In the US casino gambling was once the sole preserve of the state of Nevada. But other US states eventually got wise to the fact that awarding casino licences could bring extra revenues to state coffers. New Jersey was the first of these states to issue new casino licences back in 1976. But the growing competition on the East Coast and the new casino openings has hurt New Jersey and resulted in resort closures and layoffs during recent years.
But despite the apparent saturation of the US casino market, all six states in New England seem determined to introduce yet more casino gambling. Apart from commercial casino venues, many states also have Native American casinos.
Massachusetts opted for three casinos back in 2011, but initially awarded licences for only two venues in 2014. The applicants for the third casino licence, in the southeast region, were given a 10 July 2015 deadline for completing all phases of the application process. MGM said it expected to build its US$800m casino in Springfield by late 2017, while Wynn Resorts experienced a permit setback for its US$1.7bn casino in Everett, which may postpone the planned opening date to 2018.
Meanwhile, Penn National announced the opening of its slot-only parlour in Plainville on 24 June 2015, while the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe are seeking to operate a casino and a bingo parlour on tribal lands, which is being disputed in Federal Court. It remains to be seen whether these venues will siphon off revenue from the other casinos, once they are operational.
Connecticut is home to two Native American casino resorts operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe. Both tribes have been experiencing decreasing revenues of late, largely due to increased competition from neighbouring states. In response to the announcements of even more casino venue openings out-of-state, state lawmakers drafted a bill to allow both tribes to operate up to three new casinos on non-tribal lands. The bill passed two legislative committees and is expected to be presented to the full state Senate.
The only casino in Rhode Island is the Twin River Casino, which was a slot-only racino until June 2013. Twin River is in the process of acquiring the state’s other slot-only racino, the Newport Grand, and adding a hotel to its casino venue, aimed at offsetting growing competition from the aforementioned slots parlour in Plainville, Massachusetts, which will be located merely 12 miles from Twin River. The acquisition is to be completed before 30 June 2015. Twin River also proposed to move the Newport Grand’s video lottery terminals to Tiverton, and add 30 to 40 table games to the new venue, pending voter approval during the November 2016 general elections. A casino in Tiverton would compete with the new south-east casino in Massachusetts.
Lawmakers in New Hampshire have been drafting many bills to introduce casino gambling to the state since 2010, but to no avail, as the bills stalled time after time in the House of Representatives, despite having cleared the state Senate. This year was no different, when at the end of April the House rejected a bill that proposed to establish two casinos.
Over in Maine, a report commissioned by the Legislature appeared in September 2014 and suggested adding two casinos – a bigger one in southern Maine and a smaller one in Aroostook or Washington Counties. Several months later, bills proposing new casinos started to surface in the Legislature. There is a bill that would add two casinos, in accordance with the report’s findings, but the Governor Paul LePage is against it, being convinced that a large casino would cannibalise the two existing casinos. There is also a bill that would allow the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians to operate a casino on tribal lands in Aroostook County. As mentioned, the state already has two casino establishments – Hollywood Casino that started as a slot-only racino and added table games in 2012 and Oxford Casino, opened also in 2012 as a full casino with live gaming. It is expected that the existing casinos would oppose any expanded gambling in the state. Maine citizens previously turned down three casino proposals out of five. Voters turned down: (1) a casino proposal by the Passamaquoddy and the Penobscot Nation, (2) a casino in Lewiston and (3) the racino in Biddeford in 2011.
In January 2015 Vermont’s Representative Ronald E. Hubert proposed a bill that would create a casino. This is the seventh consecutive proposal by the Representative introduced in each session. This year’s bill is essentially the same as previous ones, with the exception that it proposes to channel casino revenue to the benefit of senior citizens.
Overall, 12 casinos and a slot parlour are being proposed for New England, while only two casinos and one slot-only parlour were licensed and are being built in Massachusetts. Other proposed casino bills have yet to pass legislative and other hurdles, while some were scrapped soon after proposal. Additionally, neighbouring New York plans up to four casino venues upstate.
There could be a lot of expansion of casino gaming supply in the New England region in the coming years. If the region’s demand for gaming does not match the new supply, it could be an expensive investment. Operators are betting it will be worth it.