Newport Grand Casino – The Last Hurrah?

RI correspondent Miguel and I took a break from the July 4th celebration to visit the Newport Grand Slots casino in Newport, Rhode Island.

Yes, it’s small and it doesn’t take long to look around each floor. Yes, the outside looks more like a warehouse than a casino, but renovations over the years tried to keep the vision of a classy casino in Newport was kept alive. Before Twin River Management bought it over a year ago, it was a family operation – owned and managed by CEO Diane Hurley.

Quiet morning at Newport Grand

The building now known as Newport Grand has struggled to be more relevant in a city that never really wanted it there.  It’s recent past disappointments included:

  • The addition of tables games voted down by the city of Newport (at the time under Hurley ownership) while  Lincoln RI approved tables games for Twin River casino.
  • The renovation and expansion of Newport Grand, with table games denied by Newport. See our previous post covering this Newport Grand City Agreement Negated
  • Finally, TRM bought Newport with the intentions of moving operations to Tiverton as a new full casino with hotel to compete with Massachusetts casino expansion, namely Plainridge Park Racino just over the border in Plainville, MA.

According to staff, the facility should close by mid-summer of 2018.

Newport Grand entrance

Upon entering, we wondered if it was open.  We were greeted by friendly staff, received our rewards card, and we were on our way, basically having the place to ourselves.

It has 3 floors – a 2nd floor smoking-allowed slot area, 1st floor for non-smoking gaming and lower floor that includes some slots, the Grille, and a bar featuring standard and some RI craft brews.

Non smoking main floor

Did I mention it was small?  Listed as the third smallest of New England’s casinos, it just might be the smallest.  It was obvious to us that the 1000 slots couldn’t be a true number with three small rooms on the lower level unused and a more spacious main floor.

Upstairs smoking casino

GAMING – while they have many new slots, there is also a treasure trove of nostalgic machines, including many of the VLT from the Jai Alai transition days.  I counted 8 (yes, only 8) video poker machines, 6 multi-game with horrible pay tables and two Ultimate X. Don’t go to Newport Grand for video poker.  The best game offered is 7/5 DDB on Ultimate X.  There are also two of the older electronic Blackjack terminals, back to back, with a total of 10 seats.  We did not see a High Limit area, but higher denomination slots are mixed in.

Newport Grand Casino Event Center

Newport Grand Casino Event Center

ENTERTAINMENT – on the weekends, Newport Grand still offers great tribute bands with some comedy acts as well in the Event Center.  In the lounge downstairs, small combos still perform, as karaoke & trivia is still offered some week days.

CONCLUSION – We had a fun day at the casino on Independance Day.  But, it was a little sad, too.  There is no signage of the impending move, or even the change of ownership.  The Twin River and Newport Grand rewards programs are not linked together, which would be an un-needed expense.  I know that the new property in Tiverton will be a great addition to the casino landscape in New England.  But at this time, the little casino that “could’ve been” is in a state of limbo – supported by its loyal local patrons and continued good service by the staff.  But the inevitable end is in the air at Newport Grand.  The ghosts of slots and Jai Alai past will soon be the only inhabitants in this building.

As the sun sets on Newport Grand Slots

Take time to visit just once.  It’s not the Riviera of Las Vegas, but it’s a piece of history in New England.

 

 

 

Northeast Casino Saturation?

Northeast US

Did Foxwoods & Mohegan Sun secretly wish that the future casino saturation in the Northeast was true when Massachusetts passed the gaming law in 2011? Were there hushed discussions over the CT casino water coolers wishing for the repeal of gambling in Massachusetts back then?

Pat one point beginning to believe my post a long time ago about the number of possible casinos in New England may saturate the region.  Well, I have to think that saturation is becoming a real deal – and not only in New England.  In case You haven’t been following her are the number of casinos by state from Maryland north to Maine:

  1. Maryland – Five casinos, one to be added; Began as slots only in 2008, added tables games after 2012.  Revenue numbers increased.
  2. Delaware – Three VLT based casinos at the three pari-mutuel racetracks operated by the Lottery.  Table games added in 2010.  Revenue number in decline.
  3. Pennsylvania – Twelve casinos authorized and built after 2004; Revenue experienced 4% decline last year
  4. New Jersey – Gambling approved in 1976. By end of this year, nine casinos left with three closing it’s doors – might be four if Revel can’t find a buyer; Revenue consistently in decline since early 2000.
  5. New York – Began with change of two Class II Indian Casinos to Class III after 2003.  Since, casino growth continues with presently 21 casinos with 7 more licenses to be habded out.  Indian Class III casinos have the only slots, the rest in NY are VLT that act like bingo terminals.  resorts World continues to have one of east’s highest grossing revenues.
  6. Connecticut – Began Class III gaming with two casinos – Two casinos – Foxwoods in 1994 & Mohegan Sun in 1996.  Since recession of 2007, experienced constant spiral in revenue declines; two more casinos possible with two other tribes fighting for recognition.
  7. Rhode Island – Two Casinos – Twin River (with table games) and Newport Grand (slots only).  referendum in November for expansion on Newport casino.
  8. Massachusetts – Four licenses to be handed out with a possible addition of Mashpee Wampanoags in Southeastern region.  November Vote may repeal gambling law of 2011.
  9. Maine – Two casinos opened, Hollywood in 2005 and Oxford in 2012 – both class III.  One class II Indian Casino.

So, the math is a little weird with all the closings, possibilities, votes, etc.  The count seems to a whopping at this time is 56!   with + or – …………….well, we’ll just wait and see.

Scott Calvert and Jon Kamp an their article in the Wall Street Journal said “Twenty-six casinos have opened since 2004, fueling a 39% increase in total annual gambling revenue in the mid-Atlantic and New England, according to a study by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Within 100 miles of Philadelphia, there now are 24 casinos, a big shift from the early 1990s, when Atlantic City, N.J., enjoyed an East Coast monopoly. At least a dozen more gambling spots are in the pipeline from Massachusetts to Maryland, raising fears in states such as Rhode Island that their casino tax windfall is at risk.”  The article is outstanding.   check it out at http://online.wsj.com/articles/casino-boom-pinches-northeastern-states-1403220428

 

Is there saturation?  You bet! (no pun intended)  As in Atlantic City, it could mean survival of the fittest until a manageable amount is seen.  But that won’t be until the expansion hysteria ends many years from now.

That’s all for now.

Binbin