Recent studies have shown that the younger generation of Las Vegas visitors tends to favor nightclubs and other entertainment venues to gambling. That trend is now being considered at casinos across the nation, particularly the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, the largest casino in North America. Officials at Foxwoods have announced that they intend to reduce the size of the gaming floor to make space for a new nightclub and other attractions to entice more visitors.
Felix Rappaport, Chief Executive Officer of the tribal-owned casino, told The Associated Press on Monday, “We think we have too much gaming,” and that it’s a decision that probably should have been made years earlier. Newly appointed to the position, Rappaport said that the delay may have even been due to emotional attachments to the casino, perhaps not wanting to lose the title of being the largest gaming facility in the US and Canada combined.
Viewing the situation from a logical approach, Rappaport says the vast gaming floor simply isn’t attracting the numbers it once did. Aisles upon aisles of slots cabinets, as well as blackjack and other card gaming tables are going unused on an average day of business. By converting a sizable section of the casino into more attractive entertainment options, including a nightclub, he believes Foxwoods can bring customers back through the doors in droves.
Foxwoods Casino Resort currently offers its patrons a massive collection of 5,800 slot machines and 350 table games. They are not all located in the same place, but rather across multiple casino venues throughout the massive 4.7 million square foot resort property. The CEO said that, when the renovations are over, they expect to have around 4,800 slot machines and 250 table games remaining; a 17.9% reduction in the total number of casino games.
When the casino first opened in 1992 as an extension of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe’s bingo hall (est. 1986), the growth rate was phenomenal. Foxwoods maintained a monopoly across the region until 1996, when Mohegan Sun opened its doors just 10 miles to the east, but even that wasn’t enough to put a dent in the well-established casinos resort’s bottom line.
Over the next decade, Foxwoods built its casino to as high as 6,300 slots and 380 table games before the Great Recession of 2007, when patronage began to taper off at an alarming rate. As other nearby states authorized casinos, competition and the economy clearly took its toll on Foxwoods. In 2012, The New York Times reported that Foxwoods was “fighting for its life” as the casino resort’s debt rose to $2.3 billion.
With competition only expect to intensify, Rappaport, who joined the Foxwoods payroll in February and was just appointed to the position of CEO last week, has been charged with the task of turning things around. The former President of three major Las Vegas resorts, Excalibur, New York-New York and The Luxor, Rappaport says he’s experienced this situation before. Foxwoods will adapt to the changing marketplace by adding new attractions and provoking enough excitement among local and out-of-state customers to revitalize patronage and keep visitors on the property longer.
Rappaport noted that approximately 80% of its revenue is generated from gambling, but expects that number to drop to 65-70% post-renovations. “The industry in general has become less gaming centric,” said the CEO. “I think in Foxwoods’ case we have exactly the same opportunities.”