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Foxwoods has room to experiment with age-specific gaming space

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Mashantucket — Every mention of Foxwoods Resort Casino’s latest innovation — a slots room that caters to the 55-and-older crowd — has noted that it’s the first of its kind.

No casino’s ever tried this before.

Now, amid a pandemic that’s especially dangerous for older people and with open space at a premium, the time may be right. And Foxwoods, with six casinos (gaming areas) encompassing 300,000 square feet of gaming space, is just the place to find out. Reserving one of its casinos for mature audiences — on weekends — is worth a try.

“Very few facilities could do this,” said Jason Guyot, Foxwoods’ interim chief executive officer and senior vice president for resort operations. “It’s an experiment. We’ll see how it goes in November. If it does well, we’ll extend it, or bring it back in the spring.”

Foxwoods’ 55+ casino, introduced Nov. 6, runs from 10 a.m. to midnight on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the Rainmaker Casino opposite the Hard Rock Café.

“I love it,” said Patricia Mayes, of Narragansett, R.I., who was sitting at a Rainmaker slot machine this past Friday evening. “It’s calmer, it’s older people, and I love the machines in here.”

Mayes said there hasn’t been a whole lot to do in Rhode Island since COVID-19 broke out, and that she’s been gambling two or three times a week since June, mostly at Foxwoods. Over time, she’s gambled at Mohegan Sun, too, on cruise ships and in Florida, to which she typically migrates about this time of year.

If Foxwoods extends its 55+ casino, she might stick around.

“I’ll be here every weekend,” Mayes said. “I’m definitely a senior. If they want to call it 55-plus to be politically correct, all right. ... In Florida, they’re smoking (in casinos) and not wearing masks. Florida’s nuts.”

Arthur Langlais, a Richmond, R.I., man who was playing the Rainmaker slots Friday with his wife, Dianne, gave the 55+ casino high marks.

“I think it’s a great idea. It’s not as crowded,” he said. “We come to Foxwoods a lot. We were just here last night. We came last weekend and liked it (the 55+ casino). With this coronavirus thing, I like that there’s no smoking in the whole building. I think they’ll find they make more money without smoking after this whole thing settles.”

Since reopening after a coronavirus-induced shutdown, Foxwoods has separated smoking areas from gaming floors.

Gary LeClerc of Danielson and Gail Beausoleil of Putnam also visited the Rainmaker on Friday, and said they were hoping it wouldn’t get too busy. John Brown, 83, who said he’s been traveling to Foxwoods from his home in Bloomfield since the casino opened in 1992, saw a TV ad for the 55+ casino and had to check it out.

A Malden, Mass., man in his 80s who declined to give his name, said he appreciated that Foxwoods was catering to his age group. He said the Rainmaker slots were “a lot looser” than the ones in Everett, Mass., home of Wynn Resorts’ Encore Boston Harbor casino.

None of the Rainmaker patrons approached Friday were aware or seemed particularly interested to learn that a disc jockey would be spinning tunes from the 1980s between 8 p.m. and midnight, or that ’80s-themed prizes like Rubik’s cubes, leg warmers and fanny packs as well as overnight stays at Foxwoods would be given away from 6 to 8 p.m. More important, they said, were the safety protocols Foxwoods has been emphasizing since its reopening.

The Rainmaker features about 500 slot machines arrayed in well-spaced banks in two areas separated by a collection of idle table games.

Guyot said Foxwoods is operating a total of about 2,200 slots these days. In 2008, the number peaked at more than 8,000. Before the pandemic, slot-machine revenues accounted for about 65% of Foxwoods' gaming revenues, which represented more than 70% of the casino's total revenues.

Foxwoods is expected to report Monday that it kept $26.1 million in slots revenue in October, a 24% decline over the amount it "won" the same month a year earlier. It sustained year-over-year declines of similar magnitude in August and September.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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