The New England Casino Gambling History has been much like a horse race. To begin with, it was a slow trot for New England to socially approve of gambling. Soon, it changed to a full sprint. In fact, there is no finish line in sight. With the word “saturation” thrown around annually, casino expansion continues. The future looks to include sports betting, casinos in Bridgeport, CT., East Windsor, CT., and southeastern Massachusetts.
With the future uncertain, let’s look back to see how we got here. In any event, let’s look back at New England Gambling History.
My interest in gambling began with playing card games such as cribbage and Michigan Rummy. With visits to Hartford Jai-Alai and Plainfield Greyhound Racetrack during my twenties, my interest grew. In fact, visits to the Sands in Atlantic City, Foxwoods Bingo Hall and future CT casinos made me even more curious.
“Roll the Bones” by Dr. David Schwartz
One of my favorite books is“Roll the Bones” by Dr. David Schwartz. In his book, Dr. Dave explains that “….the human predilection for a wager shaped human history from the Ice Age to the Information Age. People spend nearly one trillion dollars worldwide on gambling a year–wouldn’t you like to learn a little about how we got there?” The fact is, I did!.
New England played a big part in the assertion of gambling in America. According to the California State Library, English settlers differed from their Puritanical neighbors in New England in many ways. Settlers influenced the early colonies to continue traditional styles of living in a new world. Gambling 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 diminishing finances needed for the war effort. All 13 original colonies established lotteries, usually more than one, to raise revenue. Lotteries continue to be a main source of revenue for all six New England states.
Once Upon a time….
The Pequot War of 1637 set the stage for the separation of Pequot and Mohegan tribes.
The Pequot and Mohegan Tribes were once one tribe. Due to the Pequot War, both tribes ended up with differences with other tribes. On the whole, different tribal and colonial alliances caused a split that continues to this day. Over 250 years later, a bingo hall in 1985 began the history of gaming in New England.
I should mention that gambling found a homes in New England with greyhound & horse tracks, parimutuel parlors, and Jai alai frontons in Milford & Hartford CT, and Newport, RI. However, in the past ten years, the horse-racing industry has seen a major decrease in raceway operations. In addition,Jai-Alai has moved out of those states, and parimutuel parlors continue to diminish in visitors. Conversely, with the future of sports betting, parimutuel parlors may rise in popularity again.
In essence, here is NETG’s look back at the journey of legalized gambling in New England below.
New England Casino Gambling History Timeline
Foxwoods Started it all with Bingo.
The first New England Casino opens with Foxwoods opening its doors in Mashantucket, CT
The Rainmaker at Foxwoods
Rhode Island approves VLT gaming machines (classII) at Lincoln Greyhound Park & Newport Jai Alai
The Mohegan Tribe opens the second NE casino in Uncasville, CT
A Dollar Coin from Mohegan Sun Opening
Hollywood Slots Hotel & Raceway opens in Bangor, Maine
Hollywood Casino, Bangor Maine
Lincoln Greyhound Park turns into Twin River Casino with class III gaming. Similarly, Newport Grand soon follows, redesigning without Jai-Alai
MGM joins Foxwoods with additional hotel / casino
MGM Tower at Foxwoods – Right side.
The Expansion begins
MA legislature approves Expanded Gaming Act allows construction of 3 Resort casinos & one “slot’s only casino”
Oxford Casino opens in Oxford, Maine
Oxford Casino, Maine
MGM pulls out of it’s Foxwoods partnership
MGM Ends Agreement with Foxwoods
Plainridge Park Casino Opens at Plainridge Raceway as the first Massachusetts casino (slots-only)
Plainridge Park Casino in Massachusetts
A Big Year for New England Casinos and Hotels
Oxford Casino, Oxford ME, adds Hotel, expanded casino and Ox Pu
Oxford Hotel & Casino
MGM Springfield Resort Casino opens
Newport Grand Slots Casino closes
Newport Grand Slots, Newport, RI
Tiverton Casino & Hotel opens
Tiverton Casino/ Hotel.
Twin River Casino adds Hotel
Twin River Hotel Lobby
Mohegan Sun opens Earth Expo Center
Mohegan Expo Center
Rhode Island approves and opens the first Sports Betting in New England
Opening day of Phase I Sports Book at Twin River Casino
Encore Boston Harbor to open in the fall
Encore Boston Harbor rendition, courtesy of Encore Boston Harbor pressroom
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New England Casino Coverage!
The dust is beginning to settle in New England’s State legislatures. As gambling continues to expand in the northeast, there are bound to be winners and losers. It’s hard to say who will be the real winners and losers in the New England Casino Expansion story. At this point, I can at least speculate, can’t I?
New England Expansion Winners
Massachusetts is a big winner with MGM Springfield & Encore Boston Harbor anchoring the Bay State. They are two of the biggest players in the casino industry.and brings lots of advantages to this young gambling market.
Rhode Island casinos are winners with the addition of sports betting. Unfortunately, the revenue from sports betting hasn’t lived up to expectations, but it is improving.
But, the New England Casino Expansion has produced one major group of winners – New England’s resident gamblers. Competition between the three southern New England states has given New England residents new gambling options & conditions to choose from. Links to reward clubs such as MLife, Wynn Red Card, and the change of Penn National to Choice Rewards gives a national connection coast to coast. Promotions and entertainment offerings have also seen a greater competition, which only translates as a positive for consumers.
New England Expansion Losers
Who are the potential losers in this expansion? Well, depending upon future growth, some of the winners may also be partial losers.
Connecticut casinos have been seen as the biggest losers by the yearly decline in revenue of approximately 7-9% each month. But, because of recent talks with Bridgeport and the CT legislature, the future seems brighter. With the federal approval for the casino venture in East Windsor, Connecticut could have a third casino on the Massachusetts border, just 10 minutes away from MGM Springfield. The two CT tribes – Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans – could have their joint venture, Tribal Winds, up and running by 2021.
And Connecticut could reverse the tables on MGM International. Recent talks with Bridgeport & CT legislators could continue the monopoly of gaming and the expected revenue in the state. With an open bidding process, the Constitution State would lose 25% of all slot revenue from both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.
An artist’s rendering of the proposed MGM Bridgeport casino. (Image: MGM Resorts International)
Plainridge Casino’s Caught In Between
Plainridge Park Casino and Racewaycould the biggest loser. This quaint first Massachusetts casino in Plainville Massachusetts opened in 2015. Penn National has been building loyal patrons ever since, slowly increasing revenue to surrounding communities and the Bay State. Plainridge has one glaring problem – its slots only, and has no hotel. And they are surrounded by competition. Twin River Casino & Hotel is ten minutes away with over twice the slots, tons of table games, and more dining options. Remember, they also have legalized sports betting.
The New England Casino Expansion of Encore Boston Harbor will also present a huge problem for Plainridge. The newest New England Casino is only 50 minutes away – a big, beautiful resort offering all the amenities and gambling options you’d expect from from Wynn Resorts. Also, the CT casinos are just over an hour away.
How will Plainridge survive? The Massachusetts Gaming Commission must change the original gaming rules so it can expand, include table games, and add a hotel. However, it doesn’t look to happen soon. Let’s hope that this Plainville Property hangs until then.
The race to more Sports Betting
I believe the finish line to the Legal Sport Betting finish line will be as follows:
Win – Rhode Island, if they add mobile online betting in Rhode Island.
Place – Massachusetts. It will take longer than expected, but eventually they will get it right. As heard on the Art In The Game podcast recently, guest Dustin Gouker suggested multiple vendors would be best, giving competitive lines and bonuses to MA residents. RI uses only one, William Hill, and is run by the RI Lottery.
Show – Maine & New Hampshire. (tie) Yes, they both will beat out CT. Again, it will be a slow process, but the Maine legislature is more apt to pass it before a third casino for their tribal communities. New Hampshire has already passed a beginning bill concerning legal sports betting.
NO Show – Connecticut. It’s very complicated. If the tribes don’t get the sole ownership of legal sports betting, they see it as breaking the gaming pact first established in 1992. So many want a piece of the sports betting pie – OTB, KENO operators, and the LOTTERY. We will see a prolonged stalemate on this one.
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. 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.
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.
NEW ENGLAND CASINO EXPANSION – 1992 to the PRESENT
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 – Plainridge Park opens in Plainville, MA, first of three casinos at – slots only.
2017 – Oxford Casino opens Hotel and casino expansion
2018 – Newport Grand closes; MA opens 2nd Casino, first full casino, in Springfield; Twin River Group moves Newport Grand operations to newly opened Tiverton Casino & Hotel; Twin River Casino opens new hotel; RI casinos offer first legal sports betting
2019 – MA opens third casino in Everett, Encore Boston Harbor
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.
The Many Casinos That Never made it
New England has had more casino proposals not come to fruition than the Las Vegas Strip. For those of you living here, remember these possibilities?
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.
For now, there are 9 casinos when Encore Boston Harbor opens. And now, the plot thickens………
When I first started NETimeGambling, I hoped that New England would have become the Biloxi-Gulfport, Mississippi of the northeast, an extended area of casinos offering gamblers the variety and quality to go along with the area’s historical and cultural tourism.
Was I naive or what? Just watching the nasty competition between the casino industry in Massachusetts and Connecticut proves that. This law suit, this rumor, that accusation – all for the almighty buck with little consideration for consumers, residents and players, let alone the New England Tourist industry. Although community recognition and financial help and development is included in many expansions, we all know they wouldn’t do it if they didn’t have to in getting that gaming license – it’s all business and bean-counting to them.
Yes, my early naivete has changed to a growing cynicism. The last two years have allowed negative thoughts from the dark side of the gambling industry to infiltrate the hopes and dreams of a bustling tourist industry. Fees, higher house odds, diminishing comps, and rewards clubs cutbacks in awards have tainted my outlook, as well as many of us in the casino community.
Am I bitter?…..A little. But great competition, as vile and ornery as it may be, is still in the consumer’s benefit. We can only hope it continues to bring greater value to our gambling guests in New England without jobs and community assistance lost.
OUR 6TH ANNIVERSARY!
This month marks our 6th year anniversary of NETimeGambling.com. So much of our casino landscape has changed and continues to evolve. Let’s look at the beginning of NETimeGambling and see what we were writing about in 2012. As this article enfolds, certain corrections, additions, opinions and explanations will be added to bring the last six years up date. These comments will be bold, italicized and green so you can’t missed them.
CHRISTMAS PAST – 2012
The beginning of casino gambling in New England began in both Connecticut and Rhode Island. In 1992 with Foxwoods opening its doors in Mashantucket, CT, and that same year Rhode Island approved VLT gaming machines (classII) at Lincoln Greyhound Park & Newport Jai Alai casinos. For a short history of casino gambling in New England, go to NEW ENGLAND CASINO HISTORY
When NETG started covering New England’s casinos, revenue had continued due to the recession of 2007. Let’s see what each state was up to…..
In 2012, our first year of blogging, Connecticut’s two behemoth casinos were feeling the pinch of the recession. Layoffs occurred and revenue to the state declined. The large retail addition and hotel at Mohegan Sun were put on hold indefinitely. MGM & Foxwoods parted ways, and other CT tribes also wanted a part of the casino pie. Luckily, they were still the only place around – but not for long. Rhode Island had seen a slight increase with hopes to get its table games up and running to take away from CT’s two Mega-casinos and before MA casinos were to be built. (Twin River received local approval for table games, Newport Grand slot parlor did not. In retrospect, Foxwoods saw a great expected loss in players than Mohegan Sun.)
Massachusetts intended to add three, if not four, casinos within three years to take back the revenue lost in RI & CT.
Massachusetts Regions for full casinos. Doesn’t include Mashpee Wampanoags in Taunton or Plainridge Park Slot Parlor in Plainville
New Hampshire wanted to keep their citizens and revenue at home as well, so they considered legalizing gambling. (Three times, only to be turned down all three times. While NH has a budding community poker business, there is no casino in site.)
Maine had two casinos in 2012, one with a hotel and one considering hotel expansion.
And lest we forget that Atlantic City was still reeling from the recession and the arrogant denial as a day-tripping only destination. Completion and expansion from the likes of PA, NY, CT and DEL, and New Jersey’s own consideration of statewide gaming soon saw the demise of the East Coast’s #1 gambling Destination. Atlantic City was already down to 9 Casinos, soon to be 7. (While this sounds dire – and it was – it is nice to see a recent resurgence at America’s Playground.)
CHRISTMAS PRESENT 2018
Mohegan Sun Earth Tower to the right.
Connecticut casinos had stabilized a bit, with positive revenue months becoming more frequent. Then MGM Springfield opened. Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun would collaborate in opening a casino in East Windsor to counteract the opening of MGM Springfield and keep more gaming dollars in Connecticut. The Department of the Interior needed to approve the third casino but the request went unanswered for months, with intense lobbying by MGM. (With a new governor in CT and the rotating door policy in the Trump administration, hope is still alive for the joint casino at the CT/MA border in East Windsor, but there are still a lot of hoops left for sure.)
Mohegan Sun pushed forward, adding another hotel and a huge convention space addition – the largest expo space along the New York-Boston I-95 corridor. The Mohegan Sun Arena, voted Arena of the year numerous times, continues to be the entertainment jewel of New England’s casinos.
Foxwoods tried a different route to make itself a destination to stay for gamblers and families alike. Numerous “thrill rides” have been added and family entertainment continues, while it’s Dance Clubs try to entice younger guests to the premises. With the most hotel rooms onsite of any New England Casino/Resort, Foxwoods is able to tease gamblers with free rooms to go along with it’s fabulous dining options. (This immense property continues to be hampered by it’s location “in the woods” in recent years, since casinos are rising up everywhere.)
Tiverton Casino/ Hotel.
Rhode Island’s dependence on gaming revenue continues. With the addition of table games, Twin River Management Group, owners of Twin River Casino & Hotel and Tiverton Casino & Hotel in Rhode Island, as well as and The Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi, stepped up the battle for casino patrons with Massachusetts by opening the new Tiverton Casino & Hotel. The Newport Grand Casino, was bought and moved to Tiverton – right on the Mass-RI border. Both Twin River and Tiverton boast hotels attached to their casinos and are now the only casinos in New England to offer Sports Betting. Twin River Casino still offers one of the top 10 largest casino floors in the country.
Massachusetts continues to add drama to casino expansion in New England. Penn National opened Plainridge Park Casino in 2015, the slots-only casino and first casino to open in Massachusetts, and has continued to build its own loyal customers. But the big news was the opening of Massachusetts’ first full fledged Las Vegas style casino – MGM Springfield. The opening was a splashing success, initiating a resurgence in Springfield’s financial future and quality of life. The style of “Industrial Chic” permeates the property as one of the recent American casinos designed for the middle of a urban area.
Inside MGM casino
Oh, by the way, did you know another casino hall is going into Eastern Massachusetts? The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) was cleared to build a class II gaming facility, or bingo hall, by the U.S. Supreme Court last January. Since then, few details have emerged about the plans, although in September the tribe’s gaming faction announced a partnership with an Oklahoma Native American gaming operation owned by the Chickasaw Nation. According to reports from tribal members, Global Gaming Solutions has agreed to invest $12 million to build a 10,000-square-foot bingo facility
The Mashpee Wampanoag’scasino in Taunton, MA, has been stalled by political red tape and completion looks bleak. The U.S. federal government, through the Department of Interior (DoI), had issued a decision stating that the the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe would not be granted the disputed land in trust for developing the First Light Resort & Casino in Taunton, South of Boston. Genting Malaysia had issued about $274 million, but construction of the resort was hampered by local residents who said the 2015 awarding of the 300 acres for putting up a casino was a misinterpretation of the Indian Reorganization Act.
New Hampshire will never approve a Las Vegas style casino for itself, but it seems the Charitable Gambling Law is alive and well in the Granite State. Poker rooms, including other table games, are increasing in popularity.
Maine’s two casinos continue to hold their own while chaos continues in southern New England. Oxford Casino expanded with added meeting space and an attached hotel. A third casino in Maine was introduced again for the York County area in a referendum for only one suitor, but, once again crashed and burned.
Much of this past year’s expectations was marred by a downturn in reality.
All casinos saw an eventual decline in revenue – except Oxford Casino & Hotel. That dirty “S” word raised it’s ugly head again – Saturation.
Steve Wynn with his rendition of Wynn Boston Harbor
The casino mogul Steve Wynn resigned as chairman and chief executive of his company, Wynn Resorts, in response to sexual misconduct allegations spanning decades. This spawned numerous rumors of ownership and an eventual change in name for the Boston Licensed casino to Encore Boston Harbor. Construction continues to proceed on time, but The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is determining if a penalty or potential license revocation is warranted for Wynn Resorts’ $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor casino. The agency is investigating if the company purposely withheld knowledge of its founder’s alleged sexual misconduct during its 2013 bidding for the coveted Boston-area gaming permit. (This has caused many controversial rumors and questions. Will Caesars Entertainment, Mohegan Sun, or another industry giant step in to claim the license? Will MGM sell it’s new MGM Springfield to be able to get the Encore Boston Harbor license? Etc….. Speculation abounds)
Finally, Plainridge Park Casino & Raceway may be getting worried about it’s instate rival in Boston. Concerns are now being raised to change the license and add tabled games – a move that could save it and place more pressure on Rhode Island casinos.
CHRISTMAS FUTURE……What will 2020 Look Like?
Let me get out my crystal ball – or my magic eight ball – and look into New England’s Gambling Future…….
There will be nine casinos in four states. One class II, and one Slot’s-only. Online gambling in MA, RI, sports betting in MA, RI, NH, & CT.
Springfield, Massachusetts will continue to experience a renaissance, and MGM will continue to feel stuck owning MGM Springfield while under producing the revenue and profit expected.
Encore Boston Harbor rendition, courtesy of Boston Harbor pressroom
Encore Boston Harbor, having been fined, continues to be owned by the same company minus Steve Wynn, hosting guests from all over the U.S. with exquisite hotel accommodations, high profile dining and crappy gambling.
Connecticut casinos will have to continue to diversify. Foxwoods becomes an amusement destination as well as a casino resort. Mohegan Sun will continue construction on it’s huge project across the river of retail, housing, and wellness, including a water park.
Convenience casinos such as Oxford, Hollywood, Plainridge, Tiverton, continue a status quo existence fighting for locals in Tiverton, RI., Plainville, MA., and Maine.
The Mohegan / Mashantucket tribes joint casino in East Windsor, CT will not be built. Open bidding for another casino in the southwest of CT will jeopardize the pact between the state of CT and the The Mohegan / Mashantucket tribes. Sports betting will be available at the casinos and the availability at OTB and Keno stations will definitely nullify the pact for sole rights to gambling if the open bidding process is defeated.
Will there ever be a vision of prosperity for casinos, with good gambling rules, free parking, more casino hotels, and patrons that are welcomed with smiling aces, appreciated and rewarded sincerely? For the sake of New England’s recreational gamblers and New England Tourism, we once again ask, “CAN WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?!!”