New England Gaming

Gaming Bandwagon in New England – Jump Onboard! - By John Hendrie

Poor Vermont does not have a float in the parade, but the other New England states are in full regalia. Our early founders, those Puritans, must be shaking their heads. It is quite a tempest we have here. Maybe, Vermont can ply the waters of Lake Champlain with some gaming party boats or steam wheelers.

LRA Worldwide This just in from the State of Maine, courtesy of the AP. “The Maine Gambling Control Board said customers wagered more than $1.1 billion on slot machines last year at the state’s two casinos.” What a fine return from a state where the total population, per a 2013 US Census estimation, was 1,329,192. That is everyone – man, woman and child. Hardy folk up there, and the winters are long. The article continued, “In its first full year, customers at the Oxford Casino gambled $677 million on slot machines, taking away $619 million in wins and leaving close to $30 million for the house, after taxes. Bangor’s Hollywood Casino saw customers gamble $469 million at its slot machines, $100 million less than the year before. The Bangor Casino paid out $422 million”. In the political winds, the Legislature is considering the addition of one more slot parlor and up to three casinos. Who can blame them? But, who else will play – the moose?

Their neighbor next door, New Hampshire, wants to play, too. According to the Boston Globe, working through the state house and senate are several bills and proposals regarding gambling. The biggest disagreement seems to be on how the gold which will fall from the heavens will be used to pay for a variety of state infrastructure needs, education and economic development. Slicing that pie is always surgical (and political). The biggest argument for legalizing a casino is an old one: Governor Hassan “…argues New Hampshire should capture gambling profits that otherwise will be spent in Massachusetts casinos”.

The big enchilada, just South, is bustling right along, and whatever takes place will certainly impact its’ neighbors (New Hampshire, as well as Rhode Island and Connecticut). Just last week, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission approved the application for a Slot Parlor (1,250 slots) license to Penn National at Plainridge Race Course in Plainridge. According to The Republican, the racino could open as early as next spring, but a temporary parlor could be built within the next six months, pending the commission’s approval”. Why do I think there will be some type of temporary digs for slots by this summer – maybe a tent, some Quonset huts or perhaps used FEMA trailers?

The current competitive phase now considers a casino license in three distinct areas of the state. Out West, MGM Resorts International has the inside track for a facility in West Springfield (there are no other contenders – place your bets now). The Southeastern district is still in flux with no company slated for consideration. Foxwoods is looking at the New Bedford area (to cushion the drain from its’ Connecticut operation?) and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe continues its’ quest to open a preferential property. There are a few others in the mix, as well. Then, there is the “Plum” – the Boston area!

Here we have the battle of the Titans, where no matter who wins, the traffic in the area promises to be horrible forever. On one plot of prime real estate in Revere, there is the Mohigan Sun Casino proposed adjacent to the Suffolk Downs Race Track. On a nearby isthmus in Everett, we have a destination concept by Wynn Resorts. Big players, big plans, big payoffs for the host communities. Thus far, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has comported itself well with a studied and consistent approach. Now, we are nearing the big show and a meaty decision.

New England always had its beaches, mountains and traditions like the “Leafer Season”. Now, we can add another – your multi-stop Gaming Destination (start those buses, warm up the Winnebago!).

The cachet of “Vermont” continues to shine brightly and independently, perhaps not by choice. You can still picture a slot machine or two on the ferries which criss-cross Lake Champlain, for everyone wants to get into the act, looking for that slice of lucre!

LRA LogoJohn Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog 'A Guy Walks In'. LRA is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability. We have built a range of quality assurance, mystery shopping, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so.

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