These are heady times for Mohegan Sun. Not only is the casino nearing its 25th anniversary on Oct. 12, it is also girding for the long-awaited arrival of legalizing iGaming and sports wagering that same month, while it has apparently recovered from the impact of Covid-19 — and then some.
“We’ve taken all the steps necessary to make sure our visitors are safe,” Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment President and CEO Ray Pineault told the Business Journal, saying the Uncasville casino went above and beyond the protocols established by the CDC and state and local governments to rebuild visitors’ confidence.
“We continue to put protocols in place and maintain a culture centered on our guests’ safety,” he said, “and we’ve been pleased with the results.”
As well the company should be. For the quarter ended June 30, Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE) — which in addition to the flagship Connecticut location operates Mohegan Sun Poconos in Pennsylvania; Fallsview in Niagara Falls, Canada; Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, which officially opened on March 25; and, scheduled for 2023, the Inspire Entertainment Resort in Incheon, South Korea — posted net revenues of $328.2 million, a 206% increase over Q3 2020; income from operations of $64 million versus a $20.5 million loss in the previous third quarter; and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of $101.7 million, a 1,111.2% increase.
As for Mohegan Sun’s pending 25th anniversary, Pineault calls it a “testament to the hard work and dedication of our team members” — many of whom he said have been with the organization since it first opened its doors — “as well as the confidence shown by the tribe in building such a fantastic organization.”
The casino will allow members of its Momentum loyalty program to participate in a “collect and win” promotion throughout the month of October, where cardholders can earn a swipe at the 25th anniversary kiosks for a chance to win “free slot play” prizes and up to $50,000 in cash.
It is also offering a $250,000 Anniversary Slot Sweepstakes, where guests can vie for a share of $250,000 in cash by playing their favorite slots, as well as “high-rolling” private blackjack, slot and Baccarat tournaments will also be hosted for VIP gamers.
Over the Oct. 22-24 weekend, Harry Styles and Blake Shelton will each headline the 10,000-seat Mohegan Sun Arena, while Run-DMC will play the 300-seat Wolf Den. Yet-to-be-named celebrities are scheduled to attend a VIP party at the resort’s latest addition, the TAO Asian Bistro & Lounge.
While sports wagering is scheduled to begin in Connecticut on Oct. 7, Pineault said Mohegan Sun may not be joining in on that date.
“We would rather roll it out properly than too quickly,” he said. “We want to make sure the experience is a good one for our guests.”
Still, he said, “Obviously NFL football is huge for sports wagering.”
According to an August article in the Washington Post, the league and its teams expect to generate about $270 million in revenue this year from their sports-betting and gambling deals. It also quoted NFL Chief Strategy and Growth Officer Christopher Halpin as saying, “You can definitely see the market growing to $1 billion-plus of league opportunity over this decade.”
The Legal Sports Betting website has appraised overall sports betting at $150 billion a year, “and this is assumed to be a conservative estimate.”
Gambling news website PlayCT has reported that the Nutmeg State could evolve into a market that generates more than $1.5 billion in annual sports wagers and more than $100 million in operator revenue, while online casinos could generate as much as $350 million in gross gaming revenues annually.
“Connecticut is a relatively small state, but the market has a handful of attributes that should help it punch a bit above its weight,” said Eric Ramsey, analyst for the PlayUSA.com network, which includes PlayCT.com. “Geographically, the state is in a good place, with the potential to draw significant out-of-state business from New York and Massachusetts. And Connecticut features one of the highest median household incomes in the U.S.”
Connecticut’s legislation imposes an 18% tax on new online, or iGaming, gambling for the first five years, and a 20% tax rate for at least the following five years. There is also a 13.75% tax rate to be levied on sports wagering.
That market “represents a huge opportunity for us as well as tax revenue for the state,” Pineault affirmed. “We think the state will be pleased with the results we see.”
Meanwhile, MGE has undergone something of a C-suite shuffle over the past several months. Pineault was elevated from Mohegan Sun president and general manager to MGE chief operating officer in August 2020, then became interim president and CEO in March 2021 upon the sudden exit of Mario Kontomerkos; he was given the permanent title in May.
Also in March, Carol Anderson, previously senior vice president – Treasury, Capital Markets and associate general counsel at Scientific Games in Las Vegas, took over as MGE’s chief financial officer, replacing Kelly McKinnon, who had only held the post since October 2020.
And early in September, Jody Madigan, a former general manager at the Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, Louisiana, took over the COO role at MGE.
Pineault said that, despite the appearance of upheaval, the many changes were nothing to be alarmed by.
Asked about additional expansion, he said, “As an organization we are always looking at opportunities. There is nothing to announce at this time, but we have several irons in the fire.”