Is a joint tribal casino on the Massachusetts border possible?
Might the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes collaborate on a casino project in northern Connecticut?
The idea’s not so far-fetched. And if it’s to happen, it could happen fast — before casinos proposed in Massachusetts materialize in 2017 or 2018.
So says Mitchell Etess, chief executive officer of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which operates Mohegan Sun in Uncasville.
“We have the exclusive right,” Etess said Tuesday, referring to the tribes’ gaming compacts with the state, which would have to be amended to accommodate expanded gambling. “It’s very easy to foresee some type of legislative solution that would be owned by the tribes — that would maintain revenue for the state of Connecticut.”
Casinos licensed for Springfield and Boston — and a third one that could be licensed for southeastern Massachusetts — are expected to have a devastating impact on revenues at Connecticut’s already-struggling casinos, Mohegan Sun and the Mashantucket-owned Foxwoods Resort Casino.
New state revenue projections show the Connecticut casinos’ payments to the state will fall to $190.8 million in the 2017-18 fiscal year, just 44 percent of the $430.5 million they totaled at their peak in 2006-07. According to the projections, arrived at by the Office of Policy and Management and the Office of Fiscal Analysis, the casino payments will plummet by 25 percent in a single year, from 2016-17 to 2017-18.
The payments represent 25 percent of the casinos’ monthly slot-machine “win,” the amount of wagers the casinos keep after paying out prizes.
“We could do something to stop revenue from leaving the state,” Etess said. “There’s no doubt that putting something up between Bradley (the airport in Windsor Locks) and Hartford — or Enfield — would cut off most of that business going to MGM (in Springfield). It wouldn’t be a mega-facility … I could envision something that would do very nicely up there.”
Both tribes would have to work together with the state to get something done, Etess said.
“It could be done relatively quickly,” he said. “We could get something up before MGM even opens.”
The idea of a third Connecticut casino apparently was sparked by Deputy House Speaker Peggy Sayers, D-Windsor Locks, an expanded-gambling advocate who said last week the state should take bold action to protect its gaming industry. Kevin Brown, the Mohegans’ tribal chairman, told the New Haven Register that the tribe would welcome the opportunity to talk to state officials.
“We’re facing significant and direct competition for our market share in Connecticut,” Brown told the paper. “I served in the Army and one of the things you do when faced with an attack is you dig in and protect your position.”
Attempts to reach Rodney Butler, the Mashantucket chairman, were unsuccessful. Sayers, who last year led a legislative task force that explored allowing video slot machines at the state’s pari-mutuel facilities in Windsor Locks, Bridgeport and New Haven, also could not be reached.
A spokesman for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said no plans for a third casino in the state have been brought to the governor. “This is not something we have previously considered,” said Andrew Doba, director of communications.
Gaming revenues have been declining for years at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, both of which unsuccessfully pursued Massachusetts casino licenses. Foxwoods, which completed a restructuring of $2.3 billion in debt in 2013, has defaulted on the terms of that restructuring.
On Monday, Foxwoods management informed the union representing the casino’s dealers that it will eliminate more than 80 positions.
In a memo distributed to members of Local 2121 of the United Auto Workers, the union says management will cut 62 table-games positions and 22 poker positions in the third round of downsizing to hit the union this year. No timetable for the impending layoffs was given.
Foxwoods eliminated some 70 dealers’ positions in the spring, a few months after laying off about 125 dealers. The impending layoffs are related to further changes in Foxwoods’ Rainmaker Casino area, according to the memo.
As of June, slot machines and some table games in Rainmaker Casino have been closed on weekdays.
Foxwoods has announced that it will redevelop a portion of the Rainmaker Casino beginning Nov. 21. During a transition phase, some Rainmaker areas will remain open, including a newly created nonsmoking slots area consisting of about 500 slot machines, as well as Asian and domestic table games, racebook, poker room, tournament poker tables and tournament slot machines.
The 62 table-games positions to be eliminated include 12 dual-rates — dealers who serve at times in supervisory roles — 35 full-time dealers and 15 part-time dealers. In the poker department, two dual rates and 20 full-time dealers’ positions will be cut.
Management will offer severance packages to volunteers before imposing involuntary layoffs.
In millions, the combined payments Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods are projected to make to the state in coming fiscal years:
FY 2014: $279.9 (actual)
FY 2015: $267.5
FY 2016: $260.7
FY 2017: $254.3
FY 2018: $190.8
Source: Office of Policy and Management, Office of Fiscal Analysis