Casinos are popping up a frenetic pace across New England. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut all have projects in the works. Last year, the Connecticut legislature authorized the state’s two gaming tribes, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes, to build a joint satellite casino in East Windsor, Connecticut.
The East Windsor casino is a reaction to the MGM Resorts casino opening this fall just over the border in Springfield, Massachusetts.
When they’re complete, the two casinos will be about a 15-minute drive from one another and will be competing for the same customers.
The tribes revealed some general plans for their satellite casinos last week. While it’s scant on details, the plans for the East Windsor casino have some wondering if it will offer much in the way of competition to the Massachusetts casino.
Comparing the two casinos
MGM Springfield is a near-billion-dollar casino project.
When it opens its doors in September, the property will boast 3,000 slot machines and 100 table games. Other plans include:
- A 250-room four-star hotel
- Eight restaurants, dining options, and bars
- 26,000 square feet of retail space
- On-site entertainment, including a bowling alley and cinema
By comparison, the East Windsor casino project has a price tag of just $300 million. It will house 2,000 slot machines and around 100 table games on a single floor that is devoted almost entirely to gaming.
There are preliminary plans for dining and entertainment options. Nonetheless, at $300 million, don’t anticipate finding the same number or level of amenities as MGM Springfield. What you should expect is a basic food court, a couple sit-down restaurants or bars, and maybe some local live entertainment on the weekends.
The property won’t have a hotel. It won’t have any retail space of note. And it won’t have any celebrity chef restaurants.
Based on the plans put forth last week, the most impressive part of the East Windsor casino appears to be the five-story 1,800-space parking garage.
The East Windsor casino is going to better resemble Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, Massachusetts than it will Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, Wynn Boston Harbor, or MGM Springfield.
That makes the East Windsor casino what can best be categorized as a gambling joint. Customers are going to go to this establishment primarily to mash slot buttons and play low-limit table games.
Can East Windsor compete with Springfield?
The proximity of the two casinos doesn’t bode well for the East Windsor project. Even if they’re coming from the south, it’s only an extra 15-20 minute drive to reach MGM Springfield.
If customers have the choice, that extra 15 minutes isn’t going to sway them one way or the other. And when push comes to shove, MGM Springfield is simply going to have more to offer.
One advantage the tribal casino might have over MGM is its ability to draw people who also go to Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun. Reason being, it’s likely the satellite casino will link its rewards program with the other tribal properties.
But other than serious gamblers, I don’t think that will be enough to overcome MGM’s other advantages.