Massachusetts gamblers' spending climbs 6 percent in 2011

Massachusetts residents spent nearly $909 million at New England's gambling halls last year, including more than $624 million at Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, according to an annual survey.

Bay Staters' spending at the Connecticut casinos - on both gaming and non-gaming amenities - was up 1.7 percent over the previous year, data released Wednesday by UMass Dartmouth's Center for Policy Analysis show. Bay Staters accounted for 32 percent of Foxwoods' clientele and 20 percent of Mohegan Sun's.

Massachusetts residents' 2011 spending at the Connecticut casinos and at the two Rhode Island slots parlors and the one in Bangor, Maine, was up 6 percent over 2010, the largest year-over-year increase in spending by residents of any New England state. Such out-of-state spending was cited as a key factor in the Bay State legislature's approval last year of a law authorizing up to three casinos and a single slots parlor in Massachusetts.

Mohegan Sun is expected to vie for the one casino license the state will award for western Massachusetts.

The survey also found that for the first time Massachusetts residents "out-visited and out-spent" Rhode Islanders at Rhode Island's slots parlors, Twin River in Lincoln and Newport Grand in Newport. They spent about $284 million at the two facilities.

Rhode Island voters will decide this fall whether Twin River and Newport Grand should be allowed to introduce such table games as blackjack, poker and roulette.

According to the report, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun experienced their fifth consecutive year-over-year declines in gross gaming revenues, with Foxwoods' total falling 1.7 percent and Mohegan Sun's 1 percent. The casinos' gaming revenues "appear to be on the verge of stabilizing in 2012," the report says.

"Gambling expenditures are slowly recovering, particularly among the residents of states with unemployment rates below the national average," Clyde Barrow, director of the Center for Policy Analysis, said in a press release announcing the survey's release. "With unemployment continuing to decline, private payrolls growing, and home prices stabilizing, it is likely that 2012 will mark the beginning of a recovery in the region's gaming market."

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