Two Years Ago

Two years ago, I posted the following article about the changes between 2013 & February, 2016.  it’s interesting to see what had happened in that time period, what was expected to happen between then and now, and actually where we stand two years later. So, here is the actual article, with updates as we go. Remember this was originally written in 2016. Enjoy…..


(February 8th 2016) Let’s go back in time first…..

Two years ago in New England.

Two years ago in New England.

Two years ago, (2014) it was all about Wynn Everett never happening, Mohegan Sun’s rejection in Palmer or Revere, and MGM Springfield causing concern over traffic, historic buildings, yadda, yadda, yadda…

Last year, (2015) MGM Springfield & Wynn Everett are given casino licenses, but will open two years later. Connecticut looks at the possibility for a third casino, law suits between MGM & CT, and Wynn & Boston’s Mayor Walsh erupt, Rhode Island’s Twin River buys Newport Grand and talks of moving it to Tiverton, while Massachusetts opens its first Casino in Plainville, Mass. only to find disappointment because of declining revenue after its opening. (As we now realize, Plainridge Park has had a series of months with growing revenue. Wynn & Walsh made nice, nice, Twin River Management is progressing through those plans in 2018.)

imagesIt’s 2016.  Wynn & MGM have begun breaking ground, fewer lawsuits remain, and Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville continues to perform to less than expected (and highly bloated) results.  CT is trying to find a location for its third casino, and everything seems to be moving forward to the wonderfully saturated and competitive casino market we know as New England.

But what would the casino industry be like without some turmoil?  So, here’s the next chapter of  “As The New England Casino Industry Turns.”  Recently:

IN MASSACHUSETTS

  • The Bureau of Indian Affairs officially designated Mashpee Wampanoag lands as a reservation on Friday. In September, the U.S. Department of Interior agreed to take 321 acres of tribe-owned land into trust on its behalf.
    Rendition Wampanoag Casino in Taunton

    Wampanoag Casino in Taunton

    But not so fast, a group of Taunton property owners filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday challenging the designation of neighboring land as a Native American reservation, a legal move meant to block a $500 million casino planned for the location,  describing the tribe’s plans for a massive casino and hotel complex as “grossly out-of-character” for a quiet residential area. Sound familiar?  (i.e., Palmer MA, Tiverton RI) (First Light continues to be stuck in “Legislative Limbo.”)

  • Then there’s Brockton – you remember that city, don’t you?  They’re the ones patiently waiting to find out what Massachusetts and the Mass.Gaming Commission are going to do with the Mashpee proposal in Taunton.  th (11)The Brockton casino proposal is the only remaining commercial license applicant pursuing a license provided to the southeastern region by the state’s gaming law. If both eventually appear years in the future, it’s said they will be able to “co-exist,” meaning not prosper, not financially aid the state of Massachusetts, and play second fiddle to MGM & Wynn forever.  The new lawsuit mentioned above by Taunton could keep the decision in limbo for years.  Rush Street Gaming, developer of Brockton’s Casino proposal, won’t stick around that long. (The MGC decided not to award any SE gaming license, with Brockton being the last casino standing, but not getting the award.)

IN CONNECTICUT

thA third casino site for a jointly run Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun Casino to compete with MGM Springfield Resort being built across the line in MA, will be decided on later than expected.  Now remember, MGM Resorts filed a lawsuit against the state of Connecticut in 2015 alleging that the state had not followed fair policy by giving casino establishments an equal right to bid for a third casino in Connecticut, suggesting partiality to CT’s two “casino” tribes.  Recently, The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, ignored by CT and feds, established a business entity with the aim of being allowed to establish a commercial casino within the borders of CT and they remain dedicated to the idea of operating the third CT gambling faculty. Richard Blumenthal, the state’s congressional delegation, have opposed new rules by the BIA that would have made winning federal recognition easier for tribes like the Schaghticokes.  In one week, the tribe from Kent, CT was approved and denied, with Connecticut saying their made a “boo-boo.”   Maybe MGM Springfield has a point with their lawsuit. (The whole thing was eventually dismissed, leading this blogger to wonder if there is still a political predjudice towards tribal peoples. Ironic that it would be alive and well in New England, you know – Pilgrims, first contact, etc…)

IN RHODE ISLAND

The Battlefield for Casino Supremacy in Rhode Island & Southeast Mass

The Battlefield for Casino Supremacy in Rhode Island & Southeast Mass

Twin River Casino, owner of Newport Grand Casino, would ask voters statewide and in Tiverton to decide the fate of the new casino with referendums on the November 2016 ballot. The question would need to pass both statewide and in Tiverton for the casino to be approved.  In a Tiverton town meeting, townspeople sounded genuinely split on the issue as they talked about the practicalities and the morality of hosting a gambling venue. (Tiverton and Twin River Casino’s new Hotel is all happening – just r-e-a-l-l-y sloooowwwwwwwly)

IN MAINE

York County, Maine om the Mass & NH borders where the third Casino in Maine is proposed

York County, Maine on the Mass & NH borders where the third Casino in Maine is proposed

Hey, is Maine still looking to add a third casino – closer to the Massachusetts border?  According to a detailed report in the Bangor Daily News, petition circulators were hired in the state of Maine to gather signatures to try and bring another casino to the state.

Soon after the signature campaign started that circulators began to allege issues that they were hired by the company Harness Racing Jobs Fairnessto gather signatures, promised as much as $10 per signature! The unorthodox campaign to give a Las Vegas gambling developer the sole right to build a York County casino submitted its signatures Monday to put the proposal to Maine voters in November.  NETG prediction – referendum? sure…..casino?  Nah. (And we were right – twice and no Maine casino in York county.)

So, unless you were gone for the month of January and February (2016), that’s the news to peak your interest. Same issues, just different players.

Binbin

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.