New England Casino Awards – Final Analysis of 2018

There were some different winners in our awards this year, but not exactly what we thought they would be. With MGM Springfield on the scene, I assumed that it would be well represented.  Instead, Mohegan Sun added to it’s New England prominence. Here is our analysis:

BEST HOTEL – With the most rooms and most variations in room decor and layout, it has to be Foxwoods.  Even with Twin River’s hotel opening, Oxford Casino Hotel open for over a year, Tiverton’s opening including hotel and the opening of MGM Springfield, Foxwoods is still the best choice for hotels. MGM Springfield’s Hotel is one of a kind, and we highly recommend trying a stay there.  The many intricacies of Springfield history can be found through out the casino and continued in the Hotel decor.

MGM Tower at Foxwoods - Right side.

Fox and Grand Pequot Hotels & Casinos

BARS –  When it comes to places for libations, there are two types in casinos.  First, the typical bar, sometimes with entertainment, usually offers great drinks and dining options. The video poker bar is an important gambling choice provided, usually including slots, keno and sometimes electronic blackjack.  Foxwoods & Mohegan Sun tied in this category, and why not with so many bars and VP bars available in their multiple casinos.  But it should be mentioned that MGM Springfield’s Walk-up Bar and Commonwealth Bar have terrific ambiance.  Now, if only they had playable video poker…….

Commonwealth Bar at MGM Springfield

BEST DINING OPTIONS & BEST DINING VALUE  – Our voters pretty much nailed this. Mohegan Sun offers the gamut on one property, especially in the area of lower cost eateries.  But, I also feel when considering just high end restaurants, Foxwoods would edge out the competition. However, even the fun establishments such as Sugar are in the hefty price range at Foxwoods. Since we visit all New England Casinos, some restaurants need some mention. Tiverton Casino’s Tuscan Chophouse and Italian cuisine at Trattoria Romana are great restaurants with local ties. When it comes to great steak houses, New England’s casinos offer a wide variety of excellent steakhouses.  Consider MGM’s Chandler Steakhouse, Jordan’s Steakhouse at Mohegan Sun, Cedars and David Burke’s Prime at Foxwoods, Fred & Steve’s Steakhouse at Twin River and Slack’s Oyster House & Grill at Plainridge Park for your next beef bonanza.

Again, NETG applauds the voters in selecting David Burke Prime as outstanding high-end restaurant.  It has everything you’d fine in the best eateries in Las Vegas.

David Burke Prime, Foxwoods

BEST BUFFET – Mohegan’s Sunrise Buffet is just the best, ’nuff said.

ENTERTAINMENT, BEST SMALL VENUE – The Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun is hands down the #1 favorite. The Sun offers outstanding free entertainment on the weekends. But free entertainment has increased at other properties.  Foxwoods raised the ante in the Atrium Lounge, Hard Rock Cafe and Centrale.  Plainridge Park Casino not only offers good entertainment at their Revolution Lounge, but also at the Loft – including Comedy. Twin River’s Lighthouse Lounge continues to offer great free entertainment. Speaking of comedy, Roar! at MGM Springfield’s Armory and Mohegan Sun’s Comix leads the way.

ENTERTAINMENT, BEST LARGE VENUE – Even with the addition of MGM Springfield’s MassMutual Center, Mohegan Sun Arena is still the best venue in New England.

Mohegan Sun Arena

BEST SLOTS – I think it’s simple – wherever you win is where your preferred slots are. No one knows the payback percentage, and a slot players play is very short play and really can’t give anyone a good idea on how high the payout is. Most casinos have the same newest slots.  But what I found interesting was the lack of Buffalo slots or Wheel of Fortune machines mentioned! Instead, Wonder Woman?  who’d a thunk it?

BEST VIDEO POKER – Mohegan Sun is the only New England Casino to offer full pay VP – Jacks or Better – at the quarter level up. As long as they offer it, the Sun will continue to be the best VP in New England.  We know from experience at their other properties that Wynn & MGM will never offer Full Pay VP, rarely even at $1 levels.  So, this award may be good through 2020.  Decent VP paytables can be found at Plainridge Park and Foxwoods.

TABLE GAMES – Players of all levels appreciate good rules & low starting limits, especially on traditional games.  In New England, Foxwoods and MoSun had this covered, but recently have raised minimums and introduced 6:5 Blackjack.  Maine casinos, while having similar rules, lack the amount and mix of traditional table & “carnival” games. Twin River & Tiverton offer table games with slightly higher limits, with most games starting at $10, and MGM Springfield has lowered minimums to be more competitive. While Mohegan Sun won this time, it will be anyone’s game in the future as all casinos seem to be offering the same games, same minimums and same rules.

MGM Springfield Poker Room – most comfy in New England?

An interesting change has been seen in two areas – favorite game and poker rooms.  Craps has taken over as the popular table game in the casino. And when it comes to poker rooms, MGM Springfield, with what is now considered the most comfy poker room in New England,  has made a great run at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun to the point that all thee poker rooms, as well as Twin River Casino’s poker room, are in a dead heat right now. Mohegan Sun is down-sizing its poker room and moving it to a different casino area, which could really change the feel of their poker room. You can bet that poker is alive and well in New England.

BEST RACEBOOK/SPORTSBOOK – The Sun won this category last year, with Foxwoods winning this year. Rhode Island’s legal sportsbook must have been too new for most to be counted this year. When Twin River open their real betting area, it could easily win next year, unless CT and MA approves legal sports-betting this year

BEST PLAYERS CLUB – Even with changes, Foxwoods continues to lag behind Mohegan Sun.  MLife at MGM Springfield could be a big players club in the coming years with properties on both east & west coast – especially access to Las Vegas Strip properties.

Thanks to all who participated this year.  It’s always fun.  What changes are in store this year?  We’ll just have to wait……

Binbin

 

 

Hotel Review – The Hilltop Alternative to a Foxwoods Weekend Stay

Foxwoods Resort Casino has always been a wonderful place to stay.  When we can, my wife & I will go for a little staycation, and we live only 30 minutes away.

But, on the weekends, hotel rates increase – not just at Foxwoods, but everywhere.  While it’s great to sleep over at one of the four hotels on the weekend, the prices can be prohibitive to most.  There are other possibilities, so I looked and found the Hilltop Inn & Suites.

Disclaimer – remember prices will vary.  The following comparisons for one weekend will, however, be similar to most weekends.

CHECKING IN

Pleasant, quick, and friendly.  The check-in desk gives a good impression and the staff were helpful and efficient.  I had a meeting at 4:00 at Foxwoods.  I arrived at 3:30 and was checked-in, unpacked and on my way to Foxwoods in 20 minutes.

Please note, this is actually a motel, not a hotel, meaning no hallways and your door opens to the outside. It doesn’t really make a difference because the area is safe.

It takes 5 minutes to get to Foxwoods.  But if you’re interested in drinking, they provide a shuttle for the casino.

AMMENITIES

Free breakfast is offered.

Besides the shuttle, a Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room, free parking and a decent breakfast are included.  Free High Speed WiFi was more like medium speed than fast, but still worked.

 THE ROOM

In was a nice clean room. Two queen beds, with a small dinette table and two chairs. No frills but was well worth the price. Bed was comfortable. Water pressure in shower was great which had been renovated.  It has the typical motel arrangement of the sink outside the shower & toilet.  I found it spacious for two people.  the room also has a free safe for valuables.

Apologies for the dark pic. The lights weren’t on.

The only complaint would be the walls seem a little thin.  A few people were talking next door, not too loudly, and they could be heard in our room.  But nothing a little white noise sound on soft can’t take care of.

PRICE

This is what you’re really interested in, aren’t you. For a weekend night, rates vary between $99 to $129.  For this standard, modest, & clean alternative to the hotels at Foxwoods, I would recommend the Hilltop Inn & Suites.  Foxwoods rates the same night ranged from over $400 at Two Trees Inn to over $1000 at Fox Tower. Hilltop is a comparatively inexpensive choice when visiting Foxwoods for the weekend just up the road.

New England Casinos Increasing Hotel Room By Over 30%

By 2019, New England’s line-up of casinos will include:

  1. Two new casinos in Massachusetts
  2. Newport Grand moved from Newport to Tiverton, Rhode Island
  3. Maybe an additional casino in Connecticut.

The most important component favoring New England’s tourism business is the additional casino-attached hotel rooms offered in the area.  This is not keeping in mind the affiliate hotels in each casino’s surrounding area, just those attached or directly on the property.

MGM Tower at Foxwoods - Right side.

Fox and Grand Pequot Hotels & Casinos

At this time, the seven operating “brick & mortar” casinos offer 4018 hotel rooms on their properties, with Foxwoods having the most with 2266 rooms and suites.  There are only 3 Resort/Casinos that have hotels connected – Foxwoods (2266 rooms), Mohegan Sun (1600 rooms with the addition of the Earth Tower), Hollywood (152 rooms).

Withing the next two years, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine will add hotel rooms increasing the total number of casino hotel rooms by over 30%.

Hampton Inn at Oxford Casino

The walls have begun to go up on the Hampton Inn on Route 26 across from the entrance to the Oxford Casino. Oxford Casino’s own hotel is also being constructed.

Oxford Casino, in Oxford, Maine will be completing their hotel later this year. Expansion of the existing Oxford Casino facility will feature over 100 new guestrooms including standard rooms and suites, additional dining options, an expansion of the gaming floor and new flexible meeting and banquet space.  This hotel, as well as the unaffiliated Hampton Inn completed across the street, will have the greatest impact for tourists looking to stay and help the central Maine tourism improve its possible accommodations.

Wynn Boston Harbor

Wynn Boston Harbor

In Massachusetts, the addition of two new resort/casinos – MGM Springfield & Wynn Boston Harbor – will add almost 900 rooms.  Wynn is expected to have 700 rooms, including Deluxe rooms, Parlor Suites and Panoramic View Suites.  Click here for a look.

MGM Springfield

New rendering of MGM Springfield’s hotel without tower.

MGM Springfield, after downsizing its tower, will include a four-star luxury hotel with 250 guest rooms and 20 VIP suites.

Rhode Island’s casinos, both owned by Twin River Management, will undergo changes that will challenge casinos in both Massachusetts & Connecticut.  Tiverton Town Council unanimously approved new zoning regulations that will allow Twin River Management Group Incorporated to construct its planned Twin River Tiverton Casino Hotel . Leaving Newport Grand for a new casino on a 45-acre site only a few hundred feet from the Rhode Island border with Massachusetts will challenge the progress that Plainridge Park has enjoyed in the last year. The Herald News reported that the plan for the Twin River Tiverton Casino Hotel moreover calls for the construction of an 84-room hotel along with a two-level parking garage capable of holding up to 1,800 cars

Tiverton Casino

Proposed Tiverton Casino

In Lincoln RI, Twin River Casino has seen much success in recent years with the addition of table games. John Taylor, chairman of the board at Twin River, said construction should begin this spring on an approximately 140-room hotel that will be built at the north entrance of Twin River, opening in July 2018.  While Taylor admits “It’s not going to change the complexion of who we are – we are a convenience casino operator,”  the hotel should bring in others around New England with hopes of staying for a day or two.

Twin River

North entrance area where new hotel is expected to be built (left side of picture).

The additional room total after 2019 is approximately over 2000 rooms added. This improvement should change some of the “convenience” gambling to resort-status for more New England Casinos.

One note – If the Mashpee Wampanoag “First Light” Casino/Resort project is able to be completed, a total of 600 rooms will be offered in two phases in Taunton, near Plainridge Park, Wynn and Tiverton – another increase of 10% of the then over 6000 rooms available at New England casinos.

These are all welcome additions and should ease the concern of casino saturation. The pool of gamblers would be expanded by the ability for gamblers outside of New England to stay and move to other casinos in proximity, thus making all 9 or 10 casinos not completely dependent on local gaming.

That’s all for now.

Binbin