Friday, January 22, 2010

Connecticut Indian Casino´s Competitors Report Increase In Revenue Last Year

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This installment of the Tribes In The Media is an article in yesterday´s edition of The Day newspaper reporting that both of the two slot parlors on the flanks of the Connecticut Indian casinos showed increases in revenue last year.

Slots healthy at 'convenience' casinos
By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day
January 21, 2010

Recession may be factor as Empire City, Twin River post year-over-year revenue gains

For many a slot player, convenience trumps the amenities that make up the gaming "experience." Especially, it seems, during a recession.

How else to explain the relatively robust revenues at the slot-machine parlors that flank Connecticut's destination resort casinos?

While the 2009 slot "win" at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun was off by 6 and 9.4 percent, respectively, compared to 2008, Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway, just north of New York City, reported that its slot win was up 11 percent last year, according to figures posted by the New York Lottery. In December, Empire City's win was up 14 percent over the previous December, climbing from $35 million to nearly $40 million.

On Connecticut's eastern front, Twin River, in Lincoln, R.I., reported its slot win for December 2009 was 8.3 percent greater than the previous December, reaching $30.3 million. It was Twin River's fourth straight month of year-over-year increases, data on the Rhode Island Lottery's Web site shows. For the year, Twin River's slot revenue was down a modest 1.9 percent.

Both Empire City and Twin River credit their recent success to marketing campaigns that have enabled them to solidify their shares of the regional slot market - and even expand the market. And, Mitchell Etess, Mohegan Sun's president and chief executive officer, said, "What's been going on has not gone unnoticed."

Mohegan Sun, in fact, has been offering $100 in free slots play to Empire City card holders who visit Mohegan Sun and sign up for a Mohegan Sun Player's Club membership. The promotion, begun in November, is scheduled to continue through March. Mohegan Sun is about to introduce a similar promotion targeting Twin River patrons, Etess said.

While no Foxwoods executive was available this week, Michael Speller, president of Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprises, which operates Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods, last week noted Twin River's uptick in its slots win in December, the first full month of around-the-clock operation at the Rhode Island facility. Speller said the Foxwoods casinos were mindful of the additional competition posed by Twin River.

Empire City, which offers wagering on live harness racing and simulcast races in addition to some 5,300 video lottery terminals, retooled its player's club program last April in connection with a new advertising campaign designed to raise its profile, according to Ryan Murphy, Empire City's marketing director. Empire City tracks the slot play of card holders who sign up for the free program and who earn points redeemable for merchandise and meals.

"If Mohegan Sun's giving $100 in free play to everyone with an Empire City card, that adds value to the Empire City card," Murphy said. "We've had a handful of people ask, 'How do I get the $100 in free play?' We tell them they have to sign up with us first. 'We'll give you a little free play, then by all means drive two hours to Mohegan Sun and check it out. We'll see you when you get back.'"

Empire City, which is also a two- to three-hour drive from Atlantic City's resort casinos, highlights its location and "the convenience factor" in advertising that reaches New York City, southern Connecticut and northern New Jersey, Murphy said.

Twin River's marketing pitch is summed up in its slogan: "So Much. So Close!" The racetrack casino, which is hoping to emerge from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization by late spring or early summer, has refined its operations and advertising in recent months, said Patti Doyle, a spokeswoman for the facility. It is still uncertain whether the Rhode Island legislature will require Twin River to resume greyhound racing, which the facility's management has sought to eliminate. Twin River still offers wagering on simulcast racing.

In addition to extending its hours of operation, Twin River has added virtual blackjack and virtual roulette games to its mix of more than 4,700 video lottery terminals and has upgraded its free-play program for card holders, Doyle said. Improvements in the food-and-beverage offerings include this month's opening of the Wicked Good Pub and Grill, which features "affordable comfort food" and 17 beers on tap.

"Affordability and value are the keys," Doyle said. "We're responding to the economy by giving the guests more for less."

And, as is typical of convenience casinos, they don't have to go far to get it.