Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun could join forces to build a third Connecticut casino resort, one that would be designed specifically to prevent gamblers from traveling up to one of the two new planned casinos in Massachusetts being built by Wynn Resorts and the MGM.
According to tribal authorities for Mohegan Sun, the two rival casinos could jointly operate a project, if lawmakers agree to allow them to build a new venue.
“We have the exclusive right,” said Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority CEO Mitchell Etess, speaking to The Day of New London about the rights granted to Connecticut tribes through state gaming compacts.
“It’s very easy to foresee some type of legislative solution that would be owned by the tribes – that would maintain revenue for the state of Connecticut,”he added.
Connecticut Collects Tax Revenues from Slots
The plan to expand gambling in Connecticut isn’t entirely new, as there have been previous proposals to build casinos in locations such as Danbury (a small city near the New York state line) in the last decade. This new effort may receive more considerations, however, due to fears that coming casinos from MGM in Springfield and Wynn Resorts in Everett could convince Connecticut gamblers to take a short drive to Massachusetts, ultimately costing the state significant tax revenues.
Those revenues have already taken a hit over the past seven years. Like Atlantic City, the existing Connecticut casinos have suffered from increased competition throughout the northeastern United States, as well as the 2008 recession and weakened consumer spending. The state collects 25 percent of all slots winnings: in 2007, that amounted to $430.5 million, while in the most recent budget year ending in June, it was down to $279.9 million.
Regional Competition Becoming Fierce
That competition will only get worse with both Massachusetts and New York planning to build casinos that would be accessible to many Connecticut residents. But Etess says that a new casino could help offset those losses. For instance, he says that a gambling hall in the area between Windsor Locks and Enfield, near Bradley International Airport, would stop a lot of Connecticut gamblers from traveling to the forthcoming Springfield casino.
“I could envision something that would do very nicely up there,” said Etess.
Not Everyone On Board
Not everyone is convinced, or at least willing to jump into the idea of building new casinos so quickly. State Representative Stephen Dargan (D-West Haven) said that an agreement was possible, but that it might be difficult to convince lawmakers that a new casino is the best way to improve falling revenues at the venues that already exist.
“It’s always an uphill battle when you want to expand gaming to offset revenue losses,” Dargan said.
Other state politicians have questioned whether another casino is a good move for Connecticut residents. State Senator Andrea Stillman (D-Waterford) wants the state to figure out what kind of effect the existing casinos or any new ones would have on residents.
“The state of Connecticut has a history of not wanting to measure those impacts, and I say that because it’s taken so long for the state to authorize a study,” Stillman said.
Both Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods failed in efforts to gain a casino license in Massachusetts. Mohegan first lost a community vote on a proposed casino in Palmer before its partnership with Suffolk Downs lost out for the Greater Boston license to a Wynn Resorts project. Meanwhile, Foxwoods was rejected by voters in Milford, and has since looked at the possibility of building in southeastern Massachusetts instead.