Rolling the Dice

Rolling the Dice

Coverage of casino licensing and the gambling referendum

Casinos hoping odds in SJC case tilt in their favor

Casinos hoping odds in SJC case tilt in their favor

High court takes up challenge to blackjack rules

COULD A DISPUTE over the payout odds for blackjack actually rise to become a case before the Supreme Judicial Court? You bet.

In an unusual case, the state’s highest court will consider whether the state’s two casinos – Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield – were legally allowed to offer less favorable odds than is typical in their blackjack games.

The SJC will hear arguments in the two cases Wednesday.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission sets the rules that casinos must abide by in their games. But when a dispute arises, it can go to the courts. In this case, after two judges decided the same issue in different ways, the SJC decided to intervene.

The case centers on the rules of blackjack. Typically, blackjack is played with odds of 3 to 2. That means if a player’s cards add up to 21, he or she is paid $150 for a $100 wager. But the game can be played with 6-to-5 odds – a payout of $120 for a $100 bet. Generally, the 6-to-5 odds – which are less advantageous to the player – are paid out in a variation of the game with slightly different rules that increase the player’s advantage.

Until the lawsuits were brought, however, Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield were running blackjack games with the traditional rules — but with 6-to-5 odds. At Encore, the tables with 6 to 5 odds were generally ones where players could wager lower amounts.

In one of the cases, A. Richard Schuster vs. Wynn Resorts Holdings, Schuster, a blackjack player, filed a lawsuit arguing that Encore Boston Harbor should not be allowed to give a 6-to-5 payout without changing the rules to the 6-to-5 variation of the game. A similar case was brought by a player named Ted DeCosmo against MGM Springfield.

A Superior Court judge dismissed DeCosmo’s lawsuit against MGM, finding in favor of the casino. But a US District Court judge ruled in favor of Schuster, saying Encore could not give the lower payout.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, whose Investigations and Enforcement Bureau examined the issue, has said its rules allowed 6-to-5 odds even with the traditional blackjack game, and the casinos did nothing wrong. After the US District Court ruling, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission clarified its rules to make clear that casinos could allow a 6-to-5 payout under traditional blackjack rules, as long as the odds are displayed in plain sight so players are aware of the rules. Those changes went into effect in October 2020.

The SJC took up the case to clarify the law in light of the disparate judicial rulings. While neither case challenges the Gaming Commission’s amended rules, attorneys for the players seek to have the casinos compensate players who were paid out using the lower odds during the time between when the casinos opened and when the Gaming Commission clarified its rules to explicitly allow the lower odds in traditional games. MGM opened in August 2018 and Encore in June 2019.

Schuster, in an SJC brief, pans the new rules as “anti-consumer” and says they will “bilk Massachusetts consumers out of an additional 30 million dollars in Blackjack revenues each year” — though he is not challenging the Gaming Commission’s authority to set those rules.

The casinos say they are simply playing by the rules. “There is no mystery behind why both gaming licensees, the [Massachusetts Gaming Commission], the [Investigations and Enforcement Bureau], and the Superior Court below have all concluded that the Blackjack Rules permit the challenged 6 to 5 blackjack payouts: they do,” attorneys for MGM Springfield wrote.


Key senator releases sports betting proposal

Key senator releases sports betting proposal

Bill aggressive on taxation; college games excluded

SEN. ERIC LESSER, a key player in the state’s debate over legalizing sports betting, on Monday laid out his vision for the state’s latest gambling expansion, unveiling a proposal that is aggressive on taxation but would bar wagering on college games.

Since the US Supreme Court legalized sports betting nationwide in May 2018, at least 20 states have started allowing it and others are on the way to doing so. Lesser said taking a cautious approach in Massachusetts let policymakers see what worked and what didn’t elsewhere. Lesser said he believes his bill strikes a balance by legalizing sports betting while including “some of most comprehensive and strict consumer protections and protections for athletes anywhere in the country.”

“The idea is to bring sports betting into the daylight, legalize it, and in a real-time way monitor it so potential violations or problems can be quickly dealt with,” Lesser said in a Zoom call with reporters.

Lesser, a Longmeadow Democrat, is the co-chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, along with Rep. Jerald Parisella, a Beverly Democrat. That committee will craft any sports betting bill that is eventually brought to the full Legislature. Lesser’s proposal is significant because of the three parties needed to legalize sports betting – the House, Senate, and governor – the Senate is the only one that has not yet taken a clear stance in favor of it.

But it also sets the stage for significant debate over how sports betting is structured, with Lesser proposing a higher tax rate than several of the other proposals and a more limited scope of betting.

For example, while Lesser’s bill – like one filed by Gov. Charlie Baker – would prohibit betting on college sports, a proposal filed by the House Ways and Means Committee last session would allow bets on the outcome of college sports games, though not the performance of individual student athletes. A proposal by Sen. Brendan Crighton of Lynn would allow betting on all college teams not from Massachusetts.

Lesser is proposing a tax rate of 20 or 25 percent, depending on whether it is done through a mobile app or at a casino. Baker’s proposal would tax sports betting at a rate of 10 or 12.5 percent, depending on whether the betting is done in person or online. The earlier House proposal envisioned a 16 percent tax.

Despite the differences, Lesser’s bill remains a significant step in the process, and some advocates say they see some indication that there is real momentum behind sports betting this session, which was lacking last year.

Baker released his own sports betting bill in January 2019, at the beginning of the last legislative session. But the debate largely got shelved with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic last March. Baker refiled a sports betting proposal as part of his fiscal 2022 budget proposal in January, and his budget for next year counts on the state taking in $35 million in sports betting revenue.

The House did revive the sports betting discussion briefly in July 2020 by including it in the House version of a must-pass economic development bill. However, the bill’s final version did not include sports betting. Lesser, the Senate’s lead negotiator, said at the time that he did not think the economic development bill was the right vehicle for it.

The new House speaker, Ron Mariano, has been supportive of legalizing sports betting.

Lesser’s bill, filed Friday, would allow sports betting at the state’s casinos and racetracks and through online or mobile apps by adults 21 and over. Sports betting would only be allowed on professional, not college, sports. The industry would be overseen by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

Under Lesser’s proposal, the application fee would be $1 million to $2 million with initial licensing fees of $1.5 million to $7.5 million, plus renewal fees every five years. The fees would vary by license type, with online-only companies paying higher licensing fees than physical casinos and racetracks. The bill would impose a tax of 20 percent of sports wagering receipts for the casino and racetrack licenses, and 25 percent for digital-only licenses. A 25 percent tax would also be imposed on fantasy sports betting, which has been legal in the state since 2016 but not taxed.

Among the consumer protections: Bettors could not use credit cards. People with gambling addictions could place themselves on a voluntary “self-exclusion” list. Ads could not target people under 21. A confidential helpline would let players and coaches report if they were being coerced to influence a game.

Lesser’s bill is one of more than a dozen proposals that will be considered by the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. Even if versions pass the House and the Senate, they will likely have to be reconciled by conference committee negotiators before going to Baker.

Key details to be worked out include things like the tax rate, licensing fees, whether college sports will be included, what types of bets will be allowed, how to address problem gambling, and what kind of protections will be put in place to avoid corruption and protect athletes and bettors.

A 2018 report on sports betting done by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission estimated that state tax revenue from sports betting would net anywhere from $8 million to $61 million. That estimate was based on tax rates that ranged from 6.75 percent to 15 percent.

Gaming numbers improved in January

Gaming numbers improved in January

All three casinos showed improvement

THE MASSACHUSETTS GAMING Commission released the casino revenue figures for the month of January 2021 this week and those revenue numbers look encouraging.  All three gaming venues, Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park, showed increases in their monthly revenues.

Encore Boston Harbor saw slot revenues increase by a total of $3.6 million over the previous month’s numbers, rising from $16.1 million in December to $19.6 million in January.  Table game revenues increased from $13.1 million in December to $13.68 million in January

MGM Springfield saw its slot revenues increase by almost $3.3 million, from $9.3 million in December to $12.6 million in January.  Table game revenue decreased slightly from just over $2 million in December to $1.8 million in January.

Plainridge Park saw its monthly slot revenues increase by just over $600,000, from just over $9.1 million in December to almost $9.8 million in January.

It is important to note that from January 1 through January 26, these three gaming venues were not open on a 24/7 basis.  Encore Boston Harbor was only open for 12 hours per day, MGM Springfield was open 13.5 hours per day, and Plainridge Park was open for 14.5 hours per day.  Beginning on January 27, all three facilities returned to 24/7 operations.

When you factor in the reduced hours of operation during the first 26 days of the month and the reduced number of slot machines that are available due to occupancy restrictions, we see that Plainridge Park led the pack with $605.45 per machine per day (pmd), which oddly enough represents a 5.73 percent in pmd revenue when compared with December’s $642.26 pmd.

Encore Boston Harbor saw its per machine per day slot revenue increase by 5.1 percent, rising from $570.34 to $599.45 in January.  Finally, MGM Springfield’s per machine per day slot revenues increase by 17.18 percent from $481.83 to $564.59.

As an industry standard, $300per machine per day is a target revenue number, and we see all three facilities easily beat that number.  No matter how you slice it, these increases show that there is a large amount of demand for gaming in Massachusetts.

By contrast, the two casinos in Connecticut, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, which have been open on a 24/7 basis for the entire month of January, although at a reduced capacity as well, did $24.5 million and $37.6 million in slot revenues, respectively, in January.

Paul DeBole is an assistant professor of political science at Lasell University in Newton.

Lottery finding its footing during COVID

Lottery finding its footing during COVID

Keno is the game most hurt by pandemic


THE MASSACHUSETTS LOTTERY saw greater sales and profit performance during the six months from July through December 2020 than it did during the same six months in pre-pandemic 2019, despite changes in consumer behavior and sharp restrictions on key Lottery venues like restaurants and pubs.

Having survived three months of depressed sales at the outset of the pandemic, the Lottery appears to have not only stabilized but found a new footing. The budget year that ended June 30 exceeded expectations and wound up as the Lottery’s third-best year in terms of revenue. And now, halfway into fiscal year 2021, sales and profit are both up compared to a year ago.

Executive Director Michael Sweeney told the Lottery Commission on Tuesday morning that the agency sold $2.723 billion worth of products in the first half of the fiscal year, a roughly 2 percent increase over the same timeframe in 2019. Those sales have generated an estimated profit of $531.7 million for the Lottery, a 4.3 percent increase over the $509.5 million profit that had been generated at the same point last fiscal year.

“A very strong six months. Again, particularly when you factor in the pandemic. Frankly, I think it was a historic performance,” Sweeney said. He later added, “Overall, I think the Lottery is performing very well and holding its own … and again, these numbers are not reflective of what occurred during January as a result of the two large jackpots in MegaMillions and Powerball.”

The boost in sales and profit materialized through six months despite a $67.2 million or 12.4 percent decline in Keno sales, which typically make up one-fifth of the Lottery’s total annual sales. The only product category that sells more than Keno, scratch tickets, has seen a $105.3 million or about 5.8 percent increase in sales over the first six months of fiscal 2020.

Lottery officials have been keeping a close eye on Keno for months. The game is most often played in bars, restaurants and convenience stores, but many of those establishments are either closed entirely or allowing only a limited number of people inside as a result of the government’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Sweeney said Tuesday that Keno is “the product that is most severely impacted by the pandemic” and that the impact has been “an enormous hit” to the Lottery.

“I think this negative Keno impact certainly has the potential of being at least two to three years long, and something we’ll have to continue to watch and try to find some solutions to,” he said in July.

The Lottery’s prize payout percentage was roughly identical during the two six-month periods — 73.15 percent through six months of fiscal 2021 compared to 73.72 percent for the first six months of fiscal 2020.

The relative stabilization of the Lottery comes months after the agency saw its sales plummet when the coronavirus first emerged nearly a year ago. Overall Lottery sales in March, April and May 2020 alone were down a combined $244.6 million compared to the same three months in fiscal year 2019, and almost every Lottery product experienced a decrease in sales in fiscal 2020.

Still, the Lottery generated a net profit of $986.9 million last budget year, money that is used to fund state local aid to communities.

The Lottery’s experience through the first half of fiscal year 2021 mirrors what the Department of Revenue has seen with state tax collections. Through December, state government had collected $372 million more in taxes from people and businesses than it did during the same six pre-pandemic months of fiscal year 2020.

Judd-Stein: Casinos haven’t asked for COVID relief

Judd-Stein: Casinos haven’t asked for COVID relief

‘They have made no requests that I know of,’ she says

THE CHAIR of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission says the state’s three casinos have not asked for any financial breaks during the pandemic despite shutdowns, capacity restrictions, and curfews that have cut into their revenues.

The two casinos in Everett and Springfield and the slots parlor in Plainville were shut down March 14, reopened in early July, and have been facing limited hours and operating restrictions ever since. A 9:30 p.m. curfew is being lifted on Monday.

Cathy Judd-Stein, the chair of the commission, said on The Codcast that all three facilities during the pandemic cooperated fully with the agency and met all financial obligations to their host communities, their surrounding communities, and the state.

“When our three world-class licensees were selected, the commission kept in mind would these organizations have the bandwidth, the resources, the business strategies, the know-how to be able to weather an economic or industry crisis,” Judd-Stein said. “What we’re seeing is these three licensees have the resilience given how they have done during this period. They have made no requests that I know of of the state.”

In December, the latest month for which revenue numbers are available, the three casinos generated a total of $50 million in revenue, 60 percent of the amount they generated in December 2019. The three facilities have generated a total of $683 million in tax revenue since opening, with $158 million coming in the last year.

Wynn Resorts, which operates the Encore casino in Everett, reported revenues at the facility were down 33 percent in the quarter ending September 30, and the company as a whole incurred a $758 million net loss. But the Everett facility fared reasonably well, reporting a record level of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.

Judd-Stein previously worked as a legal counsel to Gov. Charlie Baker and other governors going back to Paul Cellucci. She also worked at the state Lottery and the treasurer’s office. She is not a gambling enthusiast (“I’m a little bit mystified by all of it,” she said) but sees herself filling two roles – regulator first and then partner to some degree. 

“Our job is to provide regulatory oversight and to assure the public’s confidence in the integrity of the gaming industry. But we are also partners with our licensees in a way when they come to us for opportunities to ensure that they are positioning for success in Massachusetts,” she said. “We do want them to succeed. We do want the economic benefits maximized.”

One of Judd-Stein’s first challenges when she took over as chair of the agency in 2019 was deciding, with her fellow commissioners, whether Wynn Resorts deserved to hold on to its license after company founder Steve Wynn was accused of sexual misconduct involving two dozen women. The agency ultimately allowed Wynn to hang on to the license, but imposed a $35 million fine on the company, a $500,000 fine on CEO Matt Maddox, and also required Maddox to get management training.

The company and Maddox paid their fines and Judd-Stein confirmed the CEO did work with an executive coach. “In many ways I didn’t see that as punitive but actually something that should have occurred for a CEO of such a multi-faceted business at a time of crisis. We thought it was important for the board of directors to provide that for Mr. Maddox,” Judd-Stein said.

Sports betting bill refiled, seeks more revenue

Sports betting bill refiled, seeks more revenue

Crighton says Mass. needs to get in on the action


State Sen. Brendan Crighton, a Lynn Democrat, reintroduced a bill this week to legalize sports betting in Massachusetts, reviving a debate that died without action at the end of the last legislative session.

“Looking at the states around us, folks are going to bet on sports whether or not we legalize this, but right now the money’s going to the black market and to other states,” Crighton said in an interview with CommonWealth. “With the black market, you’re not getting any consumer protections. We think it’s important to bring people out of the shadows into the regulated market.”

Last summer, the Massachusetts House voted on a bill to legalize sports betting. The House then included sports betting in its version of an economic development bill. But the Senate never held a vote on the policy, and it was left out of the final version of the economic development bill.

The lead Senate negotiator, Sen. Eric Lesser, a Longmeadow Democrat, said at the time that the Senate would “like to do sports betting,” but the economic development bill was not the right vehicle to do it in.

Crighton’s bill is just one version of what is likely to be multiple proposals batted around this legislative session.

His bill would allow sports betting by adults ages 21 and up at the state’s casinos, slots parlor, horse racing tracks, and simulcast facilities, and through mobile and digital apps. The industry would be overseen by the Gaming Commission.

The biggest difference compared to a similar bill Crighton filed last session is the application fee would be increased from $1 million to $10 million. The tax rate imposed on companies would also increase, from 12.5 percent of revenues to 15 percent. There would be a renewal fee of $1.25 million due every five years. He estimated that the bill would bring in $100 million in initial application fees and more than $45 million in annual recurring revenues, though he could not offer an exact estimate. “We’d rather create a fee and tax structure that will benefit as many people as we can while keeping the operators competitive,” he said.

Crighton’s bill would allow betting on college and professional sports, but not on Massachusetts college teams. Asked how that would work in tournaments like the NCAA’s March Madness, Crighton said that level of detail would be worked out by a legislative committee.

Crighton has been pushing hard to get attention for the bill early in the session. He spoke with the legal sports betting industry news site LegalSportsBetting about it. Crighton told the State House News Service that he sees an appetite for addressing sports betting, and the News Service noted that since Crighton first filed his bill in 2019, the number of states with legal sports betting has grown from eight to 19, plus Washington, DC. 

Christian Wade, a reporter for the North of Boston Media Group, noted that in New Hampshire, more than 6,000 people signed up to play the day sports betting became legal on December 30, 2020. More than $15.8 million was wagered in the first two weeks, including bets placed by Massachusetts residents, according to the New Hampshire Lottery.

Gov. Charlie Baker supports sports betting, having introduced his own bill in 2019.

The concept has powerful support from gaming and sports organizations including the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, Celtics, Revolution, MGM Springfield, and the PGA Tour – not to mention lobbying by the two major mobile betting sites, Boston-based DraftKings and New York-based FanDuel.

The ball is in the Legislature’s court.

December gaming revenues show promise

December gaming revenues show promise

Despite COVID restrictions, slot revenues rising

LAST WEEK’S REVENUE REPORT from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission suggested the state’s casinos are doing pretty well, given the many restrictions imposed by COVID-19.

Monthly slot revenues for the Commonwealth’s two category 2 casinos showed modest increases, with Encore Boston Harbor posting a 3.9 percent increase over November’s numbers, and MGM Springfield showing a 9.51 percent increase.  Plainridge Park, the state’s lone slots-only facility, reported a 20.77 percent increase in monthly slot revenue.

November v. December 2020

Slot Machine Revenues (per machine per day)

Gaming Venue December 2020 Slot Revenue November 2020 Slot Revenue % Change
Plainridge Park 9,173,051.06 7,595,273.47 20.77%
MGM Springfield 9,365,399.05 8,551,756.72 9.51%
Encore Boston Harbor 16,098,219.50 15,494,421.88 3.90%

But we need to look at the per-machine-per-day revenues to correct for the extra day in December (a 31-day month versus a 30-day month for November); and the fact that, after November 6, all gaming facilities were in operation for less than 24 hours per day Plainridge Park was open for 14.5 hours per day, MGM Springfield was open for 13.5 hours per day, and Encore Boston Harbor was open for 12 hours per day.


November v. December 2020

Slot Machine Revenues (per machine per day)

Gaming Venue December 2020 Revenue (pmd) November 2020 Revenue (pmd) % Change
Plainridge Park 642.26 470.18 36.60%
MGM Springfield 481.78 390.52 23.37%
Encore Boston Harbor 570.34 472.71 20.65%


When you look at that those numbers, Plainridge Park’s per machine per day slot revenue increased by an astounding 36.6 percent over the month of November, with MGM Springfield showing an impressive 23.37 percent increase and Encore Boston Harbor posting a 20.65 percent increase.  MGM Springfield’s table game revenues increased by 3.59 percent, while Encore Boston Harbor showed an 11.13 percent increase.

The numbers themselves are equally as good.  The casino industry has set the level for success at $300.00 per machine per day.  All three facilities beat that number, and if the trend continues, that would be a good sign for Massachusetts casino operators and for the New England region.

What do these numbers mean?  It is too soon to tell.  Casinos usually show increases in gaming revenues during the month of December, with steady decreases in January and February.  Revenues usually increase significantly in March as we move from winter to spring and weather becomes less of a factor.   However, these numbers could indicate a demand for gaming opportunities in the midst of the pandemic, where convenience gambling rather than a resort casino experience might be more in tune with what patrons are seeking during these extraordinary times.  Obviously, we would expect these numbers to increase as more people are vaccinated and hours of operations increase.

Paul DeBole is an assistant professor of political science at Lasell University in Newton.

Tribe chairman arrested for extortion related to Taunton casino

Tribe chairman arrested for extortion related to Taunton casino

Head of architecture firm allegedly paid $57,000 in bribes

THE CHAIRMAN of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and the owner of an architecture firm that the tribe contracted with to help build a casino in Taunton have been arrested on bribery and extortion charges.

Tribe chairman Cedric Cromwell, 55, of Attleboro, and David DeQuattro, 54, of Warwick, Rhode Island, are facing federal charges, US Attorney Andrew Lelling announced Friday.

“Many American Indians face a host of difficult financial and social issues. They require – and deserve – real leadership,” Lelling said in a statement. “But it appears that Cromwell’s priority was not to serve his people, but to line his own pockets.”

The indictment alleges that DeQuattro paid a steady stream of bribes to Cromwell in exchange for favorable actions on the casino contract by the tribal Gaming Authority, which Cromwell led.

The arrest is the latest in a long-running saga as the Native American tribe attempts to build the state’s southeastern region casino. The project has been delayed due to federal litigation over the tribe’s ability under federal law to take land in Taunton into trust, and Cromwell has long been criticized for his handling of the project’s finances.

A tribal spokesman said in a statement, “The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is deeply concerned about Chairman Cedric Cromwell being indicted on several charges. Tribal Council will hold an emergency meeting this afternoon and will be taking immediate action.”

In 2012, when the Mashpee Wampanoag began developing their plans to build the First Light Resort and Casino, the tribe contracted with the architecture and design firm Robinson Green Beretta Corp., of which DeQuattro was the head.

Between 2014 and 2017, the indictment alleges, DeQuattro paid Cromwell money and in-kind benefits valued at $57,500. In exchange, DeQuattro’s company was paid nearly $5 million through its casino contract.

Cromwell created a shell company, One Nation Development, to accept payments, including DeQuattro’s, then used that money on his personal expenses – including payments to his mistress.

The way the scam worked was DeQuattro gave money to One Nation Development, which was set up as a nonprofit charitable organization, on the pretense that he was making charitable contributions or donations to Cromwell’s reelection campaign. To disguise the payments, DeQuattro paid them from his personal account through an intermediary company owned by an unnamed friend of Cromwell. Then DeQuattro and his company’s president, who is not named in the indictment, agreed to reimburse DeQuattro with company money, disguising those payments as bonus or salary checks.

The payments include five $10,000 checks that Cromwell asked DeQuattro for and DeQuattro paid. Cromwell also asked DeQuattro to buy him home exercise equipment, in the form of a used Bowflex Revolution home gym.

For his birthday, Cromwell asked DeQuattro to book him a weekend at a “very nice hotel in Boston,” asking specifically about a room at the Four Seasons or a suite at the Seaport Hotel. He added, “I am going to have a special guest with me.” DeQuattro’s company paid around $530 a night to book Cromwell for three nights in a Seaport Hotel suite – and paid a total of more than $1,800 for the weekend, which included Cromwell’s room service, restaurant tab, and parking expenses. Days later, Cromwell signed checks from the tribal gaming authority for nearly $300,000 to DeQuattro’s company.

Cromwell and DeQuattro are both charged with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery. Cromwell is also charged with extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion. The US Attorney’s office is seeking forfeiture of the money and property Cromwell obtained illegally.

The extortion charges carry sentences of up to 20 years in state prison. The bribery charges carry penalties of up to 10 years in  prison.

The men will make initial appearances in court via video Friday afternoon.

Joseph Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division, said in a statement that the allegations are “extremely troubling and indicate a disdain for the rule of law.” He added: “Both men’s alleged actions undercut the efforts of hard-working tribe members and betrayed their trust.”

This story was updated with a comment from the tribe.

N.E. gaming market is not saturated yet

N.E. gaming market is not saturated yet

Slot growth suggests the market is still growing

A YEAR AGO I would have said the gaming market in New England was saturated, with a relatively fixed number of customers bouncing between casinos based on promotions or geographical convenience.

But a closer look at the numbers, particularly at gross receipts for slot machines, suggests the market is continuing to grow even with nine gaming facilities in the region.

Over the last four years, gross slot revenue has kept rising. It grew 2.17 percent in fiscal 2017 compared to 2016, and .62 percent in fiscal 2018, before rising by 7.34 percent in fiscal 2019.

In fiscal 2020, which ended June 30, gross slot revenues nosedived 21.57 percent because of the shutdowns imposed by COVID-19. But when you correct for the shortened year, and extrapolate the data to reflect a full year, we see gross receipts would have increased by 10.72 percent.

These numbers are truly amazing and show the market is growing. One of the only ways to explain the bump in gross receipts over the past two years is to point to the entrance of three new facilities into the gaming market — MGM Springfield and Twin River Tiverton in August of 2018 (early fiscal 2019) and the opening of Encore Boston Harbor in late June 2019 (just prior to the beginning of FY2020).

These new entrants didn’t cannibalize the existing market. Instead, they helped it grow, presumably because the new facilities brought gaming options to new customers.

What we have in the six New England states is a $23.5 billion industry. If you factor in table games, it’s an estimated $35.25 billion segment of the regional economy.

Although COVID-19 creates uncertainty about gambling, these numbers have a strong bearing on the debate over whether the market can absorb additional casinos and where.  The attitude so far in New England has been every state for itself, with each state and its casinos competing for market share against other states and their casinos.

Where do we go from here?  The market appears to show signs that it is continuing to grow and mature, but we know from experience that phenomenon will not continue forever.  Obviously, an optimal number of profitable gaming venues spread throughout the region is a laudable goal, but how should we do that?  If each of the New England states is looking to maximize its revenues, it may be time for a regional approach to the economics of this sector of the economy to allow for planned region-wide growth rather than mere patron swapping.

Paul L. DeBole is an assistant professor of political science at Lasell University in Newton.

Mohegan slots tops in New England

Mohegan slots tops in New England

CT casino's take almost equals all of Mass. facilities

SLOT MACHINES at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut are going gang-busters.

In August, the casino’s slot revenue was nearly $45.6 million, just $2 million shy of the $47.5 million in slot revenue at all three Massachusetts casinos.

Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, also led the pack in New England in August in terms of revenue per machine per day, a measure that allows one casino to be compared to another even if they have a different number of machines.

The August  numbers show Mohegan Sun with $582.65 per machine per day, followed by Twin River in Tiverton, Rhode Island ($526.68 ); MGM Springfield ($508.05); Foxwoods in Mashantucket,Connecticut ($440.87);  Plainridge Park in Plainviille ($415.76);  Encore Boston Harbor in Everett ($405.39), Hollywood Slots in Bangor, Maine ($389.51), Oxford Casino in Oxford, Maine ($379.15), and Twin River in Lincoln, Rhode Island, ($372.22).

Gaming Venue  Gaming Days  Slot Revenue  No. of Machines  Machine Revenue (per day) 
Mohegan Sun 31.00 45,570,991.00 2523 582.65
Twin River Tiverton 21.96 6,002,252.00 519 526.68
MGM Springfield 31.00 14,048,463.91 892 508.05
Foxwoods 31.00 30,518,585.00 2233 440.87
Plainridge Park 31.00 10,168,966.21 789 415.76
Encore Boston Harbor 31.00 23,324,704.23 1856 405.39
Hollywood Slots 31.00 3,091,136.61 256 389.51
Oxford Casino 31.00 4,266,525.09 363 379.15
Twin River 21.96 18,512,553.00 2265 372.22

Remember, we are only talking about slot revenues here.  Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods do not report table game numbers to the state of Connecticut, Plainridge Park does not have table games, Hollywood Slots and Oxford Casino do not have table games, either.

Paul DeBole is an assistant professor of political science at Lasell University in Newton.