New England Casinos Looking Back at 2019
It’s been a very active and exciting time to watch New England’s casino landscape evolve to nine casinos. 2019 had some of the best highs, such as new openings, competition, and an explosion of entertainment and promotions. We also had some of the lowest lows such as revenue declines and lawsuits. I have whittled it down to six main stories in 2019. Here is New England Casinos Looking Back at 2019 overview.
New England Casinos Top Six Stories in 2019
6. Mohegan Sun Hosts Miss America
The Miss America Pageant has taken place in only two cities, Atlantic City & Las Vegas – until this year. Leaders of the famed pageant are betting the move to Mohegan Sun in Uncasville will help reinvigorate the nearly century-old competition. As a matter of fact, it continues to veer away from some of its beauty pageant roots for more progressive, empowering views of women. “The Miss America Organization is proud to partner with Mohegan Sun as we return to our longtime NBC home,” said Regina Hopper, president and CEO of the Miss America Organization. “We are looking forward to a fresh take on this historic competition that will showcase the incredible women vying for the job of Miss America 2020.”
Miss America 2.0 – It’s the second year of revising the old competition that featured swim suits and formal gowns. Now, the 51 young women compete as “candidates” for the title and to spend a year advancing a social impact initiative at a national level.
5. NH Gets Sports Betting / RI Adds Mobile Sports Betting
In November, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission approved a sports-betting contract with DraftKings on Monday. This paves the way for the state to become the second in New England to allow wagering on games, starting in January. Similar to Rhode Island, anyone over 18 could participate in online sports betting. It also allows the state to set up a “sports book” retail location to facilitate sports betting. Ten physical sports book locations and as many as five online sports books will be available. Rhode Island was the first late in 2018. See Rhode Island Gambling Update – Rumors, Facts and Speculation
Speaking of Rhode Island, Encore Boston Harbor has taken a huge bite out of Rhode revenue (34% drop in its table-games profits in July.) The Ocean state added Mobile sports betting to boost its presence in New England. Although gamblers can now place a bet from anywhere in Rhode Island on a phone or computer, the state quires them to trek to Twin River or Tiverton to activate their mobile accounts in person.
4. Casino Saturation and Decrease of Revenue
Discussions about declining casino revenues, missed revenue projections and casino saturation arise link with every new casino project. David Hallenbeck of the The Day cites the following examples:
- Pennsylvania regulators sought to auction a casino license and no one responded.
- a casino project proposed for Wareham, MA called only for slot machines and a $300 million investment, falling well short of the requirements for a full-scale casino in the area. It was not approved.
- Massachusetts Gaming Commission has dismissed a second application by Rush gaming for Brockton, the 4th approved license that is still unfilled.
- Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun have reported single and double-digit declines in slot-machine revenue compared to a year ago – a 13th straight month of year-over-year decreases.
- MGM Springfield reported more lackluster results late in 2019, including the lowest table-games total of any full month in its brief history.
- Even Encore can’t explain its early low slot revenue and decreasing table revenue.
- Encore Boston Harbor’s opening is blamed for plummeting revenues at Twin River Casino in Lincoln. Twin River announced slots revenue fell 17 percent, table-games revenue was off by 34 percent and it was laying off 95 employees.”
Oxford Casino/Hotel in Oxford Maine is the only casino in New England that has fulfilled revenue expectations or has not dealt with continued decreasing monthly revenue. See Oxford Is Maine’s Casino Destination.
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3. Rumors, Law Suits & Delays in CT
Oh, the many things that were to be – and not to be. What didn’t materialize? – Here’s the answer.
Third Tribal Casino
This joint venture by the Mashantucket Pequots (Foxwoods) and the Mohegans (Mohegan Sun) continues to waiting to start construction in East Windsor, under 15 miles from MGM Springfield. This joint venture received federal approval in March 2019 after a long delay at the U.S. Department of Interior and will take 18-24 months to complete. The delay might change soon. The federal agency in charge of overseeing tribal casinos dismissed MGM’s ongoing suit. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont wants both tribes to drop plans for Tribal Winds in exchange for a package deal. The offer includes legalized sports betting statewide, a Bridgeport casino and the opportunity to renovate and add gambling to the XL Center in Hartford. The tribes have not embraced the idea.
In the fall of 2017, MGM Resorts International announced ambitious plans for a $675 million casino and entertainment complex in Bridgeport’s Steelpointe Harbor area. In the fall of 2019, Bridgeport officials announced they were in talks with the tribes for a Tribal casino in Bridgeport, likely smaller than the one MGM proposed. It seems MGM is out (but not before more litigation) and the tribes are in. This is linked to Governor Lamont’s offer above.
MGM to BUY Encore and Sell MGM Springfield
At least that was the brief rumor in May. Wynn Resorts was in talks with MGM Resorts International to possibly sell its yet-to-be opened Encore Boston Harbor. With the Steve Wynn embarrassment and a harsh investigation from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, Wynn Resorts thought it might want to cut its losses.
The talks drew political opposition from state senators, the mayor of Everett, and even the governor himself. Springfield residents and Mayor Sarno also were upset because it meant MGM would have to sell their Springfield property after all the promises made. State law prohibits a company holding more than one gaming license. What happened soon after all this “hit the fan?” Read: Never Mind, MGM Won’t Be Buying Encore Boston Harbor
Sports Betting in the Nutmeg State
Connecticut officials and the Mohegan and Pequot tribes seem to be stifling sports betting. The original gaming pact of 1991 was amended to include the addition of a third tribal casino. The tribes claim sole access to all gaming in CT outside the Lottery, according to the original gaming pact. However, the Lottery, OTB, and other venues are also interested. Sports betting in Connecticut now on hold.
2. Massachusetts Casino Landscape in Disarray
Revenue of the Pilgrim state’s three casinos is far from expected goals. MGM International doesn’t know who to sue next? MGM Springfield has certainly been a disappointment from the state’s financial. point of view. It has been a great boost for the city of Springfield. However, CT casinos’ influence has affected MGM more than expected. To end the year, Plainridge Park Casino and MGM Springfield hit record lows.
While MGM Springfield continues to make improvements and changes to entice gamblers. CT’s casino loyalty and MGMS’s lack of bringing in the high-end Asian gambling market is a continuous concern. Encore’s opening with high table minimums, tight slots, expensive dining and hotel options drew criticism from many low and mid rollers from gamblers all over New England
Meanwhile, two Tribal casinos are still in limbo. For the past three years, the anti-casino Taunton residents have succeeded in court. The First Light Casino Project has been stopped for years leaving the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in tough shape financially. A current bill in Congress sponsored by US Representatives Keating and Kennedy would render the legal dispute moot. It would enable the federal government to take Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe lands into trust. Without this bill passed, the Mashpees will close programs, shutter their school, and lay off our governmental employees. [The Mashpees] will be “witnessing the dissolution of all that we have achieved since our federal recognition was restored in 2007,” according to tribal council Chairman Cedric Cromwell.
Finally, under the radar, the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe on Martha’s Vineyard still continue to slowly build their class II Bingo Hall. The “casino” will feature bingo-style gambling machines that have the look and feel of a slot machine. Under federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, the tribe does not require state or local licenses for the facility itself. Then U.S. District Court judge F. Dennis Saylor IV ruled that [the tribe] must seek local permits for its planned gambling facility on tribal lands. For more history of this little known New England casino project, click on: Martha’s Vineyard Aquinnah Tribe Casino Decision Reversed – 2 Years Later.
#1 Story of 2019 – Encore Boston Harbor Opens
On June 23, 2019, Encore Boston Harbor, the $2.6 billion hotel and casino on the Mystic River in Everett was open for business. Wynn Resorts was awarded the Boston area license eight years ago. Cathy Judd Stein, the chair of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, called the casino an “international entertainment destination.” Indeed, its opulent and luxurious surroundings inside and out were as expected. It would raise the phrase “casino resort” to a new level, but not without a few bumps along the way.
First, a long and expensive effort to clean up the badly contaminated site used by Monsanto and other chemical companies. Consequently, Wynn Resorts spent a whopping $68 million (more than double the original estimate of $30 million) to clean it up.
Steve Wynn, the casino visionary was the second bump. In 2018 a number of sexual misconduct allegations were made against Mr. Wynn, resulting in his departure from Wynn Resorts. Wynn Resorts changed the name of the resort to Encore Boston Harbor as part of an effort to distance itself from its founder.
Overview of EBH
This beautiful facility is an integrated resort with a hotel, a harborwalk, restaurants, a casino, spa, retail outlets, and meeting and convention space. Public amenities of the year-round harborwalk include a picnic park, paths for bikers and pedestrians, viewing decks, waterfront dining and retail, a performance lawn, floral displays, and boat docks. EBH has 27 floors with 671 rooms, and suites. With an average area of 650 square feet, Wynn Resorts claims the deluxe rooms have the “largest standard hotel room size in Boston.
Amenities and decor are straight out of Wynn’s Vegas properties. You will find a five-star spa, free parking (a change from $42 a day), and 15 bars and restaurants, including a buffet. The lobby features a 2,000-pound sculpture of Popeye by artist Jeff Koons, specifically for this location, as well as 40-foot casino ceilings with Red Rubino glass chandeliers in the casino. The two level, 210,000 sq/ft of gambling area include 3,100+ slot machines, 166 table games and 88 Poker tables, as well as private and high-limit gaming areas for the ultimate in secluded luxury and superior service.
EBH now needs to understand its clientele. It will be serving a broad span of low rollers to whales. The northeast needs more attention to lower price points and table minimums. In the mean time, it will be the Gem of New England for years to come.
The Year That Was
Atlantic City | Looking Back at 2019
New England Casinos – Other Stories
New England Casinos Looking Back at 2019
There were other events that spotted this exciting year. Here are more related New England Casinos Looking Back at 2019 posts:
- Hollywood Bangor Hasn’t Been Updated in Years
- Social Media and New England Casinos – By the Numbers
- MGM in talks with Wynn Resorts to buy Encore Boston Harbor
- MGM Springfield Continues Improvements – But More is Needed
- Charitable Gaming in New Hampshire and Vermont
- New England Casinos by the Numbers – A Numeric Assessment of Each Property
- 12 Poker Rooms in New Hampshire – an Update
- Aspire added to Mohegan Sun, a Hotel Within a Hotel
More MGM Springfield at TravelZork
MGM Springfield Casino VIP Lounge – A Competitive Inconsistency
MGM Springfield | Everything You Need to Know – “Industrial Chic”
[Details and Pics] MGM Springfield Casino Review and Trip Report
More To Come!
There’s more to cover – so much, that New England Casinos – New England Casinos Looking Back at 2019 will need a second part. We plan to cover our wish list for 2020, and what to look forward to in 2020.
Visiting New England’s Casinos?
Robin T. 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 featuring all that is Springfield, Massachusetts. as well as ZorkCast with Michael Trager. As founder of NETimeGambling.com, he has tried to provide a resource for recreational gamblers featuring New England’s expanding casino market events, gambling promotions and entertainment. As a professional musician for over 50 years, he has performed in some of New England’s best venues, namely Mohegan Sun’s Wolf Den, Foxwoods’ Atrium Lounge, and Twin River’s Lighthouse Bar & Lounge.
LINKS to New England Casinos
- Connecticut – Foxwoods Resort/Casino and Mohegan Sun Resort/Casino
- Rhode Island – Tiverton Casino Hotel and Twin River Hotel/Casino
- Massachusetts – Plainridge Park Casino & Raceway, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor
- Maine – Oxford Casino and Hollywood Bangor Hotel, Casino & Raceway.
“NETimeGambling” is a non-monetized blog created with my own personal interest and passion concerning the gambling industry. I love its history and its ongoing evolution and expansion. Add my love for New England, and you have this blog. Come share my passion and visit us.
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