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Inside Gaming: New England Readies for MGM Springfield Open Next Week

MGM Springfield (artist's rendering)
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  • MGM Springfield opens next week, providing serious competition to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.

  • MGM Springfield to open next week; West Virginia in line to be next state to offer sports betting.

This week's Inside Gaming starts with the impending opening of MGM Springfield and its anticipated impact on surrounding casinos, tells of another state ready to jump into the sports betting game, and reports on a New York woman winning her second huge jackpot this year.

MGM Springfield Opening Will Provide Challenge to Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun

We've been reporting off and on over the past several years regarding the negotiations and planning for a major new casino in Massachusetts. The day is finally (almost) here, as the $960 million MGM Springfield resort casino is at last set to open next Friday, August 24 at 11 a.m.

With the entire complex covering 2 million square feet, MGM Springfield will feature a 125,000-square-feet of gaming space including 2,550 slot machines and 120 tables.

Other amenities will include an eight-screen movie theater, a 10-lane bowling alley, an 8,000-square-foot pool, a spa, a TopGolf Swing Suite with a three-simulator lounge, and a skating rink. There is also the 8,000-seat MassMutual Center to host concerts and other events, with Stevie Wonder among the first scheduled to perform there on September 1.

Owned and operated by MGM Resorts International, the new casino will not only challenge for business among gamblers living in Massachusetts, but also "has its eye squarely on Connecticut — especially the Hartford area — and the state's two gambling meccas, Foxwoods Resorts Casino and Mohegan Sun," reports the Hartford Courant.

Connecticut benefits from keeping a 25 percent cut of slot revenues, the Courant explains, but has already found that bounty to have lessened thanks to increasing competition from other casinos in the New England area and New York. After peaking at $430 million during 2006-07, those Connecticut slot revenues were down to $274 million for the most recent fiscal year that ended on June 30.

"The state expects further erosion this year, estimating the state's take of slot revenue to be about $204 million," says the Hartford Courant.

"MGM, by definition, is a formidable brand and a formidable operator and competitor," commented Michael Pollack, managing director of the Spectrum Gaming Group and a gaming consultant. Pollack also referenced how MGM "will leverage to the hilt" its successful MLife loyalty program to attract customers — "a powerful opener," he says.

Pollack also spoke to the strengths of Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun as competitors, athough Colin A. Mansfield, a gaming analyst for Fitch Ratings, underscored how "this is going to be a negative event" for the two casinos, "more so for Foxwoods because they don't have as many levers to pull and the margin of error on the financial side is much slimmer."

Anticipating the competition, the Mashantucket Pequots (who operate Foxwoods) and the Mohegans (operators of Mohegan Sun) partnered up to create a plan for a new casino in East Windsor in the northern part of the state. While lawmakers did approve the plan, the tribes have yet to gain permission from the state's regulators to proceed with the third casino.

Meanwhile MGM Springfield's preparations hurtled forward, and in April of this year the August 24 opening date was announced, a month earlier than the original schedule.

MGM is expecting to draw about five to six million visitors per year (including repeat visitors), most of whom "are expected to come from a 75-mile radius around Springfield and within a 90-minute drive" — i.e., including the northern part of Connecticut.

Elsewhere in Massachusetts, construction continues on Encore Boston Harbor (formerly known as Wynn Boston Harbor), with a current plan to open in July 2019. A request last month to the Mass Gaming Commission to allow a third casino in the southeastern part of the state in Brockton will not be considered until after MGM Springfield opens.

West Virginia Looks to Become Next State to Offer Sports Betting

First there was Delaware, then New Jersey and most recently Mississippi to join Nevada as states offering sports betting following the United States Supreme Court decision in May lifting the federal prohibition on states being able to offer sports betting. Now West Virginia appears in position to join the fun as well, and just in time for football season.

According to CDC Gaming Reports, Penn National Gaming and William Hill US announced today they will be offering sports betting starting September 1 at Penn National's Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.

A sportsbook is currently being developed near the Hollywood Casino's Skybox Sports Bar where they are "installing new walls and adding dozens of televisions for customers to watch the games."

"This region is a hotbed of both professional sports and college athletics," commented Hollywood Casino General Manager Scott Saunders. "We look forward to becoming a destination for fans in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC."

Adding West Virginia means William Hill US will have sportsbooks operating in each of the states that currently allow sports betting.

Woman Hits Second Seven-Figure Jackpot in Five Months at New York Casino

Finally, we all wish we could be as lucky as a woman from Westchester, New York.

Last weekend she won a $1,469,368.28 jackpot at the Empire City Casino in Yonkers. That's just five months after the same woman — identified only as Theresa P. — won a record-breaking $2,919,162.81 jackpot at the same casino back in March!

Both times the woman was playing a Wheel of Fortune Triple Stars slot machine, reports The New York Post. On August 12 she made the maximum $10 bet on the $5 machine when she won her second jackpot.

Unsurprisingly, Theresa P. describes the Wheel of Fortune as her "go-to machine."

According to the Post, more than 8 million visitors per year play the Empire City Casino's 5,300 slots and electronic table games.

Image: MGM Springfield.

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