Mohegan Sun Gets Casino Boost In Bay State - Monday 21st of January 2013

The Mohegan Suns prospects for opening a casino in Massachusetts improved this week as chief rival Foxwoods Resort Casino sought to keep a development in Pennsylvania from collapsing.

The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted Wednesday to legalize resort casinos and slot machines, a step that could pay off for Connecticuts Mohegan tribe.

The Mohegan Suns owners have planned a casino for western Massachusetts, while Foxwoods focused on a Philadelphia project that recently lost a new investor who had been expected to save it.

On April 8, casino magnate Steve Wynn abruptly pulled out of a deal to take over Foxwoods Philadelphia project, which has been delayed by local opposition and the financial troubles of the Mashantucket Pequots, Foxwoods owner.

Some Pennsylvania politicians are trying to strip the Foxwoods partnership of its development license.

Chuck Bunnell, a spokesman for the Mohegans, said Thursday that the tribe remains committed to a Massachusetts casino.

The Massachusetts Senate and Gov. Deval Patrick support casinos but oppose slots at racetracks, which are allowed by the House bill. They are expected to address their differences soon.

The House bill allows two resort casinos and up to 750 slot machines per track.

A gaming industry analyst said the Mohegans groundwork in Massachusetts would make them a strong competitor for a casino license there.

"I think theyre one of the two front-runners," said Clyde Barrow of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, who studies New Englands gaming markets. The other main contender is the owner of the Suffolk Downs racetrack, he said.

The Mohegans have a 99-year lease on more than 150 acres in Palmer, Mass., and have proposed building a casino there with thousands of slot machines, table games and a hotel.

Barrow and other analysts said several major casino operators could emerge as contenders for licenses in Massachusetts.

But the Pequots are not likely to try to enter the state, the analysts said. Given their current financial troubles — about $2 billion in debts — they probably cant afford it.

"They will have a more difficult time generating a strong enough bid," said Michael Paladino, senior director for gaming at Fitch Ratings in New York.

Any casino in Massachusetts will eat into revenues at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods in Connecticut. Last year Massachusetts residents spent $730 million here.

Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun both reported Thursday that they took in less revenue from slot machines in March compared with a year earlier. Connecticuts casinos pay 25 percent of their slot revenues to the state.

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