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 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
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.
- 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.
- In 1992, the tribe added table games, followed by slot machines in 1993. Quickly, the Grand Cedar Hotel was built and opened in 1993.
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.
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.
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.
Foxwoods opens Grand Pequot Tower.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
2. Mohegan expands with Casino of the Wind, more dining options, and a 42-table poker room.
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.”
- Oxford Casino opens in Oxford, Maine.
2. Hollywood Bangor adds table games.
- MGM pulls out of its Foxwoods partnership.
Related Post – Foxwoods and MGM Joint Venture Ended in 2013
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.
- 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.
2. Foxwoods opens Tanger Outlet Mall between the two hotel towers with 85 stores.
3. Twin River adds a Poker Room.
The Earth Tower officially opened on November 18, 2016. It is the second hotel option at Mohegan Sun.
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
- 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.
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.
4. Twin River Casino adds Hotel
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.
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.
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.
7. Massachusetts Gaming Commission probe – several 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.
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 – 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.