Report: First Mass. casino 'recaptured' $100M in out-of-state spending in 1st year

Most of the money spent at Massachusetts’ first casino in its first full year of operation came from Massachusetts residents who otherwise would have patronized out-of-state casinos, according to a new report.

From July 2015 through June 2016, Plainridge Park Casino, a slots-only facility in Plainville, which borders Rhode Island, took in $172.5 million in gambling and non-gambling revenue, the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute found. Of that total, $100 million, or 58 percent, “was spent by Massachusetts residents who, in the absence of PPC, would have spent their money gambling at an out-of-state casino,” the report says.

The institute, an arm of the UMass President’s Office, delivered its report Thursday at a meeting of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

“From a policy standpoint,” the report says, “the significance of these ‘recaptured’ patrons is that it is essentially ‘new’ money to the Commonwealth since these patrons would have otherwise spent their money in another state.”

Rod Motamedi, one of the report’s authors, said the research did not seek to determine which out-of-state casinos the Massachusetts residents who patronized Plainridge Park otherwise would have frequented.

“We did not ask them how they would have apportioned their money,” Motamedi said. “We don’t think people would have answered that question.”

He said his “gut” tells him that most would have gone to Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I., which is about 18 miles from Plainville, rather than to southeastern Connecticut’s resort casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, which are about 65 and 75 miles away, respectively.

“The literature seems to suggest that folks intent on playing slots tend to go to the closest casino,” Motamedi said.

He said the Connecticut casinos’ “bigger worry” is the resort casino being built in Springfield, Mass. The Indian tribes that own Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun plan to develop a casino in East Windsor to lessen the Springfield facility’s impact.

Twin River, formerly a slots-only facility, added table games and poker in anticipation of competition from Massachusetts.

The UMass study also found that $36.6 million was spent in Plainridge Park's first year by Massachusetts residents who otherwise would have spent their money elsewhere in Massachusetts. That amount, slightly more than a fifth of the total spent at Plainridge Park, represents a negative economic impact elsewhere in the state, the report notes.

The remaining $36 million spent at Plainridge Park came from out-of-state residents.

“The principal motivation for the legislature in crafting the Gaming Law was to recapture the approximately one billion (dollars) spent annually by Massachusetts residents at out-of-state casinos,” Stephen Crosby, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission chairman, said in a statement. “This report demonstrates emphatically that we are in the process of accomplishing that important objective.”

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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