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.
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 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:
The first New England Casino as Foxwoods opens its doors in Mashantucket, CT
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
Hollywood Slots Hotel & Raceway opens in Bangor, Maine
Lincoln Greyhound Park turns into Twin River Casino with class III gaming; Newport Grand soon follows, redesigning without Jai-Alai
MGM joins Foxwoods with additional hotel / casino
MA legislature approves Expanded Gaming Act allowing construction of 3 Resort casinos & one “slot’s only casino”
Oxford Casino opens in Oxford, Maine
MGM pulls out of it’s Foxwoods partnership
Plainridge Park Casino Opens at Plainridge Raceway as the first Massachusetts casino (slots-only)
A Big Year for Gambling, Casinos and Hotels in New England:
Oxford Casino, Oxford ME, adds Hotel, expanded casino and Ox Pu
MGM Springfield Resort Casino opens
Newport Grand Slots Casino closes
Tiverton Casino & Hotel opens
Twin River Casino adds Hotel
Mohegan Sun opens Earth Expo Center
Rhode Island approves and opens the first Sports Betting in New England
Encore Boston Harbor to open in the fall
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