News that the owners of the Mohegan Sun casino want to build one or more additional gaming facilities in Connecticut is sure to stir up debate in the 2015 session of the General Assembly. But while some lawmakers think more gaming in the state would counter Massachusetts’ entry into the business, it could be that it would just dilute the Connecticut customer base.
CTMirror.org quotes Mohegan Tribe Chairman Kevin Brown as saying, “We need to do something in the face of the development of Massachusetts gaming. To do otherwise would be short-sighted on our part.”
Democratic state Rep. Peggy Sayers likely favors an expanded gambling facility at Bradley Teletheater in Windsor Locks, a town she represents. “We are living in new and different times, with increased competition in every surrounding state, and we need to support and protect the jobs in our state,” she said in a written news release. Massachusetts voters turned back an effort to repeal the state’s casino law that allows three casinos and one slot machine parlor. So resorts and casino gambling is coming to Massachusetts.
Of course, if the legislature somehow works to expand casinos, Bridgeport wants in.
But do those who favor expanded gambling in Connecticut really have the numbers on their side? It would seem logical to argue that more casinos in the state would simply dilute the already shrinking customer base in Connecticut.
For instance, a gambler who lives in greater Boston and currently travels to northeast Connecticut is going to patronize the casino in Everett, outside of Boston, when it’s built instead of Connecticut. If there four casinos in Connecticut, this hypothetical gambler is still not coming to Connecticut.
Further, there is arguably a finite number of casino patrons who live in Connecticut and go to Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods. If there were three or four casinos in the state, that base of customers would simply be more spread out between them. The existing casinos would suffer. The question remains, how would more casinos in Connecticut increase the number of patrons to Connecticut facilities?
It would seem that any gambling expansion would actually be the state playing defense and an effort to retain current customers. Everything seems to depend on location and the size of the investment.
State Rep. Steve Dargan, a West Haven Democrat, is co-chair of the legislature’s Public Safety Committee which oversees gambling in the state says it is true there may simply be a point where more facilities won’t help. “You have to consider whether there is a saturation point [for gambling]. Times have changed. Right now we have fantasy football online, pari-mutuel betting and other gambling on the Internet.”
There is no reason to believe Connecticut can hold onto its current Massachusetts or Rhode Island visitors with more casinos. Some serious study needs to be done before the legislature goes through the arduous task of opening the compact with the Indian tribes and approving more gaming facilities.