MGM Has Mastered the Art of the Stunt – David Collins

I’ve always thought it was lazy to just promote someone else’s post in place of mine, but today is the exception.

While reading the morning paper, I came upon David Collins’s article in The Day.

Bravo!

(standing up, clapping, and getting a strange look from my wife)

David Collins is Genius. Bravo! Bravo!

What was I excited about?  His OpEd on the recent MGM bomb dropped on Connecticut concerning a casino in Bridgeport.  After yesterday’s NETG post MGM Bridgeport Casino – All The Angles, explaining the many considerations and connections involved with a Bridgeport Casino in CT, I was wondering if I was objective enough, or maybe too objective.

David Collins, New London Day Columnist

Then David Collins comes along today and says so articulately what many of us think in MGM’s meddling in CT’s affairs.

THIS IS A MUST READ.

So, without further ado, click on this post by David Collins.

MGM Has Mastered the Art of the Stunt – David Collins

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did at NETG.  You can contact David Collins at email  d.collins@theday.com & Twitter  DavidCollinsct

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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

 

 

 

MGM Springfield – What City Improvements Can We Really Expect?

MGM Springfield Casino Entrance

MGM Springfield Casino Entrance

Last month, an interesting article was written by Ali Izzi of the Springfield Student. The premise was that MGM Springfield would revitalize the city.  While the article was well written, and in many aspects, were good points, some of the post needs to be examined further.  Let me explain….

She begins by saying “Imagine a grand casino building with a promenade deck to its side and an overly spacious parking garage to its rear.”  First of all, while the parking garage has already been diminished by one floor in the planning, and I question where the guests AND employees will park.

A bird's eye view of the site, courtesy of wwlp.com

A bird’s eye view of the site, courtesy of wwlp.com

If MGM Springfield is going to be the success that MGM says it will be, the parking garage is already inadequate. If parking is paid around the city, MGM will introduce paid casino parking so that people won’t park for free in their garage.  Sound familiar (Las Vegas + MGM = paid parking at MGM properties, followed by Caesars, followed by Cosmopolitan, etc…..)?

She continues, “Adjacent on the street is a hotel, a movie theater, a bowling alley, an ice skating rink, and even some small shops. A trolley shuffles its way down Main Street and lively residents file out of their new apartment building.”  True.  The whole idea that MGM is trying to conceive is an “urban casino.”  Matter of fact, MGM International CEO Jim Murren admits they are in the resort business, not the casino business.  The amenities Ali mentions will help bring the residents of Springfield together. Additional city transportation is icing on the cake.

MGM Site Map

“…Land usage for all of the casino’s embellishments had to be approved by the council, by late January and February 2016, construction was under way behind the beloved Red Rose Pizzeria.” Thank goodness, Red Rose wouldn’t sell.

Red Rose Pizzeria Springfield, MA

Red Rose Pizzeria Springfield, MA

And why should they? They are a part of Springfield’s fabric as much as cheese on a pizza!  Some things must survive – the old with the new – to bring Springfield to the next level of tourism in New England.

“Another idea that has been passed through the council is a trolley that can transport people to the casino from the Amtrak and Peter Pan stations on the North End. The idea is that the more of the city that can be involved, the more tourism and businesses there will be, which would possibly lead to more jobs.”  Again, Ali is spot on. Springfield needs jobs as well as revenue.  It needs to become a destination again.

One area of concern – crime.  In a city dealing with an increase it is often considered in national crime lists.  According to according to Law Street, Springfield ranks 6th worse crime area in the country under the category of “not-so-major American cities.”  One thing is a positive, Hartford & New Haven, CT., are ranked higher.

Jim Murren and MGM Resorts

Jim Murren & MGM Resorts

As Ms. Izzi says, “Preserving and uplifting the city is a crucial part in the casino’s presence, especially since areas such as the North End are becoming more and more poverty stricken.”

MGM’s intentions, for now, are commendable.  But we have also seen in the past that MGM takes pride in itself as a business, not necessarily for its altruistic nature. Being philanthropic is not part of the MGM “Profit Growth Plan.”

But it is exciting to think of the possibilities for Springfield’s residents and culture.

Let’s hope that MGM Springfield DOES put the city on the New England map again – for all the right reasons.

Binbin