Scaled-back casino plan prepared by Mohegan Sun
Thursday, March 03, 2011
By JIM KINNEY
SPRINGFIELD - The issue of expanded gaming is expected to come before the state Legislature soon, and when it does, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority will push for a scaled-down version of their earlier proposed resort-style casino in Palmer.
Plans for that $600 million casino have shrunken in four years since it was first proposed from 3,000 slot machines to 2,500 slot machines in the plans today and from a theater with seating for up to 5,000 to a multi-use ballroom of 1,000 to 1,500 square feet, said Paul I. Brody vice president of Mohegan Gaming Advisors, during an editorial board meeting with The Republican Wednesday.
"This isn't a build-it-and-they-will-come business model anymore," Brody said.
"It is a very tightly-margined business and you have to watch how much you spend."
A law allowing casino gambling in Massachusetts failed in the waning days of the last legislative session. That bill included a resort-style casino - one with table games, a hotel and other amenities in addition to slot machines - for Western Massachusetts.
But Gov. Deval L. Patrick rejected last year's bill because it would not provide for competitive bidding for slot machines at race tracks. House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, D-Winthrop, has such tracks in his district and has pushed hard to establish slots-only gambling at those tracks.
In Western Massachusetts, another entity has proposed a casino for the Wyckoff Country Club in Holyoke.
The recession has changed the gambling industry, said Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Mitchell Grossinger Etess.
"Gaming is discretionary income," he said during the meeting.
The authority will look for investors if it gets permission to site a casino in Palmer.
"It is a different financial climate than 2004 and 2005," Brody said. "I don't think a lot of companies are financing projects off their balance sheet. I don't think that is a bad thing."
Etess said the Mohegans are being courted by potential investors in the Palmer project.
They said the organization is financially sound with its flagship casino in Uncasville, Conn., a facility in northeastern Pennsylvania and a deal in the works with an American Indian tribe in Washington state.
The company reported a 2.3 percent increase in earnings from $59.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 to $60.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2010. But much of that improvement came from cost cutting, according to a Mohegan news release. Gaming revenues fell from $309 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 to $307 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.
The company laid off 475 workers in Uncasville last year.
EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: Those are the facts, look how much the casino has dropped in business over the years? Who is responsible? Could it be the present Mohegan Tribal Council? What do you think?