New England’s Casinos – Christmas Past, Christmas Present, Christmas Future

When I first started NETimeGambling, I hoped that New England would have become the Biloxi-Gulfport, Mississippi of the northeast, an extended area of casinos offering gamblers the variety and quality to go along with the area’s historical and cultural tourism.

Was I naive or what? Just watching the nasty competition between the casino industry in Massachusetts and Connecticut proves that. This law suit, this rumor, that accusation – all for the almighty buck with little consideration for consumers, residents and players, let alone the New England Tourist industry. Although community recognition and financial help and development is included in many expansions, we all know they wouldn’t do it if they didn’t have to in getting that gaming license – it’s all business and bean-counting to them.

Yes, my early naivete has changed to a growing cynicism. The last two years have allowed negative thoughts from the dark side of the gambling industry to infiltrate the hopes and dreams of a bustling tourist industry. Fees, higher house odds, diminishing comps, and rewards clubs cutbacks in awards have tainted my outlook, as well as many of us in the casino community.

Am I bitter?…..A little.  But great competition, as vile and ornery as it may be, is still in the consumer’s benefit. We can only hope it continues to bring greater value to our gambling guests in New England without jobs and community assistance lost.

OUR 6TH ANNIVERSARY!

This month marks our 6th year anniversary of NETimeGambling.com. So much of our casino landscape has changed and continues to evolve. Let’s look at the beginning of NETimeGambling and see what we were writing about in 2012. As this article enfolds, certain corrections, additions, opinions and explanations will be added to bring the last six years up date. These comments will be bold, italicized and green so you can’t missed them. 

CHRISTMAS PAST – 2012

The finished 3600 seat Bingo Hall was the keystone that the World's largest casino would be built around

The finished 3600 seat Bingo Hall was the keystone for the World’s largest casino that would be Foxwoods

The beginning of casino gambling in New England began in both Connecticut and Rhode Island. In 1992 with Foxwoods opening its doors in Mashantucket, CT, and that same year Rhode Island approved VLT gaming machines (classII) at Lincoln Greyhound Park & Newport Jai Alai casinos. For a short history of casino gambling in New England, go to NEW ENGLAND CASINO HISTORY

When NETG started covering New England’s casinos, revenue had continued due to the recession of 2007. Let’s see what each state was up to…..

In 2012, our first year of blogging, Connecticut’s two behemoth casinos were feeling the pinch of the recession.  Layoffs occurred and revenue to the state declined. The large retail addition and hotel at Mohegan Sun were put on hold indefinitely.  MGM & Foxwoods parted ways, and other CT tribes also wanted a part of the casino pie. Luckily, they were still the only place around – but not for long.

Rhode Island
had seen a slight increase with hopes to get its table games up and running to take away from CT’s two Mega-casinos and before MA casinos were to be built. (Twin River received local approval for table games, Newport Grand slot parlor did not. In retrospect, Foxwoods saw a great expected loss in players than Mohegan Sun.)

Massachusetts intended to add three, if not four, casinos within three years to take back the revenue lost in RI & CT.

Massachusetts Regions for full casinos.

Massachusetts Regions for full casinos. Doesn’t include Mashpee Wampanoags in Taunton or Plainridge Park Slot Parlor in Plainville

New Hampshire wanted to keep their citizens and revenue at home as well, so they considered legalizing gambling. (Three times, only to be turned down all three times. While NH has a budding community poker business, there is no casino in site.)

Maine had two casinos in 2012, one with a hotel and one considering hotel expansion.

And lest we forget that Atlantic City was still reeling from the recession and the arrogant denial as a day-tripping only destination. Completion and expansion from the likes of PA, NY, CT and DEL, and New Jersey’s own consideration of statewide gaming soon saw the demise of the East Coast’s #1 gambling Destination. Atlantic City was already down to 9 Casinos, soon to be 7. (While this sounds dire – and it was – it is nice to see a recent resurgence at America’s Playground.)

CHRISTMAS PRESENT 2018

Mohegan Sun Earth Tower to the right.

Connecticut casinos had stabilized a bit, with positive revenue months becoming more frequent. Then MGM Springfield opened. Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun would collaborate in opening a casino in East Windsor to counteract the opening of MGM Springfield and keep more gaming dollars in Connecticut. The Department of the Interior needed to approve the third casino but the request went unanswered for months, with intense lobbying by MGM. (With a new governor in CT and the rotating door policy in the Trump administration, hope is still alive for the joint casino at the CT/MA border in East Windsor, but there are still a lot of hoops left for sure.) 

Mohegan Sun pushed forward, adding another hotel and a huge convention space addition – the largest expo space along the New York-Boston I-95 corridor. The Mohegan Sun Arena, voted Arena of the year numerous times, continues to be the entertainment jewel of New England’s casinos. 

Foxwoods tried a different route to make itself a destination to stay for gamblers and families alike. Numerous “thrill rides” have been added and family entertainment continues, while it’s Dance Clubs try to entice younger guests to the premises. With the most hotel rooms onsite of any New England Casino/Resort, Foxwoods is able to tease gamblers with free rooms to go along with it’s fabulous dining options. (This immense property continues to be hampered by it’s location “in the woods” in recent years, since casinos are rising up everywhere.)

Tiverton Casino/ Hotel.

Rhode Island’s dependence on gaming revenue continues. With the addition of table games, Twin River Management Group, owners of Twin River Casino & Hotel  and Tiverton Casino & Hotel in Rhode Island, as well as and The Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi,  stepped up the battle for casino patrons with Massachusetts by opening the new Tiverton Casino & Hotel . The Newport Grand Casino, was bought and moved to Tiverton – right on the Mass-RI border. Both Twin River and Tiverton boast hotels attached to their casinos and are now the only casinos in New England to offer Sports Betting. Twin River Casino still offers one of the top 10 largest casino floors in the country.

Massachusetts continues to add drama to casino expansion in New England. Penn National opened Plainridge Park Casino in 2015, the slots-only casino and first casino to open in Massachusetts, and has continued to build its own loyal customers. But the big news was the opening of Massachusetts’ first full fledged Las Vegas style casino – MGM Springfield. The opening was a splashing success, initiating a resurgence in Springfield’s financial future and quality of life. The style of “Industrial Chic” permeates the property as one of the recent American casinos designed for the middle of a urban area.

Inside MGM casino

Oh, by the way, did you know another casino hall is going into Eastern Massachusetts? The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) was cleared to build a class II gaming facility, or bingo hall, by the U.S. Supreme Court last January. Since then, few details have emerged about the plans, although in September the tribe’s gaming faction announced a partnership with an Oklahoma Native American gaming operation owned by the Chickasaw Nation. According to reports from tribal members, Global Gaming Solutions has agreed to invest $12 million to build a 10,000-square-foot bingo facility

The Mashpee Wampanoag’s casino in Taunton, MA, has been stalled by political red tape and completion looks bleak. The U.S. federal government, through the Department of Interior (DoI), had issued a decision stating that the the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe would not be granted the disputed land in trust for developing the First Light Resort & Casino in Taunton, South of Boston. Genting Malaysia had issued about $274 million, but construction of the resort was hampered by local residents who said the 2015 awarding of the 300 acres for putting up a casino was a misinterpretation of the Indian Reorganization Act.

New Hampshire will never approve a Las Vegas style casino for itself, but it seems the Charitable Gambling Law is alive and well in the Granite State. Poker rooms, including other table games, are increasing in popularity.

Maine’s two casinos continue to hold their own while chaos continues in southern New England. Oxford Casino expanded with added meeting space and an attached hotel. A third casino in Maine was introduced again for the York County area in a referendum for only one suitor, but, once again crashed and burned.

2018 Turmoil

Much of this past year’s expectations was marred by a downturn in reality.

All casinos saw an eventual decline in revenue – except Oxford Casino & Hotel. That dirty “S” word raised it’s ugly head again – Saturation.

Steve Wynn with his rendition of Wynn Boston Harbor

The casino mogul Steve Wynn resigned as chairman and chief executive of his company, Wynn Resorts, in response to sexual misconduct allegations spanning decades. This spawned numerous rumors of ownership and an eventual change in name for the Boston Licensed casino to Encore Boston Harbor. Construction continues to proceed on time, but The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is determining if a penalty or potential license revocation is warranted for Wynn Resorts’ $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor casino. The agency is investigating if the company purposely withheld knowledge of its founder’s alleged sexual misconduct during its 2013 bidding for the coveted Boston-area gaming permit. (This has caused many controversial rumors and questions. Will Caesars Entertainment, Mohegan Sun, or another industry giant step in to claim the license?  Will MGM sell it’s new MGM Springfield to be able to get the Encore Boston Harbor license? Etc….. Speculation abounds)

Finally, Plainridge Park Casino & Raceway may be getting worried about it’s instate rival in Boston.  Concerns are now being raised to change the license and add tabled games – a move that could save it and place more pressure on Rhode Island casinos.

CHRISTMAS FUTURE……What will 2020 Look Like?

Let me get out my crystal ball – or my magic eight ball – and look into New England’s Gambling Future…….

There will be nine casinos in four states. One class II, and one Slot’s-only. Online gambling in MA, RI, sports betting in MA, RI, NH,  & CT.

Springfield, Massachusetts will continue to experience a renaissance, and MGM will continue to feel stuck owning MGM Springfield while under producing the revenue and profit expected.

Encore Boston Harbor rendition, courtesy of Boston Harbor pressroom

Encore Boston Harbor, having been fined, continues to be owned by the same company minus Steve Wynn, hosting guests from all over the U.S. with exquisite hotel accommodations, high profile dining and crappy gambling.

Connecticut casinos will have to continue to diversify.  Foxwoods becomes an amusement destination as well as a casino resort. Mohegan Sun will continue construction on it’s huge project across the river of retail, housing, and wellness, including a water park.

The Norwich hospital site in Preston, to be developed by Sun. In the far top, Mohegan Sun sits

Convenience casinos such as Oxford, Hollywood, Plainridge, Tiverton, continue a status quo existence fighting for locals in Tiverton, RI., Plainville, MA., and Maine.

The Mohegan / Mashantucket tribes joint casino in East Windsor, CT will not be built. Open bidding for another casino in the southwest of CT will jeopardize the pact between the state of CT and the The Mohegan / Mashantucket tribes.  Sports betting will be available at the casinos and the availability at OTB and Keno stations will definitely nullify the pact for sole rights to gambling if the open bidding process is defeated.

Conclusion

Will there ever be a vision of prosperity for casinos, with good gambling rules, free parking, more casino hotels, and patrons that are welcomed with smiling aces, appreciated and rewarded sincerely? For the sake of New England’s recreational gamblers and New England Tourism, we once again ask, “CAN WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?!!”

Binbin

Wynn, MGM, Bridgeport & MMCT – Questions Abound

Over the last few days, news reports have made my mind spin.  While so many headlines have come from different angles, they all seem related to NETimeGambling interests.  Our coverage of New England Casinos news this week has noticeably been missing, but not on purpose. You see, we could report all the news that you have read about already, but it’s too early for comprehensive coverage. The past week’s headlines could actually turn the entire southern New England gambling landscape upside down. Covering this takes careful perspective and consideration.

However, it hasn’t stopped me from thinking about all of it – past, present, and future. Random thoughts running rampant.  Now, I need to share before my head bursts.

Billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn steps down as chairman and CEO of Wynn resorts, amidst allegations of sexual misconduct.

Steve Wynn with his rendition of Wynn Boston Harbor

It’s sad to think that these allegations go back so many years. The “good old boys” network of covering for each other in entertainment and political fields is now being uncovered in the casino industry.

  • Will it stop the casino in Boston Harbor from still built and becoming the jewel of New England’s casino landscape?  Emphatically “No!”
  • Will the Massachusetts Gaming Commission take the charge and investigate the lies Steve-o made to Cosby and the MGC?  If they have any integrity they will – something that was questionable in the way the license was handled in the first place.
  • By the way, the state Gaming Commission said the omission of mentioning the $7.5 million settlement paid to a woman by Wynn in 2005 in the gaming license application is “critical” to the commission’s review and decision whether or not to approve. How should Mohegan Sun feel about such an unfair process of choosing Wynn over their Revere casino application.

Future Of Proposed East Windsor Casino In Doubt

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

The fed’s delay, influenced by MGM adding itself to the MMCT lawsuit defense, has seemingly turned the tables on the Pequot and Mohegan joint casino in East Windsor. The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs had 45 days to approve or deny the changes to Connecticut’s gaming compact with the tribes. But, recently, the Trump administration advanced an interesting argument that may even cause the extinction of the East Windsor Casino project even as demolition is scheduled for the casino site. In a motion filed on Monday, government attorneys called for the removal of the Pequots from the case. They contend the tribe’s new casino deal is not subject to “mandatory deadlines — or any deadlines at all” at the federal level, all of which proves true and stops the tribe of Foxwoods fame to be deleted from the MMCT suit.

  • My first response was MGM will do anything to protect its MGMSpringfield project.  It shows me that rumors of questionable success and an unsure feeling about MGM does exist. If you were sure the product you were peddling was so great, why try to kill off all competition?
  • How could Foxwoods not see this coming? Not realizing this snafu was serious enough to put the 3rd casino project in jeopardy could start tribal hostilities between the two tribes once again – dating back to 1637 when the Mohegan’s were originally part of the Pequot tribe, but gradually became independent and allied with English colonists in the Pequot War.

Revoke East Windsor license and set up competition in Bridgeport?

Supporters of a casino in Bridgeport rolled out a bill this week, to revoke the East Windsor license granted last year and replace it with a competition for proposals for a single casino costing at least $500 million. The bill calls for bids by Jan. 1, which would have to include a deal with a city or town, complete with a referendum, anyplace in Connecticut.

Distance from Bridgeport to Resorts World, less than 60 miles away.

  • Why Bridgeport?  Well, before the tribal pacts were made Mohegan and Pequot Tribes, Wynn and Trump saw Bridgeport as a perfect site with proximity to the Big Apple. But, then Governor Weicker made the agreement with the tribes for sole gambling rights. Trump, Wynn, and Bridgeport probably still haven’t forgiven the state of CT.
  • Why Bridgeport?  Because MGM, who has found a new city for financial promises, can’t build a casino anywhere in CT that is within a 90 mile radius of Springfield, according to their licensing agreement.
  • Why Bridgeport? It will open up a bidding war for the first commercial casino in the Nutmeg State, with developers required to meet specific requirements, including: A minimum of 2,000 people to be directly employed at the facility, $500 million minimum total investment for Commercial Casino Gaming Facility, $50 million nonrefundable license fee due before construction, 25% of the annual gross gaming revenue on both Slots and Tables, and additional 10 percent of the annual gross gaming revenue from the operation of video slot machine games to fund Educational Cost Sharing grants for distribution to municipalities.
  • Guess what – NETG suggested rebidding 2 years ago.  Only it was to add more money to the state coffers like Massachusetts did – all those application fees add up!  Then, turn around and do what you want anyway. Ask Rush Gaming and CET Gaming how The MGC choices stack up in their eyes.

MGM is quite the instigator!

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)

It all began with CT’s reaction to MGM Springfield. MGM was not happy that Connecticut would acquiesce to their competition. Lobbyists infiltrated the MMCT process in choosing a site, and continued to lobby against it when East Windsor was chosen. Then another tactic – trying to get the Schaghticokes tribe federal and state recognition. That didn’t happen, so it was on to  Bridgeport.  I guess MGM is seen as the Golden Ticket to needy groups and cities.

MGM sure has a lot of money to stop CT’s “slot-box.”

Yep, that’s what they called it, even though it will be close in size, casino area, and gambling offered – with a full casino, unlike Plainridge Park in Plainville Massachusetts. MGM could stand for “Money Gone Mad” if referring to expenditures to battle the MMCT venture. Check this out:

  • MGM spent more than $3.8 million in TV and radio ads and lobbying state agencies and lawmakers, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen. The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegans’ joint venture spent less than $1.2 million.
  • MGM hired a Washington lobbyist to focus on the Department of the Interior and the White House, paying Ballard Partners $270,000.
  • Lobbying totals: Mashantucket Pequot Tribe/Foxwoods $77,850; MGM Resorts International $3.8 million; MMCT Venture, (East Windsor tribal casino) $1.2 million; Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority $178,702; Schaghticoke Tribal Nation of Kent $158,194
  • MGM Resorts International’s growing investment in Connecticut lobbying; 2015 — $172,937; 2016 — $1,224,440; 2017 — $3.8 million  *Source: Office of State Ethics

What will Southern New England’s gaming look like by 2020?

Your guess is as good as mine. Questions abound:

  • Could we see one or two commercial casinos rise up in Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford?
  • How many will be operated by MGM?
  • Will Caesars Entertainment make an appearance in CT?
  • Will CT’s tribes extend to Bridgeport? East Windsor?

Too many questions.  Now my head really hurts.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see…………we all will.

Binbin

 

 

2018 NEW ENGLAND CASINO AWARDS – We Need Your Participation!

2017 NEW ENGLAND CASINO AWARDS

Sponsored by

Start thinking and get ready to rate New England’s Casinos!

The time has come to for all you crazy (or serious) New England Gamblers to vote for this year’s. But you don’t need to live in New England to vote – New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey – let your voice be heard!

This is the third year for NETimeGambling’s annual Awards. Nominations for this year’s New England Casino Awards, or the “NETy’s,” ending this Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Click on the link below to place your votes. Only 20 questions. Vote only once. 

TAKE ME TO THE NEW ENGLAND CASINO AWARDS SURVEY –>