State’s casinos competing with themselves in new venture
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A casino proposed in a joint venture between the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino will take customers away from their own Connecticut businesses, an operator of one of the tribal casinos said Monday.
But it’s preferable to losing business to Massachusetts, said Robert Soper, head of the parent company of the Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
“There is going to be cannibalization but we feel very confident that with the right sized investment and the right program it’s going to be very successful,” he said. “We would rather be our own competitor and keep those benefits, keep those jobs here in Connecticut than have Massachusetts be the competitor for all those visits coming from Connecticut.”
Casino operator MGM is building an $800 million resort casino in Springfield, Massachusetts. With other casinos set to open in the region in the next several years, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods say nearly $703 million in gambling and non-gambling revenue could leave Connecticut and head to Massachusetts and New York City by 2019, costing up to 9,300 jobs.
Felix Rappaport, president and chief executive of Foxwoods, said the casinos will change their business model, shifting to entertainment, hotels and restaurants to find new ways to draw visitors.
“We’re really in the entertainment business. We’re not just in the gaming business,” he said.
Legislation working its way in the General Assembly would authorize up to three scaled-back casinos operated by Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods to keep gamblers in Connecticut.
Soper, Rappaport, Mohegan Tribal Council Chairman Kevin Brown and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council Chairman Rodney Butler spoke at a forum of Metro Harford Alliance, the capital region’s economic development organization. The rare joint appearance mirrored the tribes’ unusually public alliance to push state legislation authorizing up to three casinos to compete with Massachusetts.
A Connecticut site has not yet been set, officials said. But the casino is expected to obtain financing because it will meet demand, Brown said. The Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods have struggled in recent years with debt, the recession and weak recovery that followed and falling revenue.
“This is not a stop-gap, last-gasp measure,” he said. “This is simply a recognition of the industry competition and where demand exists.”
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