Casino development the latest arena for old rivals
As a long-time resident of New York City who was born and raised in a small town outside of Boston, I have had a catbird’s seat for the age-old rivalry between these two neighboring, but culturally distinct, areas of the country.
The most notable outward sign of this animosity occurs in the sports arena, primarily in Major League Baseball, where the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have been rather testily competing against each other for decades. The contests are no less heated in other major sports such as pro football (New England Patriots vs New York Jets), basketball (Boston Celtics vs New York Knicks) and hockey (Boston Bruins vs New York Rangers). At some point one of these regional teams has dominated the other, and the fans of that team hold it over the loser any way they can.
This regional rivalry extends beyond sports however, and into areas such as education (Harvard vs Columbia), the arts (The Met vs The BFA), food (New England vs. Manhattan clam chowder)—just about any topic you care to explore. Soon, there will be another point comparison and contest between the two regions: large-scale commercial casino resort development.
So far, this contest has been rather one-sided since casinos of any kind were illegal in Massachusetts. But with casino legalization finally passing its last electoral hurdle in November, the Bay State is set to be home to four resort casinos, three of which have already been licensed. The first, scheduled to open in 2015, will be Plainridge Park Casino, a Penn National project in the central Massachusetts community of Plainville that will house 1,250 slots and a pari-mutuel wagering facility. The other two projects are of a much grander scale. The Massachusetts city of Springfield will be the location for MGM Resorts International’s MGM Springfield, an $800 million mixed-use development project that includes a 25-story, 250-room hotel, 125,000 square feet of gaming space with 3,000 slot machines and 75 gaming tables. The Boston-area town of Everett will be home ground to a $1.6 billion Wynn Resorts development that features a 550-room hotel tower and a casino with 3,242 slot machines and 168 table games.
Meanwhile, New York is already home to a thriving tribal and racino gaming marketplace, anchored by two very successful New York City area operations—Empire City Casino in Yonkers and Resorts World New York in Queens. This gaming lineup will soon be augmented however, thanks to the recent decision by the New York legislature to award three additional commercial casino licenses in the state. Last month, these license were given to The Montreign Resort Casino, a $630 million project that will be developed by Empire Resorts in the Catskills community of Monticello; The Rivers Casino, a $300 million resort to be built in city of Schenectady by Rush Street Gaming and the Galesi Group; and Lago Resort & Casino, a $435 million development earmarked for the Finger Lakes community of Tyre, which will be built by Wilmorite, a local developer.
So, who will come out on top in this latest Boston/New York contest? Short-term, the edge probably goes to New York, whose more modest developments can be constructed and opened in a quicker time frame. Analyst firm Fitch Rating is especially high on Montreign, and believe the property can generate $301 million in yearly revenues. Long-term, it’s likely the edge will go to the new Massachusetts properties, in part because there is less internal competition for the casino gaming customer.
Still, it will be interesting to see how the situation unfolds. Given the transient, less-than-loyal nature of the modern casino customer, I doubt the rhythmic cry that Boston or New York casinos “suck” will be chanted anytime during the process.