CASINO

Connecticut tribes push for more casinos to head off MGM Springfield threat

TAGs: connecticut, MGM Resorts

foxwoods-mohegan-sun-mgmConnecticut’s two tribal casinos posted slots revenue declines in February as state legislators pondered a proposal to expand gaming in the state.

Mohegan Sun’s slots revenue fell 4.1% to $42.1m as handle fell 3% to $508.2m. Foxwoods Resort Casino’s slots revenue fell nearly 20% to $31.6m as handle fell 18% to $382.9m. The state’s share of this revenue fell 10% to $18.7m. Foxwoods CEO Felix Rappaport said the slot decline was “due almost exclusively to weather,” referencing the record cold and snow that blanketed the state last month.

There’s no fighting Mother Nature but both tribes are spoiling for a fight with MGM Resorts’ in-development $800m casino just across the border in Springfield, Massachusetts. At a General Assembly committee hearing on Tuesday, representatives of both tribes warned that the MGM casino would draw away gamblers from Connecticut, potentially resulting in the loss of up to 18k casino-related jobs. A marketing study prepared for the MGM casino, which is set to open in 2017, claimed nearly 30% of its clients would come from Connecticut.

Mohegan Tribe chairman Kevin Brown said the threat from the MGM casino was “serious,” which is why the two tribes with “a long history of fierce competition” had decided to join forces.

The tribes are supporting legislation that would authorize the addition of three jointly-run tribal casinos as a preemptive strike against MGM. In particular, the tribes want to establish a casino on non-tribal land in the northern part of the state along Interstate 91. The idea is to eliminate any urge local residents might have to travel northward to MGM’s property.

Not everyone’s on board with the plan. A Quinnipac University poll revealed that 75% of state residents weren’t in favor of casino expansion. Sportech, which operates 15 pari-mutuel race betting venues in the state, warned that its Windsor Locks property in particular would be double-teamed by both MGM and the new tribal casino. The Connecticut Lottery Corporation also expressed its fears about cannibalized sales.

In the end, the General Assembly Public Safety and Security Committee approved the legislation on Thursday by a vote of 15 to 8. The measure now moves to the Senate for further debate.

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