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

Bin

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

 

 

 

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