Keep your eye on Twin River Casino in RI
Big changes coming, which could impact Mass.
WHEN YOU THINK of casinos in New England, what comes to mind are Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, which continue to dominate the region and account for between 42 percent and 45 percent of the total amount of cash fed into slot machines by casino patrons. Encore Boston Harbor, a relative newcomer to the New England gaming picture, is also doing well, but has been surrounded by controversy and exaggerated expectations since it was awarded a gaming license.
One casino operation that is continually overlooked is Twin River Casino just over the Massachusetts border in Rhode Island. Locally, “the Twin” has two properties — its main facility in Lincoln that now includes a small hotel, table games, and over 4,000 slot machines (more than either Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun), and Twin River Tiverton, a small 1,000 machine gaming venue with a hotel and table games, and whose front door is literally 300 yards from the Massachusetts state line.
Twin River Worldwide Holdings has been very busy in recent years, quietly moving into a position where it could become a major force in the regional, national, and online gaming markets.
- In October 2020, Twin River acquired the Bally’s name from Caesars Entertainment, Inc.
- Just prior to the acquisition of the Bally’s brand, Twin River agreed to purchase Bally’s Atlantic City Casino & Hotel. It has also purchased the Tropicana in Las Vegas, the Bally’s Lake Tahoe, as well as other properties in Colorado, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Illinois. It is also developing a new gaming property under the Bally’s name in State College, Pennsylvania.
- Overall, Twin River has 17 gaming venues in 11 states, and controls online sports betting in eight states.
Currently, Twin River is in the process of rebranding almost all of its properties under the Bally’s name with the exception of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi (which will keep the Hard Rock name) and the Tropicana Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. Look for both Twin River properties in Rhode Island to operate under the Bally’s name before the end of the year.
What does all this mean for Massachusetts?
That is a tough question to answer. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has not yet awarded a Region C (southeastern Massachusetts)n gaming license, nor should they. It is fairly obvious that both federally recognized Indian tribes – the Aquinnah Wampanoags and the Mashpee Wampanoags — will eventually prevail in their efforts to open casinos in southeastern Massachusetts, with the Aquinnah tribe paying no gaming tax to the Commonwealth. But that will take five to seven years before it happens.
In the short term, the existing gaming facilities are the only games in town. We are also coming off pandemic-related shut down and there is a great deal of pent-up demand for people to get out and enjoy themselves. That is part of the reason that many casinos around the nation saw huge increases in their monthly slot revenues in July. In Massachusetts, Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield saw their highest monthly slot revenuessince their openings.
But the July revenue numbers are just a snapshot in time, exaggerated by the incremental rollback of COVID restrictions. However, there is not a great deal of data to analyze as MGM Springfield opened in August 2018, and Encore Boston Harbor opened in June 2019. Both facilities were closed for three and one-half months due to CoViD, and then reopened under stringent occupancy and social distancing restrictions.
The Plainridge Park slots parlor was also closed and then reopened under identical restrictions, but their slot revenues have been relatively flat, fluctuating between $11 million and $13 million per month for the last five months, which suggests that Twin River may be limiting revenue increases at Plainridge. If we do not see Plainridge’s revenue numbers hit the $15 million to $17 million level in the next 12 months, we can assume that Twin River/Bally’s is continuing to draw more players from across the Massachusetts border, many of whom – presumably – come from Region C.
In the national gaming market, Bally’s will be a player in various gaming markets across the country. In the New England region, look for the local Bally’s venues to offer more promotions designed to showcase their other properties across the country and to gain market share in both the convenience gaming and resort casino markets.Legislators and gaming regulators should pay particular attention to Bally’s apparent desire to become a major player in the online gaming and sport-gaming areas. The company has invested significant amounts of capital in acquiring technology designed to bolster and expand their remote gaming business and to attract more millennials to their online gaming platforms.
Paul L. DeBole is assistant professor of political science at Lasell University in Newton.