East Windsor Casino Called a Glorified Slots Parlor by Mayor
A Manhattan judge recently dismissed a lawsuit filed by MGM Resorts against the State of Connecticut. The lawsuit involved the licensing of a tribal casino in the Hartford suburb of East Windsor. The Manhattan court’s ruling prompted the mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts to criticize the process which led to the lawsuit.
Domenic Sarno, the Springfield mayor, called the Hartford area casino that Connecticut’s legislature approved recently a “glorified slots parlor“. Sarno compared his city’s casino to a potential development 30 miles away, the MMCT casino, across the border in Connecticut.
East Windsor Casino: “Glorified Slots Parlor”
The so-called glorified slots parlor is a joint venture of the Mohegan Tribe and Mashantucket Pequot Tribe. The two tribes own Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casino, respectively. Together, they’re building a satellite casino in the Hartford suburb of East Windsor to compete with the MGM Springfield. The East Hartford casino is much smaller than the main tribal casinos in Connecticut, but it is in close proximity to the MGM Springfield.
MGM Springfield is MGM Resorts’ $950 million integrated casino-resort in the South End of Springfield, Massachusetts. When opened, the casino will be the centerpiece of an urban renewal effort. The development will be the hub for retail shopping, restaurants, and clubs. To secure its license, MGM Resorts International pledged to become a patron of arts festivals and cultural events in Springfield.
Thus, it is no surprise that Domenic Sarno praised the Las Vegas casino company. In his comments, Sarno said, “MGM Resorts International is a world-renowned company.”
Domenic Serno on MGM Resorts Lawsuit
The mayor suggested the Manhattan lawsuit against Connecticut was an unneeded distraction. MGM Resorts filed the lawsuit, claiming Connecticut officials rejected their plans for a Bridgeport casino offhand. The Connecticut legislature favored the state’s tribal gaming interests, the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot (Foxwoods) tribes, instead.
Serno seemed to welcome the dismissal of the lawsuit. The mayor said, “While I appreciate their continued belief and investment in our Springfield, simply put, their and my focus should and will be on what we can direct and control — continuing to put a first class resort establishment in Springfield.”
MGM Resorts and some Hartford-area residents criticized the Connecticut State Legislature for not holding an opening casino licensing process. They believed competition in the casino licensing process would have produced a better deal for the community. Additional license applicants lead to bigger projects, more tax revenues, and more jobs.
That criticism overlooks the main purpose for Connecticut’s lawmakers. Officials wanted to build a firewall to keep in-state gamblers in-and-around Hartford from traveling 30 miles down the road to gamble at the MGM Springfield. MGM Springfield is much closer than the state’s traditional gaming enclaves, Foxwoods Casino and Mohegan Sun. After 25 years of luring Massachusetts gamblers to those two resorts, Connecticut’s leaders did not want the tables to be turned.
The Springfield mayor also missed the point in his comments, whether intentionally or unintentionally. In his public comments, Serno said, “This in itself will quell any potential competition of a glorified slots parlor in a neighboring state.” Serno seemed to indicate the East Windsor casino was designed to compete against MGM Springfield, but that is only true of the northwestern Connecticut.
Casino Border Wars
The East Windsor casino is a response the MGM Springfield, no doubt. It also is a further example of the fragmentation of the brick-and-mortar casino industry in the American northeast. Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, Massachusetts and the Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island provide a good example of fragmentation. In the case of Plainridge, its placement of land-based casinos was a defensive measure more than an aggressive one.
When Twin Rivers Casino opened a slots parlor, Plainridge lobbied the Massachusetts legislature to give it slots gaming. The idea was to keep customers from going to a slots parlor only 23 miles away. Thus, gambling expansion in New England was a case of retaining customers in-state, as opposed to drawing interstate gamblers.
Serno’s remarks also overlook one other factor. MGM Resorts launched its lawsuit against Connecticut’s casino licensing process as a stalling tactic. The Las Vegas casino company had to know the lawsuit might be tossed, but it provided a stumbling block to development.
If the East Windsor Casino opens before MGM Springfield, it could retain the business of local residents. Otherwise, they might visit the sprawling complex in Springfield and like it. If the lawsuit slows down the building process even by a few months, the cost in legal fees are worth the additional casino revenues.
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