A Pictorial Journey and Timeline
The Ultimate History of Gambling in New England begins with the original Pilgrims meeting the Mashpee Wampanoags in Massachusetts. It was definitely an ironic meeting. 300 years later, generations had turned Puritanical ways away. The first indigenous people to meet the Pilgrims are still trying to get a casino in Massachusetts and still denied by Pilgrim descendants.
The History of Gambling in New England began as soon as settlers arrived in the New World. Some sought a new world without persecution. But others wanted a place they could be themselves and call their own. As a matter of fact, English settlers differed from the Puritans in New England in many ways. Early colonists transported gambling traditions from Europe. They considered it a “harmless diversion.” It was a popular and accepted activity.
Lotteries were used to bail out the Early Colonies. Financial backers of the colonies were particularly interested. Gambling became a solution to lowering the cost of the war effort. All 13 original colonies established lotteries, usually more than one, to raise revenue. Lotteries continue to be a main source of revenue for all six New England states.
The Pequot War of 1637
The following is from ConnecticutHistory.org. “…After years of confrontations over land, trade, and livestock, the Connecticut Colony formally declared war on the Pequot and their allies on May 1, 1637. The conflict drew in numerous Native American tribes.” [Pequots and Mohegans fought on opposite sides.] The 1638 Treaty of Hartford ended the war. It also:
- outlawed the Pequot language and name,
- seized tribal lands,
- disbanded the surviving Pequot,
- the Pequots were given to the “victors as spoils of war” or sold into slavery.
250 years later, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes continue as competitors but not as enemies. It was these two tribes that ushered in Casino Gambling into New England.
1983 / 1985
History of Gambling in New England Begins With A Bingo Hall
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe gained legal control of their reservation with federal recognition by Congress in 1983. As a result, the Pequots built a bingo hall in 1985 on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation. This seed of a Bingo Hall plus new laws for tribal recognition gave the History of Gambling all it needed in New England.
Before The First Casino at Foxwoods
Lincoln Downs opened on July 7, 1947. At first, a horse racing venue was sold (in debt) in June 1977 and renamed Lincoln Greyhound Park. It began its first season of greyhound racing in 1992.
1992 – Casino Gambling Begins
- The first New England Casino, Foxwoods, opens its doors in Mashantucket, CT. In 1992, the tribe had only table games. In 1993, slot machines were added.
- Legend has it that the initial plans for the opening were changed. In 1992, the casino was scheduled to close at 2 AM. However, guests kept staying and gambling. Foxwoods has always been open 24/7 since that night.
- Quickly, the Grand Cedar Hotel was built and opened in 1993.
- In 1992, pari-mutuel handles were already dropping due to competition at Foxwoods Casino. Rhode Island authorized video lottery terminals (class II) at Lincoln Greyhound Park and Newport Jai Alai fronton.
1996 – New England Gambling History
Mohegans Begin Steps for Global Gaming Empire
The Mohegan Tribe opened the second New England casino in Uncasville, CT. Casino officials estimated some 40,000 had passed through by early evening.
1997 – Foxwoods opens Grand Pequot Tower
2001 – Mohegan Sun Doubles In Size
Mohegan Sun Arena, a 10,000 Seat Multi-purpose Arena, Is Completed
The 119,000 square-foot Casino of the Sky made Mohegan Sun one of the world’s largest gaming complexes. In addition, the History of Gambling in New England marks a milestone, as two of the largest casinos in America lie in Connecticut.
2005 – Maine’s Own History of Gambling in New England
Hollywood Slots Hotel & Raceway opens in Bangor, Maine. The property became a racino when Penn National Gaming won Maine’s slots’ bid and purchased the Bangor harness racing track. It was the first licensed slots facility in the state and became the first casino to be licensed in Maine’s state when it added table games to its facilities in 2012.
2007 – Rhode Island Adds to the Competition
Lincoln Greyhound Park turns into a Twin River Casino with Vegas Style, class III gaming. Newport Grand (previously Newport Jai-Alai) soon follows, redesigning without Jai-Alai. The jai alai fronton operated from 1976 until 2003 for a total of more than 27 years.
2008 – MGM Merger, More Expansion
- Foxwoods announced that they would lease the MGM Grand brand name for the new building project. MGM Mirage would be a partner in the expansion project. The expansion, entitled MGM Grand at Foxwoods, opened on May 17, 2008. Shrine, one of the best nightclubs on the east coast, highlighted an exciting vibe. Additional dining options, including Juniors and Red Lantern, added to a younger vibe. MGM also added the Premier Ballroom and meeting rooms.
2. Mohegan expands with Casino of the Wind, their third casino. More dining options include Margaritaville. Another nightclub called Mist opens outside the new 42-table poker room.
2011 – Mass Approves the Expanded Gaming Act
3 Resort Casinos & One “Slot’s-only Casino”
Massachusetts had noticed lost revenue cross the borders to Connecticut and Rhode Island. The Expanded Gaming Act would recoup that revenue from Massachusetts residents by gambling at their state’s casinos. Each designated region would get a Resort casino. The slots-only casino would be the first casino open in Plainville, MA, in Region C.
2012 – Maine Expands With Another Casino, Table Games
- Oxford Casino opens in Oxford, Maine. One of New England’s smaller casinos, it starts as a big hit. In March 2013, Black Bear Development sold to Churchill Downs LTD., and expansion discussion ensued. However, the expansion would take some time.
2. Hollywood Bangor adds table games. Still the smallest New England casino, Hollywood Bangor felt the immediate in-state competition from Oxford.
2013 – MGM Pulls Out of its Foxwoods Partnership.
Related Post – Foxwoods and MGM Joint Venture Ended in 2013
Also, in 2013, Twin River Casino added over 80 table games. This was the first sizeable competition for Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. It especially cut into Foxwoods casinos table game traffic. This becomes the first hint of saturation seen in an ever-expanding New England gaming landscape.
2015 – New England Gambling History – More Expansion
- Plainridge Park Casino Opens at Plainridge Raceway as the first Massachusetts casino (slots-only) authorized under a 2011 state law that also allows for up to three casinos in the Bay State Expanded Gaming Act.
2. Foxwoods opens Tanger Outlet Mall between the two hotel towers with 85 stores.
3. Twin River adds Poker Room.
2016 – Mohegan Sun Adds Second Hotel
Due to the recession, Mohegan Sun cut back on their second hotel. But the Sky hotel was needed, providing many hotel rooms for such a large facility.
2017 – Oxford Casino Adds Hotel
In November 2017, Oxford opened the hotel, new dining venues, and an expanded gaming floor. In fact, the new name is now the Oxford Casino Hotel and Events Center for meetings and small events space.
2018 – New England Gambling History
Casino Openings, Saturation Takes Hold
- MGM Springfield Resort Casino opens – More than 10,000 people entered the casino campus in the first hours after its grand opening. Before that, the festivities included a parade consisting of hundreds of MGM officials and workers, construction workers, local and state dignitaries.
2. Tiverton Casino & Hotel opens – Called a “convenience” casino, this local property holds 1,000 slot machines and 32 table games. The casino officially opened to the public on September 1st, 2018.
3. Twin River Casino adds Hotel
4. Mohegan Sun opens Earth Expo Center – It has an innovative design with 125,000 square feet of contiguous, column-free exhibit space. In addition to a 20,000 square foot ballroom, it boasts 15 additional meeting rooms and pre-function areas for a total of 175,000 square feet.
New England Gambling History includes Closings, Sports Betting, and Wynn-gate
5. Newport Grand Slots Casino closes – Newport voters rejected proposals in 2012 and 2014 to add table games to the casino. Then, Twin River Management Group bought Newport Grand in 2015. After getting voter approval to build a casino in Tiverton with table games, the company obtained state permission to transfer the license there.
6. Rhode Island approves and opens the first Sports Betting in New England – Both Twin Rivers and Tiverton casino were approved to offer single-game sports wagering. Rhode Island’s state lottery oversees sports betting. Furthermore, much like Delaware sports betting, the state will partner with the casinos and split revenue. The Ocean State later added Mobile betting.
7. Massachusetts Gaming Commission probe – several sexual misconduct allegations were made against Steve Wynn. Consequently, his departure from Wynn Resorts changed the name of the project to Encore Boston Harbor. It was part of an effort by Wynn Resorts to distance itself from its founder.
Encore Boston Harbor Opens – (previously referred to as Wynn Everett and Wynn Boston Harbor) this luxury resort and casino opened in Everett, Massachusetts, on June 23, 2019. It was referred to as an “international entertainment destination, evoking a Las Vegas atmosphere.”
New England Gambling History – Digging Out of a Hole
New England saw proof of casino saturation this year as every casino, except Oxford, reported lower revenue than expected across the board.
OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW – I should mention that casino gambling found a home in the 1800s in Newport, Rhode Island. Besides, numerous greyhound & horse tracks, parimutuel parlors, and Jai alai frontons in Milford, CT, Hartford, CT, and Newport, RI. Showed promise in the 1980s. However, in the past ten years, the horse-racing industry has seen a major decrease, if not close to extinction. In addition, Jai-Alai has moved out of the state, and parimutuel parlors continue to diminish in popularity due to the massive addition of casino gaming.
Binbin and NETimeGambling.com
Robin Aubin (AKA Binbin at NETimeGambling) has been a guest on Cousin Vito’s Casino Podcast, The Bettor Life Podcast, The Art in the Game Podcast Springfield, Massachusetts, as well as ZorkCast with Michael Trager. In 2013, he created NETimeGambling com. The mission was to provide a resource for recreational gamblers visiting New England’s expanding casino market events. We offer trip reports, gambling tips, casino promotions, entertainment, and more for those visiting our nine casinos. NETG also provides general gambling tips for those recreational gamblers inside and outside the northeast.
He is now retired from teaching middle school music for 41 years and performing professionally for over 50 years. Robin has performed at Mohegan Sun’s Wolf Den, Foxwoods’ Atrium Lounge, and Twin River’s Lighthouse Bar & Lounge.
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