Changes in the air at the New England Gaming Summit
The New England Gaming Summit was held at Foxwoods Resort Casino on November 14-15. The focus was the potential for new gaming throughout the region and its impact on existing business. The timing of the conference couldn’t have been better, as a bill that provides for three new casinos in Massachusetts, one of which may be licensed to a federally recognized tribe if a compact can be negotiated in eight months time, and one slot parlor, was sent to Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk for signature on Nov. 15.
The Summit featured speakers from various perspectives across the industry. A sampling of their comments follows:
Cedric Cromwell, chairman, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, which is favored to win the tribal casino license and still has to get federal approval to bring land into trust as it does not have a reservation: “The compact has to be negotiated by July 31, 2012. That doesn’t mean we have to have land into trust by then. We’re very confident that we will be able to bring land into trust under an equal footing exception. We look at the Cowlitz tribe which had their initial reservation taken into trust by the Department of Interior, and the Tunica-Biloxi tribe just recently had land taken into trust as well. Our concern is frivolous lawsuits and the uncertainty that has been created by the Carcieri vs. Salazar case.”
Rodney Butler, chairman, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, on what the competitive response from Foxwoods might include: “One of the things we’ll emphasize is the non-gaming aspects of our property. We have the premiere conference facility in New England here and one of the best in the nation. There’s bowling, comedy shows, and all the other aspects of entertainment that the more regional facilities aren’t going to be able to compete with. We’ll also focus on right-sizing and restructuring our debt.”
Dennis M. Farrell Jr., managing director high yield gaming, lodging & leisure research, Wells Fargo Securities, on the prospects for more gaming in the region: “The northeast is now the most competitive environment in the country. Massachusetts is elevating the stakes and it’s just a matter of time before other jurisdictions in the region increase their offerings. Table games will eventually come to New York and Rhode Island. It’s just a matter of time before New Hampshire legalizes casino gaming. Once states get addicted to gaming tax revenue, it’s very hard to walk away from it.”
Chad Beynon, securities gaming analyst, Macquarie, on the Connecticut market: “The silver lining is that the upper tier and the non-gaming segments have come back in the industry the last two quarters. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an improvement in the food-and-beverage, retail and convention businesses here at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. We’ve seen that in Las Vegas the past two quarters and at Borgata. While I’m cautious about the market because of increased competition, I think these properties offer something that will drive a significant amount of non-gaming business that they will be able to push down to the bottom line.”