For the longest time, anyone in the Northeast part of the U.S. who wanted to hit a casino needed to make their way into the woods of Connecticut, where they would find two luxury resorts, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. These two properties had a stranglehold on casino play in the region, bring players from as far south as New York City as well as up in Boston.
These days, the two casinos are seeing their numbers dwindle for many reasons, one of which is the recent opening of the MGM Springfield casino. We had a chance to be there during the soft launch and provide this review.
The first thing that we wondered when we heard about this property is why it would be located in Springfield. Well, the answer is pretty simple – it is the first town across the Connecticut border. Only a short drive from Hartford, and a decent ride from downtown Boston and its southern suburbs, Springfield is a great spot for MGM to have set up shop. Add in that the real estate was likely much cheaper than other cities, and the traffic that comes from having the Basketball Hall of Fame in town, and it all adds up to a great place for MGM to plant roots.
Making the most out of the space
The first thing we noticed when we walked into the casino was how crowded it felt. Now, this is sure to a couple of factors. First, there were a ton of people inside – the novelty of casino gambling has not worn off over the years, and this was evident by the number of players milling about on the casino floor. Second, the casino is not very big -the footprint is much smaller than that of Foxwoods, for example. This makes for a very intimate environment, but also creates the illusion of a very busy casino even if there aren’t that many people in the building.
Tons of gaming tables
Our quick scan of the casino found over 40 gaming tables, including 20 Blackjack tables. With betting limits as low as $10, these tables were all packed, and likely will stay that way if the casino continues to cater to this type of clientele. There are hundreds of slot machines surrounding these gaming tables, and there doesn’t seem to be an inch of space that isn’t being used on the entire casino floor.
So much more than gambling
Just like a Las Vegas casino, the MGM Springfield has far more to offer than just betting. First, there is a hotel on the property that allows guests from out of town to spend a few days at the resort. There are several restaurants and bars on the outside of the casino color, ranging from a food court to a top-notch steakhouse. Guests can use their player points earned at the tables at most of these establishments.
There is also an outdoor courtyard (which likely won’t be that popular in the winter months) that leads people out to a golf simulator and other bars and restaurants. Add in a theater that will host many musical performances and the city block that MGM has taken over houses everything a gambler could need.
What will the other casinos do?
Between this new MGM property and the construction of a Wynn-owned casino on the outskirts of Boston, Foxwoods and Mohegan sun could be in some trouble. Both have huge facilities that are located in the middle of nowhere, so they don’t exactly see a lot of foot traffic.
One of the ways the Connecticut casinos are trying to stay relevant is by getting involved in sports betting. Both properties have been in the discussions about sports betting legislation in the state, along with the OTB operator Sportech. However, the tribes have taken the position that they should receive the only licenses in the state, which has delayed the process of passing any regulations. With the financial pinch, they will feel in the remainder of 2018 from MGM Springfield, it is very likely that both Foxwoods and Mohegan will loosen their stance on the topic so they can start seeing some revenues from sports betting.
Whatever ends up happening, there is no question that there is still a real desire to gamble in the Northeast, and these two new properties will force the tribal casinos of Connecticut to step up their game like never before.