Massachusetts Casinos Are Keeping Some Gaming Dollars in Bay State, Away From New England Rivals

Posted on: September 12, 2019, 08:32h. 

Last updated on: September 13, 2019, 02:32h.

A study by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst shows that, since opening, the Bay State’s casinos have been effective at keeping some gamblers (and their money) from fleeing to other states in the region, namely Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Massachusetts casinos are proving effective at keeping gamblers away from rival New England venues. (Image: Boston Herald)

The study, which is slated to be released in its entirety later Thursday, focuses on the 2015 and 2016 period, the first years of operation for Penn National Gaming’s Plainridge Park Casino (PPC), a slots-only venue located in Plainville, Mass.

PPC is classified by the MGC as a Category 2 slots property, while MGM Springfield and Wynn’s Encore Boston Harbor are Category 1 venues, with both gaming machines and table offerings. MGM Springfield opened in August 2018, while the Wynn casino debuted on June 23, 2019.

Bay State lawmakers did not sign-off on gaming properties until 2010, and PPC didn’t launch until 2015, meaning there were years when gamblers there were forced to take their money to other states, some of which had lengthy head starts on Massachusetts. For example, Connecticut’s two tribal casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, opened in 1993 and 1996, respectively.

Some experts involved with the study say it’s still too early to know whether or not MGM Springfield and Encore Boston will have the same retention effect on Massachusetts gaming dollars as PPC has had.

It’s going to be a different order of magnitude. But also, because of the characteristics of the communities that surround those developments, we think the impact is going to be very different,” said Rachel Volberg, a professor in the UMass School of Public Health and Health Sciences, in an interview with the Boston Globe

As of July 31, 2019, the three Massachusetts gaming properties have delivered $410 million in assessments and taxes to the state since opening, according to the MGC.

Inside The Data

Data confirms there’s something to the notion that casinos in the Commonwealth are preventing some gamblers from crossing state lines. In 2006, the two Connecticut tribal venues sent a combined $433.6 million in slot taxes to Hartford, a number that dwindled to $263.6 million last year and is expected to further decline this year.

And while the Wynn property in Everett, Mass. hasn’t even been open for three months, it notched gross gaming revenue of $48.57 million in July, its first full month in business, and is already seen as pressuring New England rivals.

Twin River Worldwide Holdings, the operator of Rhode Island’s two casinos, said slot and table revenue in the Ocean State tumbled after the Wynn property launched, and that it reduced headcount as a result of the new competition.

The study found that 22.3 percent of the 2,212 people surveyed between April and August of 2016 said they had gambled at an out-of-state casino, a drop of more than 10 percentage points from surveys of the same group dating to 2013,” according to the Globe.

Another Casino?

Amid concerns that the hyper-competitive New England gaming market is already saturated, Massachusetts lawmakers are mulling the addition of one more Category 1 property in the Southeastern part of the state.

If approved, that $300 million project could generate up to $50 million annually in revenue for the state and would likely be the last casino to be built in Massachusetts.