New England Casino Gambling History – Updated

What seemed to be a slow trot towards socially approving gambling in New England has changed to a sprint, with no finish line in sight. Expansion continues, with the word “saturation” thrown around annually. While we don’t know what the future holds concerning sports betting, casinos in Bridgeport, CT., East Windsor, CT., and southeastern Massachusetts, and the future competition in southern New England, we can look back to see how we got here.

My interest in gambling history began with playing card games – playing cribbage and Michigan Rummy while in elementary school. With visits to Hartford Jai-Alai and Plainfield Greyhound Racetrack during my twenties, visits to the Sands in Atlantic City and Foxwoods Bingo in my thirties, and the Connecticut expansion in the 1990’s, I was hooked.

"Roll the Bones" by Dr. David Schwartz

“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!.

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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, but one influenced the early colonies to continue traditional styles of living in a new world , which included gambling, considering as a “harmless diversion, a popular and accepted activity.” Lotteries were used to bail out the Early Colonies when 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 & 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 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, differences with other tribes, and 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 casino gambling found a home in the 1800’s in Newport, Rhode Island, not to mention the numerous 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, Jai-Alai has moved out of the state, and parimutuel parlors continue to diminish in popularity, which may change with more legal sports betting in all six states

I you enjoy my look back at the journey of legalized gambling in New England below.

The New England Casino Historical Dateline:

Foxwoods Started it all with Bingo. This picture is the expanded Bingo Hall before Casino Expansion

Foxwoods Started it all with Bingo. This picture is the expanded Bingo Hall before Casino Expansion in 1992.


1992

The first New England Casino as Foxwoods opens its doors in Mashantucket, CT

The Rainmaker at Foxwoods Resort Casino - part of the original casino before many expansions.

The Rainmaker at Foxwoods Resort Casino – part of the original casino before many expansions.

Rhode Island approves VLT gaming machines (classII) at Lincoln Greyhound Park & Newport Jai Alai Originally built for greyhound racing, Twin River Casino is now a full casino.


1996

The Mohegan Tribe opens the second NE casino in Uncasville, CT

A Dollar Coin from Mohegan Sun Opening

A Dollar Coin from Mohegan Sun Opening


2005

Hollywood Slots Hotel & Raceway opens in Bangor, Maine

Hollywood Casino, Bangor Maine

Hollywood Casino, Bangor Maine


2007

Lincoln Greyhound Park turns into Twin River Casino with class III gaming; Newport Grand soon follows, redesigning without Jai-Alai

Twin River as Lincoln Park before Major Expansion

Twin River as Lincoln Park before Major Expansion


2008

MGM joins Foxwoods with additional hotel / casino

MGM Tower at Foxwoods - Right side.

MGM Tower at Foxwoods – Right side.


2011

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


2012

Oxford Casino opens in Oxford, Maine

Oxford Casino, Maine

Oxford Casino, Maine


2013

MGM pulls out of it’s Foxwoods partnership

MGM Ends Agreement with Foxwoods

MGM Ends Agreement with Foxwoods


2015

Plainridge Park Casino Opens at Plainridge Raceway as the first Massachusetts casino (slots-only)

Plainridge Park Casino

Plainridge Park Casino in Massachusetts


2018

     A Big Year for Gambling, Casinos and Hotels in           New England:

Oxford Casino, Oxford ME, adds Hotel, expanded casino and Ox Pu

Oxford Hotel & Casino

MGM Springfield Resort Casino opens

MGM Springfield

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


2019

Encore Boston Harbor to open in the fall

Encore Boston Harbor rendition, courtesy of Encore Boston Harbor pressroom


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Binbin

6:5 Blackjack IS a Big Deal at New England Casinos

This past week, I was saddened to hear Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods are taking the plunge into lowering BlackJack pay-tables from 3:2 to 6:5 for a blackjack. With increased competition in table games from Twin Rivers & Tiverton Casinos, MGM Springfield and the upcoming Encore Boston Harbor, I thought keeping all of their blackjack tables with a 3:2 payout would be wise – setting them apart for recreational blackjack players and AP’s (Advantage Players) alike.  I guess that assumption was wrong. I guess they believe that lowering the bar to all the other casinos will save them money and the gaming public is too stupid to think it matters. Maybe their right.

Other important considerations in blackjack such as penetration, the number of decks in the shoe, and dealer rules will be in future posts. If you are new to the intricacies of blackjack rules, try our related posts below:

Blackjack – Which Casino Format is Best For You?

12 Tips For Blackjack Beginners

Introduction

Competition among casinos has always been thought to be good for the consumer.  According to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), “Competition in America is about price, selection, and service. It benefits consumers by keeping prices low and the quality and choice of goods and services high.”

Translated to casino terms, competition should:

  1. keep prices low  – such as dining, hotel expenses, show prices, amenities, parking
  2. keep the quality and choice of goods and services high – good gambling rules, great casino service on casino floor, good hotel service and rooms that are well kept and enjoyable to stay, dining and drink quality high

But what if EVERYBODY raises prices and cuts back on the quality of the casino experience?  Then, there IS NO competition – just a joint greed to rake their patrons over the coals – nickel and diming them much like the airlines have done over the years.

Sure, there are cost of living and inflation changes that come along that are expected. Casinos do compete with little pockets of offers such as rewards clubs tier matching, kiosk swipes and promotions to get you through their casino door. But compared to the negatives – paid parking, resort fees, raising the house edge on gaming rules and payout tables – competition doesn’t seem to be a friend of the gambling consumer.

Black Jack Changes

Which brings me to today’s post – good gaming rules continue to be compromised. It seems casino bean-counters don’t believe the mantra from the gambling masses – “Give us good rules and we will gamble.” So, to my dismay, when I started to hear the erosion of blackjack rules locally, I just couldn’t understand it….. but alas, it’s true.

Foxwoods recently added more tables in their Fox Casino, only to offer $10 black jack exclusively with 6:5 BJ payout, to accompany another terrible payout with it’s $1 6:5 BJ, with $.25 commission per hand. Cedars and Grand Pequot casino offers both. $25 is the cutoff to get 3:2 Blackjack. The Stadium Blackjack is 6:5 also. Rumors of even money coming to electronic blackjack has already showed its ugly face in New England on many video poker machines.

Mohegan Sun raised the minimum limit tables to $10 some time ago – no $5 BJ tables anymore. Much like Foxwoods, they have taken out slots to add more table games and especially blackjack tables with 6:5 payout.

MGM Springfield opened with the same 6:5 Blackjack tables at lower denominations of $10 & $15, with the $25 tables offering 3:2. On the Vegas Strip, MGM is one of many casinos that have put good table games rules on the endangered species list, along with casino “fun books,” free parking and keno.

6:5 Black Jack and House Edge

You get a BlackJack around 1 in 21 hands. So does the dealer. So around 5% of the time, you will be paid $3 less on a $10 bet. So around 15 cents per hand, or 1.5%. Under the proposed changes to 6:5 payouts, the House Edge will be 2.019% vs. the current 0.35% – a pretty big jump in edge from 3:2 to 6:5.

1.5%-2% is still pretty decent odds for a table game, considering the house edge in roulette and carnival games the likes of Caribbean Stud & Let It Ride. For a non-counting average player it’s probably not noticeable. But it certainly screws over Advantage Player’s, especially with other poor rules as mid penetration, no surrender, and dealer hitting on soft 17. Obviously these differences get magnified over the long term, as serious bettors make thousands of wagers over time.

Is this what casinos are counting on to weed out the counters, and keep the recreational gambler and newbie.?  The thing that casinos don’t get is that they will not make more money! The same amount of people will lose the same amount of money, just faster. And AP’s won’t bother with anything below $25 games anyway.

Here’s an very simplistic example. Newbie Norm knows basic strategy and plays for recreation. His usual bankroll is $200 which usually lasts 3 hours.  With the simple change to 6:5 games, his bankroll now only lasts 2.5 hours. Eventually, he finds his money doesn’t last as long and stops visiting all together. How can changing to 6:5 at lower denominations make a difference at the $5, $10, and $15 level?

No Judgement here – play what you want But Vote with Your Wallet

If you want to maximize your odds of having a good turn at the blackjack table, be on the lookout for 3:2 tables.  Spread the word to friends and family, educate them on the difference.  Let them know they have a voice and a vote with every dollar they wager. Let casino staff and dealers know why you play less at that particular casino. Better yet, switch your loyalty to a casino that has preferable rules to you . It’s your choice – no judgement here. Just be an informed consumer before you decide to spend your money wherever you want. You might be surprised how much longer your session will last and how much more fun playing blackjack can be as a recreational gambler.

Binbin

 

Foxwoods Brief Trip Report – Random Notes

The last two days I was able to visit Foxwoods Resort Casino for a few promotions, a little Video Poker at the Cedars Casino Play Bar, look around and have lunch.

Our first choice was to have breakfast at noon at Juniors in the Fox Tower. Well, we’re sad to report Juniors doesn’t serve breakfast all day anymore. No breakfast after 11:00am – bummer.

So we decided to check out buffet substitution for the Festival Buffet, which is closed until the Spring for a major renovation. The Buffet option is at the Veranda Cafe and is not bad. Matter of fact, it’s quite good. Delicious food, expanded offerings, or menu items, calmer ambiance compared to old Festival Buffet, music, and a decent price.

Inside the Veranda Cafe. Dining with a view

Breakfast is $15, lunch is $20, and supper is $24. Kids 12 & under have special prices. Whatever % you have off the Festival Buffet from your tier lever (for example, 15% with Gold level card) you get at this buffet. We recommend you try it out.

Fox casino has lots of new slots and new skill-base slots.

Rumors of 6:5 blackjack seem to be exaggerated. At least none seen in Pequot casino, from $15 up. Didn’t see anything under $15 and we will check the other casinos this week.

For a Saturday afternoon, it was busy and still great to see $5 Craps offered.

Play It First at the New Game Zone – Foxwoods has introducePlay It Firstan innovative gaming area that allows guests to experience brand new table games, including industry-first concepts. Located in the Grand Pequot Tower, Play It First features four unique games that rotate on a quarterly basis, including two that are new to the gaming industry. These new games include: Dragon Poker, Three Card Blitz, Double Draw Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold ’em. Most of these games have low limits.

Finally, the new Top Golf will be located on the casino floor in the Fox Casino. It looks like it will be huge, using the store area where the Mario Barth’s King Tattoo was and the store next to it.

Binbin