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Report: Future of local casinos in Mass. gamblers' hands

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: The Day

Published July 14. 2013 4:00AM   Updated July 14. 2013 3:51PM

A new study of New England gaming illustrates once again the extent to which the casinos in southeastern Connecticut and Rhode Island depend on Massachusetts customers.

In 2012, the study found, Bay Staters spent $554.4 million at Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, an 11.1 percent decrease over 2011. They accounted for 32 percent of Foxwoods' visits and 19 percent of Mohegan Sun's, and their spending generated $76.5 million in tax revenue for the state.

Massachusetts residents continued to out-visit and out-spend Rhode Islanders at Twin River in Lincoln, R.I., accounting for more than 51 percent of visits to the casino and spending more than $271 million on gaming, bars and restaurants and entertainment, according to the study, which the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is releasing today.

Rhode Islanders accounted for 46 percent of Twin River's visits, spending $241 million.

For years, such numbers have portended doom for the Connecticut and Rhode Island facilities since many believed it was only a matter of time before casino-free Massachusetts entered the increasingly competitive gaming fray.

In late 2011, Massachusetts lawmakers authorized three resort casinos and a slots parlor, and the state's gaming regulators are expected to award licenses for the facilities over the next several months.

Clyde Barrow, the policy center's director, said the Massachusetts facilities will have a profound impact on the casinos in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

"Where the Commonwealth ultimately sites three casinos and the slot parlor will determine whether Massachusetts is able to reassert dominance over New England's gaming, entertainment and tourism sectors by stemming the flow of Massachusetts spending into Connecticut and Rhode Island …," Barrow said in a statement, adding that Bay State casinos could capture additional spending from northern New England, Canada and elsewhere.

Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are among the casino operators competing for commercial casino licenses in Massachusetts. Foxwoods is partnering on a $1 billion project planned for Milford in the Greater Boston area, while Mohegan Sun has proposed a nearly $1 billion project for Palmer in the western part of the state.

In assessing the increasingly competitive Northeast gaming market, the study notes the Connecticut casinos experienced their sixth straight year of year-over-year declines in gaming and total revenue in 2012. Foxwoods' total revenue of $1.06 billion was down 9 percent; Mohegan Sun's $1.15 billion was down 6.1 percent.

Since peaking in 2006, Foxwoods' gaming revenues have declined by 29.3 percent, according to the study. Over the same period, Mohegan Sun's gaming revenues have fallen by 27.5 percent.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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