and Tiverton casino were approved to offer single-game sports wagering. Rhode Island’s state lottery oversees sports betting. Much like Delaware sports betting, the state worked in partnership with the casinos and split revenue. Mobile betting was later added.

NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY
Inside the Twin River Casino Sports Book

7. Massachusetts Gaming Commission probeseveral sexual misconduct allegations were made against Steve Wynn. His departure from Wynn Resorts prompted a name change to Encore Boston Harbor. It was part of an effort by Wynn Resorts to distance itself from its founder.


2019

Encore Boston Harbor Opens – (previously referred to as Wynn Everett and Wynn Boston Harbor). This luxury resort and casino opened in Everett, Massachusetts, on June 23, 2019. It was referred to as an “international entertainment destination, evoking a Las Vegas atmosphere.”

NEW ENGLAND GAMBLING HISTORY
View From Harbor Walk

2020

New England Gambling History – Digging Out of a Hole

New England saw proof of casino saturation. Every casino, except Oxford, reported lower revenue than expected across the board. Then, COVID-19 added to the casino problems seen in New England and throughout the country. A full review will be added soon.


OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW – I should mention that casino gambling found a home in the 1800s in Newport, Rhode Island. Also, greyhound and horse racing grew. Parimutuel parlors and Jai alai frontons had a brief life in Milford, CT, Hartford, CT, and Newport, RI, in the 1980s.  However, in the past ten years, the horse-racing industry has seen a major decrease, if not close to extinction. Jai-Alai has moved out of the state, and parimutuel parlors continue to diminish in popularity due to the massive addition of casino gaming.

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