Mayor Sarno Needs To Focus on Springfield

According to MassLive’s Peter Goonan, Mayor Domenic Sarno reacted to a court decision favorable MMCT’s proposal for a new tribal casino in Connecticut, by referring  to it as a “glorified slots parlor.”

Wow, did he follow that up with a “nah, nah-nah, nah nah… or sticking out his tongue?”

Sarno obviously doesn’t know the differences in casino offerings.  If he wants to see what a “slot parlor” IS, he should go east to Plainville, MA where Plainridge Park Casino, the only Massachusetts casino resides and is the only one bringing in revenue.

You see Mr. Sarno, slot joints don’t have table games.  But, Mr. Sarno, let’s compare the casino aspect of each future property:

PROPERTY                          MGM SPRINGFIELD                       MMCT EAST WINDSOR, CT CASINO

Gaming Space                          125,000-square-foot                       200,000 square foot
Slot Machines                          3,000 slot machines                        2,000 slot machines
Table Games                               75 gaming tables                            50 to 150 gaming tables
Both will have a poker room, high limit areas, hospitality services like restaurants, shops, and entertainment.

Proposed MMCT joint venture casino between CT’s Mohegan & Pequot tribes

So where’s the difference?  Well, the CT casino has proposed more square footage and more table games.  Hmmm, doesn’t sound like a glorified slot parlor to me.

Now, we know that proposals change, right Mr. Sarno?  MGM’s Michael Mathis admitted that things change – hopefully to enhance the final product. CT’s casino may change from its original plan.  But don’t hold it against them. Remember the following MGM changes & proposal changes?

  1. Where is that hotel tower MGM initially promised?  Oh yeah, plans were changed.
  2. And jobs for the residents of Springfield? According to Chris Goudreau from ValleyAdvocate@Play.com, More than half of the unemployed population in Springfield — 2,150 people — could be automatically disqualified from getting a job at the MGM casino, slated to open in late-2018, under the current state gaming laws, according to MGM research performed to help change the Massachusetts gaming law.  I understand you are a “man of the people” and are working to help change the employment considerations set up by the state and the MGC.  That change has promise for the people of Springfield!

    An updated rendering released in September 2015 shows MGM Springfield’s scaled-back hotel plan, which no longer includes a 25-story glass tower. Pictured here is the new site of the hotel, at Main and Howard.
    MGM SPRINGFIELD / COURTESY THE SPRINGFIELD REPUBLICAN PHOTO DESK

     

  3. How about apartments for the area around the casino? MGM may put some of its market-rate apartments in the old Court Square Hotel on Elm Street, across from Springfield City Hall. Now its plans for the old school department building at 195 State Street are unclear.  MGM has been considering putting all its apartments at the old Court Square Hotel.  In case you don’t know, market rate housing is any apartment that has no rent restrictions. A landlord who owns market rate housing is free to attempt to rent the space at whatever price the local market may fetch, beneficial for landlords, as it is less complicated and they may be able to generate higher rent income as a result.  Definitely not affordable housing to help out Springfield’s residents.

So, changes do happen in the planning. They are to be expected – just ask MGM.  And it’s true!

So, Mr. Sarno, why are you so worried about CT’s third casino?  Do you have so little faith in MGM’s promise to raise the quality of life with this new model of “urban casino?” Concentrate on what matters most – the future of Springfield, MA.  The residents, the businesses, the unemployed – they all need your help.

MGM’s plans include lots to be excited about.  Fresh ideas entwined with MGM success and Springfield’s blue-collar fabric make for big potential.  MGM is not a casino company, it’s a “resort” company – and a very successful one at that. Look at what they are building for Springfield:

Armory Marketplace, rendering courtesy of MGM Springfield.

The “Amory Square” – Dining, Retail and Entertainment District has so much to offer the residents and visitors of Springfield:

  • 165,000 square feet of dining, retail and entertainment space
  • 15 shops and restaurants
  • Movie cinema – 50,000 sq-ft and 12 screens
  • Bowling alley – 20,000 sq-ft
  • Outdoor stage for free live music and entertainment
  • Location between Union and Howard streets
  • Multi-level parking garage with 5,000 parking spaces. (as long as it’s FREE parking?)

And a Hotel that offers:

  • 25-story hotel with 250 rooms
  • World-class spa
  • Pool – 10,000 square fee
  • Roof deck – 35,000 square fee
  • Outdoor garden
  • Meeting and banquet space – 40,000 square feet
  • The hotel will use the existing building facade at 73 State Street

This is what MGM does best.

Finally Mr. Sarno, I believe you should follow your own advice concerning MGM Springfield, “…..my focus should and will be on what we can direct and control – continuing to put a first class resort establishment in Springfield.”  (Your words, no one else’s!) Stay away from the name calling – it shows a lack of understanding and is beneath those officials in government we, and Springfield, put our trust in.

Enough said.

Binbin

MGM Resorts Logo

Connecticut’s 3rd Casino Approved – MGM Objections to Continue

It seems we have come full circle concerning MGM and their opposition to Connecticut’s casino expansion.

It was March of 2015 when the two tribes in CT asked for permission to build a casino off I-91 near the Massachusetts line to intercept patrons on their way to MGM Springfield, hoping it would be done and open by 2017.  MGM Springfield, a $950 million casino is a major threat to force more declining revenue of Connecticut’s gambling industry and impact the local economy by reducing employment opportunities.

MGM Springfield Downtown

Well it’s 2017, and CT is finally seeing it’s expansion come to life.  But, it will surely fizzle if MGM International has anything to do about it.

The two tribes that  were enemies and then competitors for centuries even when they were allowed to build two of the largest casinos in country, offering the only Las Vegas style resort gaming in the Northeast outside of Atlantic City, are now in it for the long-haul together.

Kevin Brown, left, Chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council and Rodney Butler, right, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council,

Kevin Brown, left, Chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council and Rodney Butler, right, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council,

A third casino in CT gets ready to move forward.  MMCT, the Mohegan Sun and Mashantucket Pequots tribes’ combined venture is soon to get the Governor’s backing, completing the state’s blessing for a new casino in East Windsor.

In two years of fighting, litigation, television commercials, community propaganda and interesting surveys to support their findings, MGM has thrown everything they could at the casino wall, hoping for anything to stick and sway the people of CT and their legislators.

The first attempt by MGM was a lawsuit challenging the exclusive right for the two tribes to jointly operate and build a competing casino. MGM insisted they could make money in CT (even though they pulled out of joint venture with Foxwoods) and that the casino bill violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. A federal judge in January of 2016 dismissed the company’s lawsuit to block the state of Connecticut’s 2015 tribal gaming act.

At the same time, MGM backed the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, in Kent, CT – officially recognized by the state but not the federal government – to sue the state of Connecticut’s bill, claiming they had a right to a casino.  But land claims, the lack of federal recognition and then the resurrection of the law suit all dismissed again recently seem enough to keep the Schaghticoke demands futile.

Seal of the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs

Seal of the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs

MGM then sought help from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, stating that a casino off tribal land would break the original agreement from 1993, saying that approving this bill would sever the pact for 25% of the slot revenue to the state. MMCT assured legislators that the proposed construction of a third casino would not jeopardize any gambling agreements reached between the state and the two tribes in 2016 & recently when the BIA agreed.

Officials from the two tribes provided legislators in 2016 with copies from a letter sent by the current Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the country’s Department of Interior stating that the existing gambling compact, under the terms of which Connecticut is provided with 25% of net revenue from slot machines in return for securing the two tribes with the exclusive rights to operate gambling venues within the state’s borders, would not be affected by the opening of a third casino.”

Two bills were eventually issued to the CT legislature earlier this year – one for the MMCT joint venture on the CT/MA border, and one outlining an equal bidding process for a casino in the southwest part of the state (where MGM could possily bid and build a casino). MGM continued to televise ads in CT under the moniker of MGMConecticut.org, trying to persuade CT’s residents of the need for equal bidding for a casino license, saying 71% of the state’s surveyed residents were in favor of an open bidding process.  All the local TV stations, all hours of the day were not enough to change the representatives vote.  Where is that 71% (of whatever sample size) when MGM needs them?

MGM has waged an all out war to try to save its interests across the border.  Whether or not is is to save MGM’s chances for a casino in CT, or just continuous stalling tactics while preparing for MGM Springfield to open,  MGM has had a five-prong attack:

  1. a legal fight in federal court,
  2. lobbying at the Connecticut State Capitol,
  3. bringing the fight to Congress
  4. instigating the Schaghticoke Tribe in Kent, CT to legally pursue it’s right to the casino pie – have proved fruitless in trying to block the construction of a third tribal casino thus far
  5. influence the people of CT to consider an open bidding process

Results?

  1. The federal court and the BIA has already thrown out MGM’s previous lawsuit
  2. Lobbying at the state capital didn’t succeed in bringing about the open bidding process
  3. The CT Senate, House, and soon Governor Malloy, approve the process for the MMCT casino in East Windsor.

I say MGM’s main purpose in all of this was to stall – because the urban casino they are building is a questionable success.  It will be great for MGM, but will it be good for Springfield?  Remember, MGM and CEO Jim Murren himself has said they are in the hotel and entertainment business, not the casino business.  How does Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission feel about their revenue being secondary in MGM’s plan?

Cinema in East Windsor for proposed casino.

Cinema in East Windsor for proposed casino.

MGM Springfield is in a much smaller city, and it will go up MMCT’s Mohegan Sun / Foxwoods casino in East Hartford and will continue to feel pressure from Plainridge Park Casino, the only open casino in Massachusetts. New York projects near western Mass. and Wynn’s Boston Harbor Casino/Resort will definitely tug at Springfield’s bottom line.  MGM said in 2016 that they didn’t believe in a ceiling on  gamblers discretionary funds and were not concerned with the possible saturation of casinos – do they still believe that?

Now, MGM is back to square one, leaning on the judicial branch to stop MMCT in East Windsor. I think I can still hear someone speaking in the wind from Springfield, “just stall, I don’t care how, just stall….”

And that, my friends is a complete circle.

Binbin

 

 

MGM Casino Study of Fairfield County Raises More Questions Than Answers

Welcome To Fairfield

Welcome To Fairfield

Someone over at MGM is really doing their homework.

What seemed at first to be another distraction to the CT legislature and MMCT’s (the Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun joint venture) third casino in the Hartford, may actually be something to pursue.

MGM Resorts Logo

MGM Resorts

Recently, a study commissioned by MGM has concluded that a third Connecticut casino would be better suited for the I-95 corridor in Fairfield County, not the I-91 corridor in Hartford County that’s closer to the MGM Springfield casino site. Connor Berry of the Republic reported Oxford Economics, an independent global advisory firm, stated in the report that “Locating a casino in southwest Connecticut would generate far greater economic benefits than locating one in north central Connecticut because southwest Connecticut offers a much deeper market.”

NETime Gambling notes two big reasons for validating this study:

  • The New York City Market (including the northern New Jersey proposals) is still a large market waiting to be tapped.  Even with the additions of Resorts World and Empire City, NYC shows a longing for the “Vegas Experience” with the attendance and popularity of these casinos and also area racetracks..  It could also hinder New York Gambling traffic to Mohegan Sun & Foxwoods.  Touche’!
  • General Electric Co. announced that it will be moving its headquarters from Fairfield, Conn., to Boston, starting this summer, making “Beantown” the hometown of one of the world’s largest companies.
On the I-95 NY/CT border.  Should it "Fairfield County, Home of CT's Newest Casino?"

On the I-95 NY/CT border. Should it “Fairfield County, Home of CT’s Newest Casino?”

GE Headquarters in CT

GE Headquarters in CT

What will CT and towns surrounding Fairfield lose?

  1. Housing market has already seen some softening in recent months.
  2. The region will lose the millions of dollars in taxable income earned by those seasoned, experienced workers.
  3. Human resources services to small businesses in Fairfield County associated with GE will lose $14 billion a year to Connecticut suppliers.
  4. Community involvement. Last year GE gave some $10 million in charitable contributions in Connecticut, and its workers — who sit on hundreds of boards throughout the state — gave 49,000 volunteer hours.
  5. Jobs. GE employs 800 workers at its headquarters and about 5,000 elsewhere in Connecticut.

So, the MGM proposal for a casino in Fairfield might help fill that void and hurt the CT casinos concerning out-of-state patrons from New York.

Jim Murren and MGM Resorts

Jim Murren & MGM Resorts

This Study actually proposes more questions than answers:

  • Will MGM law suit again CT concerning fair trade have legs enough to open the door to independent gaming outside of the tribal casinos?
  • Will CT & MMCT look at adding a 4th casino proposal in Fairfield?
  • Is MGM interested in both Hartford area & Springfield area Casinos in CT?
  • Could CT handle two casinos, never mind one – no matter who is running them?
  • If MGM’s law suit succeeds, could we see Caesar’s, Sands, Penn National, and other industry companies vie for either Hartford or Fairfield sites? (Remember, Bridgeport was once considered for a casino by The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation of CT)

The next move – like a well-thought-out chess match – is now in the hands of CT. Preparations for the MGM law suit are monumental.  If the law suit fails, Connecticut is back at square one for it’s third casino.  Otherwise, who knows what could break loose!

Binbin