CT Should Try the “Massachusetts Model for Casino Expansion”

In a previous post, I suggested what was, at the time, a rediculous suggestion on casino expansion in CT.  It was based on how things eventually turned out in Massachusetts.  But it doesn’t seem so far fetched now.  Matter of fact, the latest CT legislature bill resembles my silly suggestion. Let’s call it the “Massachusetts Model for Casino Expansion.”  This is what I suggested a year ago:

  1. Set up a process for  accepting license applications similar to Massachusetts.
  2. Begin the bidding process for both the Bridgeport casino & East Windsor Casino in the mix.  We’ll call them the Southwest license and the Nithern license.
  3. This will stop the 25% guarantee on slots to the state from Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, but later on, (hopefully) this will not be a problem due to two new casinos.
  4. Allow MMCT to bid for East Windsor & Bridgeport, as well as anyone else, such as MGM, CET, & Boyd. MGM couldn’t bid even if it wanted to on East Windsor because its Massachusetts license has a radius restriction on building new casinos nearby……there are few commercial operators willing to launch a casino between the new MGM Springfield and the tribes’ big destination casinos on the reservations, especially if it also meant matching the state’s revenue from those tribal casinos. So, because MMCT would be considered a company interested in a commercial casino in East Windsor, it would have to cover the new fee together (25% of table games & slot revenue.)
  5. If chosen, Mohegan & Pequot tribes would stop their deposit to the state coffers, but would now cover 25% of slots and table games at the East Windsor site.  If they decide they aren’t interested, someone (but not MGM) will build a casino in northern CT, at the same 25% slots and table game status. (remember, the previous pact with the tribes covered 25% of only slot revenue)
  6. Meanwhile, all applications, similar to Massachusetts, will be accompanied by stringent background checks and $500,000 application fee (higher due to the inflation of 6 years).  Eight companies were interested for the Springfield and Boston region casinos.  An application fee of $400,000 immediately brought in over $3 million dollars in revenue before the process had begun!
  7. In the end, it seemed obvious to me that the MGC were leaning towards Wynn & MGM. I’m not suggesting the process be skewed toward our tribal casinos, but am established working relationship should go a long way compared to unknown relationships with commercial casino companies.
  8. The need for a casino in Bridgeport could change or be voted down. A south-western CT casino could eventually be a moot point, if CT decides it doesn’t want it any more. In Mass, Brockton & Rush Gaming were held hostage until the MGC dropped the Region C license due to the litigation troubles the Mashpee Wampanoags were going through.
  9. In the end, the two tribal casinos would be still standing alone, only the state of CT would have made extra revenue on the process.

So much for daydreaming.  Next, I’ll dream about 99% video poker and 2/1 Blackjack as the expectation for the future.

Thats all for now.

Binbin

MGM Winning the Battle in CT by Outspending the Rest

Hold The Demolition!

The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal nations were set to begin work on dismantling the abandoned Showcase Cinamas in East Windsor where the joint venture of MMCT were to build a casino. Let’s face it, it was intended to be a quick reaction to save jobs and revenue going over the border to Springfield .

MGM Resorts International continues to throw any resistance they can, raising its own bet for Connecticut’s lucrative gambling dollars. In case you missed it, in the last few years MGM has:

  • flooded the towns considered for the MMCT third casino venture with propaganda to promote disinterest
  • stirred the pot by inciting other CT tribes to “get their piece of the pie,”
  • made CT legislators consider other processes for gaming in the Nutmeg State
  • studied and suggested Bridgeport as the best place for a new casino (away from Springfield)

    Bridgeport, CT – MGM casino quest

  • continues litigation with the state of CT concerning the casino addition
  • slowed the third casino process to a crawl, getting ahead with their project in Springfield while
  • continuing to move forward steadily in building MGM Springfield
  • and even has CT politicians & residents alike thinking that no additional casino is the best scenario

With an offer for a Bridgeport casino and fierce opposition to the East Windsor site within 17 miles of the $900 million MGM casino nearing completion in Springfield, Mass., there is as much as $20 million a month in Connecticut gambling revenue at stake.

Ken Dixon of the CT Post reported the following actions as MGM raised the ante last year:

  • Spending more than $3.8 million in TV and radio ads and lobbying state agencies and lawmakers, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen, a Hearst Connecticut Media review of public records in the Office of State Ethics has found. (The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegans’ joint venture spent less than $1.2 million.)
  • MGM hired a Washington lobbyist to focus on the Department of the Interior and the White House, paying Ballard Partners $270,000.
  • Lobbying total comparisons: MGM Resorts International $3.8 million, Mashantucket Pequot Tribe/Foxwoods $77,850, MMCT Venture, (East Windsor tribal casino) $1.2 million, Schaghticoke Tribal Nation of Kent $158,194 (when MGM backed an effort to get the tribe recognized and allowed a competing casino)
  • MGM Resorts International’s growing investment in Connecticut lobbying – 2015 — $172,937  2016 — $1,224,440, 2017 — $3.8 million

“It’s par for the course,” said Andrew Doba, spokesman for the two tribes. “MGM has shown, month after month, year after year, that they are willing to spend ungodly amounts of money to prevent Connecticut from taking the logical and necessary steps to protecting jobs and revenue.”

Connecticut State Capitol

Recently, Kenneth Gosselin if the Hartford Courant reported the introduction of a bill that would open casino expansion in Connecticut to competitive bidding calls for scrapping plans for a casino in East Windsor. The bill requires that proposals include a workforce of at least 2,000 and an agreement to give the state at least 25 percent of gross gaming revenues from all games, plus at least 10 percent from slot machines. The pact with CT’s two tribal casinos now in action insures 25% of all slot revenue.

What would the New bill entail?

  1. Bids are due by Jan. 1.
  2. The proposals also must show the bidders are able to pay a one-time $50 million licensing fee to the state.
  3. The legislature’s public safety and security committee, which oversees gaming, will hold a public hearing on the bill on March 8.

The legislative committee will take a broader look at the future of gaming in the state, including sports betting, in an informational forum.

Last February I wrote that there were three future possibilities in Connecticut concerning casino expansion:

“At this time, here are the possibilities:

  1. No Casino – yes, that’s right.  In a quick Twitter poll on our NETimeGambling Twitter site, 60% responded to no casino, 20% for Bridgeport, and 20% for the Hartford area.
  2. MMCT gets their casino, the mess continues, but to no avail.
  3. All Hell Breaks Lose! – the process is revisited, commercial casinos apply for two licenses, and I’ll be writing about it well into 2020.”

Well, here we are a year later. I guess not much has changed, except for one thing – MGM is winning the battle in CT.  Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods should start thinking about other possibilities to compete for the gambler’s dollar.

 

 

MGM Bridgeport Casino – All The Angles

“That’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands n’more!” – Popeye

Alright, now you did it.  MGM, you even got Popeye all upset with your latest Connecticut propaganda!

When I first started NETimeGambling.com, all I wanted was two things: 1) to supply the latest news and information about New England’s Casinos, and 2) that these seven casinos would behave in a way that would benefit New England Tourism.

After almost five years, I now see it’s all about the almighty dollar, no matter what the economic needs of the residents are.  How naive of me!

And how naive are Bridgeport residents to think that MGM’s prime purpose with this casino mumbo-jumbo is the well-being of Bridgeport. Yes, it will help the jobless plight of the city big-time, while bringing in the usual negative culprits, according to State Senator  Tony Hwang:

  • Property owners see their home values decrease.
  • Communities see increases in crime, traffic, drunk and impaired driving.
  • Local businesses see people spend money in the casino instead of in the local economy.
  • Vulnerable residents — seniors, low-income residents, and the addicted — are enticed by the glitz of the casino and often succumb to their lure.

But you can say that about all casinos with vast differences in those negative effects from casino to casino.  In Plainville, home to Plainridge Park Casino in Massachusetts, the Plainville police report seeing little of the expected increase due to the new casino.

But the scope of this bombshell dropped on CT must be seen from all sides. Let’s look at the whole picture, shall we?

Casino.org says, “Although Connecticut’s two tribal operators believe it’s part of a very elaborate bluff, an artist’s rendering of the proposed MGM Bridgeport casino, which the gaming operator says will bring 2,000 permanent jobs and a tax revenue stream of $316 million per year, has been created and presented to the state’s power brokers. (Image: MGM Resorts International)

Proposal After Proposal

MGM Resorts International’s announced this week plans for a casino and hotel on the banks of the Yellow Mill River. Three decades ago, the Carpenter Technology plant in Bridgeport’s East End shut its doors, costing 600 jobs.  But, MGM has offered plans to build a new casino with 2,000 slot machines, 160 table games, a 700-seat theater, a 300-room hotel, restaurants and retail shops.

This is not a new idea.  Large gaming companies, such as Harrah’s (now Caesars), Mirage Resorts (now MGM), Carnival Hotels & Casinos, Circus Circus Enterprises (now part of MGM), Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts and the Mashantucket Pequots all had letters of intent submitted for expanded gambling in 1995, which was defeated in a lop-sided vote in the legislature.  The Bridgeport casino Steelpointe Harbor location is the same area where President Donald Trump proposed a casino in the 1990s. So what’s different now?

The New Proposal – Murren’s Ties

MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren, left, with Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim (Dan Haar / The Hartford Courant)

Dan Haar of the Hartford Courant quoted CEO of MGM Resorts International Jim Murren as saying “I know Bridgeport’s very historic, important roots and it’s heartbreaking to see what’s happened over the last 60 years.”  Mr. Murren is heartbroken over the dire straits in Bridgeport.  Mr. Haar then goes on to explain Murren’s ties to the area, having been “born here.”  Be careful, reading this article may cause cavities from all the sweet sentiment involved – MGM Bridgeport Casino Solves A Lot Of Problems

Remember how naive anyone, including Bridgeport and the surrounding residents, might act if someone knocked on the door and promised the answer to all their economic woes.  But, if Bridgeport is SO important to MGM and Mr. Murren emotionally, consider this.

The new casino in Springfield Massachusetts that MGM is building gives the city of Springfield a billion-dollar MGM casino, but Bridgeport–with ready access to the New York City, Long Island, and Fairfield/Westchester County markets, is only being offered warrants a half-billion dollar facility. Also, Springfield, as the host city, will receive payments of $25 million a year, and the proposal calls for Bridgeport to be paid only $8 million.  If Jim Murren is altruistically concerned for his hometown’s economy, shouldn’t he be “showing them the money”

Location, Location, Location

Supposedly, Bridgeport is prime property to help the city and state out of budget woes, because it is close to the city that never sleeps – NYC. The Big Apple would be the answer CT is looking for concerning the state’s budget deficit and Bridgeport’s jobless residents.

Seen from the site, the P.T. Barnum ferry returns from Long Island, at distance. (Dan Haar / The Hartford Courant)

FYI – An hour away from Bridgeport there’s Empire City in Yonkers, which gets a lot of advertising and seems to be doing quite well. Then there is Resorts World, which is right within the 5 boroughs in Queens near Aqueduct Raceway and JFK airport. Monticello Hotel & Casino, and Resorts World Catskills (which opens in 2018, months before MGM Springfield) are similar distances to Bridgeport as the CT tribal casinos, which will pose a threat to anything MGM builds in Bridgeport.

Empire City Casino, Yonkers, NY

New York’s new casinos north of NYC still struggle to bring in the traffic they anticipated, and they would be more competition for MGM Springfield.  Considering the third casino in CT on the CT/MA border, New York State casinos, and Wynn in Boston taking away VIP’s from all of New England’s casinos, one has to see the importance of a MGM property in Bridgeport – not for the betterment of CT residents, but especially for a worried MGM in their northeast expansion.

Speaking of Traffic…

Raise your hands out there if you have driven I-95 from New Haven to the New York State line, vice versa.  C’mon, raise ’em up.

That’s right – it’s horrible.  For commuters, it’s not just driving to work – it’s a non-contact (or sometimes contact) sport. Well guess how that traffic will be if a casino is built in Bridgeport.  Traffic concerns will be exponentially worse – not even considering the 40-mile parking lot it will become on the weekends. MGM has offered no financial help for the already inadequate infrastructure of I-95.  An example of what to look forward to is MGM’s beautiful MGM National Harbor around Washing D.C. When it opened, vehicular traffic to the doubled from 90,000 cars, buses and trucks a week to an astounding 180,000, according to Courtland Milloy of the Washington Post. “The casino has a pretty slick traffic plan once you get on the property, but off-site, it’s nothing more than a nightmare,” so his article says. Expect the same on I-95.

The Cart Before the Horse

There’s one little thing in the way of this proposal.  Right now it would be illegal to build a casino – and heartless to build the hopes of the people of Bridgeport. James Murren said the casino “can help to turn the economic tide of this state [CT]”  The plan requires a change in state law that limits the right to build casinos to the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, owners of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.  CT Governor Dannel Malloy said “if the state violates the compact with the tribes, it could lose nearly $500 million over the next two years in revenue from the tribes’ two casinos.” The state gets 25 percent of the slot machine revenue from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun under the compact.  It’s difficult to have to decide between the future economic well-fare of Bridgeport, and the future economic revenue for Connecticut, which Bridgeport would receive benefits from.

MGM, the Casino Industry Powerhouse

Finally, let’s not forget MGM International is a business – a very good business.  Jim Murren has built MGM to a giant in the casino and entertainment industry. It’s power and financial backing is not to be taken lightly.  It’s very difficult to not have a love-hate relationship with MGM International. Here’s how I see it:

  • They offer some of the greatest Hotels & Casinos in America. (Love it)
  • They single-handedly started the demise of the tradition free parking on the Las Vegas Parking (Hate it)
  • They offer some of the best entertainment venues in the country (Love it)
  • Their lack of concern for gambling rules and limits makes it difficult for low to mid rollers (Hate it)
  • They will help the city of Springfield rise from it’s ashes, with the watchful eye of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (Love it)
  • They have said it themselves – MGM is an entertainment company, not a casino company. This does not bode well for cities like Bridgeport looking to raise revenue (Hate it)
  • MGM does create jobs with their casino/resorts.(Love it)
  • MGM seems to be a bully when pushing for casinos in states by excessive lobbying, negative television, mail propaganda, and time consuming tactics to get what they want, not necessarily what’s good for those involved. (Hate it)
  • MGM seems intent on keeping Borgata in Atlantic City the same, as the #1 AC property.(Love it)
  • MGM Supported anti-casino expansion groups in CT over the proposed 3rd casino in East Windsor, only now, having to face them  supporting casino expansion in CT. (Hate it)

The Final Draw

It is still illegal.  Massive changes and considerations are involved. MGM wants you to think it’s the only answer.  The fact is their answer is a stalling tactic on the never-ending suit with the state of CT – rejected by the courts twice already.

Once upon a time, owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, was close to moving the Patriots to Hartford.  It was a scam to get more out of Massachusetts interests to build Gillette Stadium and keep them there.  There are still many that hold a grudge for using CT residents as pawns in his own scheme.

Mr. Murren, please don’t do the same to Connecticut.  People will remember, and MGM Springfield may end up getting the brunt of the Nutmeg State’s ire and resentment.

Binbin