Las Vegas Sun

August 22, 2019

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New England casinos battle for high-rollers

Beach Plum

Charles Krupa / AP

Beach Plum flowers bloom along the banks of the Mystic River in front of the Encore Boston Harbor casino in Everett, Mass., Friday, June 21, 2019.

Click to enlarge photo

This Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, photo shows the MGM Springfield casino's front facade on Main Street in Springfield, Mass.

There has never been a better time for gaming in New England. The recent launch of Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, and the opening of MGM Springfield nearly a year ago has put Massachusetts on the map as a casino destination.

The introduction of two new casino-resort properties with big brand recognition in the region means stiff competition for high-rollers. Gamblers who consistently wage large amounts of money can have a major impact on a casino, which is why companies offer lavish "comps" and perks to these high-stakes players.

Alan Woinski, president of Gaming USA, told MassLive that casinos sometimes spend up to 10 times more in advertising to attract high rollers compared to the average gambler.

In recent decades, the casino resorts destinations for most New Englanders were in Connecticut. While Plainridge Park opened its slot parlor in 2015, the established resorts at Foxwoods, located on reservation land operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, and Mohegan Sun, located on reservation land operated by the Mohegan Tribe, have been some of the most popular destinations for gamblers in the northeast — at least, prior to the opening of MGM and Encore.

Foxwoods wasted no time taking a jab at its newest competitor in Everett. In a promotional Facebook post, the resort wrote, "Why pay $42 for parking at a Boston Casino? Play FoxwoodsONLINE from the comfort of your own home and earn Rewards you can use at Foxwoods Resort Casino, where parking is always free."

Executives of Encore Boston Harbor say the $2.6 billion resort on the banks of the Mystic River is expected to attract high rollers from around the world. Wynn Resorts offers five-star service and carries a reputation for attracting the world's wealthiest — and most profitable — gamblers.

Take a look at the different reward programs, perks and experiences that New England casino resorts are offering to attract high rollers and consistent customers.

Mohegan Sun

Casino executives at Mohegan Sun believe new enhancements to the resort, including the upgraded Aspire and Thirty Three hotel, will interest wealthier clientele.

According to Mohegan Sun President and General Manager Ray Pineault, high-end gamers can access the resort by private helicopter thanks to Mohegan's own helipad. The property is marketed to any gambler coming from Boston, Providence, New York City, as well as the more local New Haven and Hartford.

Aspire is the newest addition in Mohegan's Sky Tower hotel. The "hotel within a hotel" on floors 31-36 of the Sky Tower caters to guests seeking luxury and has sweeping views of the Thames River and New England countryside, according to Pineault. Visitors to Aspire can expect exclusive features such as a private elevator, butler service and a welcome gift. Special customers can also gain access to luxury food and beverage spot Thirty Three.

Mohegan also recently opened novelle, a new nightlife lounge that is 15,000 square feet of space and features "four luxury style salons with private gaming, in addition to multiple table game options like blackjack & roulette out in the regular areas of the venue." Customers who can afford it can buy out salons for an evening. The largest salon option, "The Gatsby," offers a personal bar, large flat-screen TV, luxury design and furniture, as well as its own craps table and blackjack table.

The reward program at Mohegan is called "Momentum," and offers members a number of partnerships with travel and luxury businesses. Most recently, Baha Mar and MSC Cruises became Momentum partners.

"The more advanced a guest's Momentum status, the more advantageous the discount and perks, as well," Pineault said.

Foxwoods Resort Casino

Foxwoods says it understands that competition is growing quickly in the Northeast, and that it is working to evolve in order to exceeds customer expectations.

With more than 340,000 square feet of gaming space and more than 9 million square feet of total property, Foxwoods is one of the largest casino resorts on the continent. The company is focused on cultivating unique experiences for guests, like the recently-opened HighFlyer Zipline and Monza World Class Karting. The casino also has an indoor shopping mall, world-renowned golf courses, luxury spas and more.

Foxwoods' five different hotels each accommodate a different kind of customer. Its luxury hotel is The Villas, where guests can find 24-hour butler service and room service.

The Foxwoods Rewards program allows guests to earn credits that they can use for popular dining spots, theater tickets, overnight stay and more. The rewards also allow members to travel to Atlantis Paradise Island and several Las Vegas resorts at a discounted rate.

Plainridge Park Casino

Plainridge Park Casino is a smaller casino that serves more local and regional gamblers instead of the high-roller crowd.

The Plainville casino has dozens of electronic table games, more than 1,200 slot machines and several restaurants — including Flutie's Sports pub named for Patriots legend Doug Flutie. Plainridge also hosts seasonal, harness horse-racing track and an indoor simulcast theater. Unlike its competitors, Plainridge does not have a hotel on-site, but offers stay through partnerships with nearby hotels.

Regular gamblers at Plainridge can sign up for the casino's free mychoice loyalty program, which offers various discounts, promotions and rewards through "tier points," drawings and giveaway events. Purchased by Marquee Rewards in 2019, the mychoice brand is offered at more then 35 destinations across the country.

Members of the program can use their comps at any of the locations, which include St. Louis, Louisiana and Las Vegas. Perks are given based on the brand's tiered membership, and include discounts on Norwegian Cruise Line, invitations to resorts and VIP benefits like valet parking, check-in and entertainment pre-sales and seating.

MGM Springfield

MGM Resorts prides itself as an industry leader in the gaming space. With that title comes "guest service and experiences around the world" — especially for those lucky enough to be "VIPs and Super VIPs." For high rollers, MGM strives to create one-of-a-kind experiences for its most loyal patrons.

According to an MGM spokesperson, some VIP experiences include throwing out the first pitch at a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, flying first-class with the New England Patriots to an away game, turning on the fountains at The Bellagio, or enjoying a bottle of vintage wine or spirits that could cost up to $10,000.

Other perks include custom golf clubs from Calloway, engraved Hennessy Cognac bottles, meet-and-greet events with stars like Stevie Wonder and more. In one instance, MGM even named a dish after a guest at one of the on-site restaurants, Cal Mare.

For top gamers, the MGM connection means links to its worldwide properties. In one case, the company arranged for a Springfield guest to play in a celebrity golf tournament in Detroit through MGM Grand Detroit. In another, a guest was flown out to enjoy the Masters Tournament through MGM's Beau Rivage property.

For the "more modest VIP guest services," complimentary limo and helicopter transportation are a staple. Bottle services at Commonwealth, luxurious accommodations, private dining and golf at the GreatHorse, a country club in Western Massachusetts, are also available to those regular guests.

The "M Life Rewards" loyalty program at MGM offers special room rates, pre-sale show tickets, priority reservations and invitations to members-only events across the country, and are based on a tier-level system. The program has partnerships with Hyatt, Southwest Airlines, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Avis, and incentives for New England-only experiences with the Patriots, Springfield Thunderbirds, Worcester Railers, the Hanover Theatre and more.

MGM Springfield's revenue misses due in part to lack of high-rollers and Eastern Mass. customers, casino President Michael Mathis says

MGM's gross gaming revenues are about 33 percent below initial projections. Mathis is optimistic revenue numbers will improve as the weather improves and new marketing initiatives kick in.

Encore Boston Harbor

Encore Boston Harbor is pitching itself as the finest casino resort in the Northeast for high rollers.

Among the perks for its loyal guests, Encore will offer its prestigious guests luxurious rides to and from Boston Logan International Airport in stretch Lincoln limousines, Cadillac Escalades or custom-designed Range Rovers, a spokesperson told MassLive.

Top spenders also have their choice of sports or cultural outings at some of Boston's most popular and celebrated institutions. Wynn Resorts made inroads with the Boston Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics for top game tickets, as well as the Boston Symphony Orchestra -- which Wynn has sponsored. Representatives say they are working to create additional tourism benefits in the new Everett location.

Encore offers some of the finest hotel rooms in the Boston area, including its a top-floor Presidential "Villa," with panoramic views of Boston from the north and a starting cost of $15,000 a night.

In addition to the 210,000 square-foot gaming space, there are dozens of private areas in the casino and resort, including salons, dining room, restaurant space and conference space that can be rented out for personal or business events.

Spaces like Rare, a Japanese steakhouse, Sinatra, fine Italian dining, and Mystique, a high-end Asian-fusion restaurant are among Encore's impressive lineup of dining options. The resort also offers Memoire, a nightclub with VIP tables and top-of-the-line audio and lighting systems.

According to Gaming USA President Alan Woinski, Wynn Resorts' database of 10 million "brand loyalists" is also incredibly valuable to the company's ability to attract high rollers.

At Encore, guests can sign up for a Red Card membership. By using the card to gamble, customers can win credits that go toward dining, entertainment and valet, according to Encore Boston Harbor's website.