What does Connecticut know about casinos?

Quite a few things, as it happens.  After all, Connecticut plays host to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, the biggest, baddest gaming meccas this side of the Mississippi.  And yes, I’m counting Atlantic City – and anyone who has been both to AC and to Connecticut’s two tribal mega-casinos knows why.  If there is a “right” way to do a mega-casino, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun come a lot closer to it than does Atlantic City, which somehow manages to accentuate all of the negative aspects of legalized gaming – the blight, the crime, the late-night seedy desperation (see these stats) – while achieving at best a tiny fraction of the flash and glamor of Vegas.  Atlantic City, however, is a bit of beautiful beachfront property brought low.

Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, on the other hand, almost manage to pull off the feel of a family vacation destination.  They are clean, festive, full of energy (and usually people).  They attract major performing artists to their world-class performance venues.  Their hotels regularly fill to capacity; it can be near impossible to get a reservation at their top-tier restaurants. Furthermore, the real estate industry also seems to be thriving, with a rising number of people seeking out William Pitt homes for sale in cities such as Bridgeport. Above all, there is so much to see and do in the state of Connecticut that it is no surprise that more and more people decide to make the move.

And yet despite all of the outward trappings of success, in recent years both have struggled to stay afloat, proving that gaming is no more resistant to a down economy than any other variety of discretionary spending.

Did you catch this article in the Herald last week (republished from the State House News Service)?  Titled “Wary Connecticut lawmakers consider response to Massachusetts casinos.” the article features several Connecticut politicians offering words of caution to the many here in Massachusetts who seem to think casino gambling is the answer to our collective economic woes:

“If Massachusetts does move forward and we stay in a prolonged economic downturn, they may find that the rewards they reap are less than they expect,” said Don Williams, Connecticut’s Senate president, in a phone interview. “Certainly in tougher times people cut way back on discretionary spending. Even now, without the competition, we’re seeing lower revenues are coming from the casinos in Connecticut.”

 And then there’s this:

“It’s not a stable source of revenue that states can depend on,” said  Williams, a Democrat. “What Massachusetts may find is there are some  additional folks who decide to gamble because there is a facility that’s  close to where they live. For the most part, it probably is dividing up  an already shrinking pie of gambling constituents.”

 That last bit – the thing about there not being an infinite number of gamblers out there – comes straight out of the “No Duh!?” file, but it’s a piece of common sense that seems consistently to elude Massachusetts’ gaming advocates like Governor Patrick and House Speaker DeLeo.  And if Massachusetts does decide to jump into that market and start competing for that finite number of gamblers, you can bet other states will act to further dilute the pool.  Including Connecticut… READ THE REST at CriticalMASS

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