Connecticut's Casino Expansion Plans

MGM Mirage is coming to Foxwoods Resort & Casino (www.foxwoods.com). In a marriage of gaming goliaths, Foxwoods has inked a deal allowing it to turn its new $700 million hotel/casino into a co-branded MGM Mirage property. Foxwoods broke ground on the project in November 2005. Rendering of the new MGM Grand at Foxwoods

It is located on the same southeastern Connecticut reservation as its original hotel and casino, or the equivalent of about two city blocks away. A connector hallway will join the two properties.

"[Visitors] may park at the MGM, have a meeting at the MGM, and then it's just a short walk through this corridor to Foxwoods," says Sandra Rios, manager of Foxwoods public relations. "[The walk is] going to be very short, very pretty."

Officials say that the new hotel and casino will be called MGM Grand at Foxwoods. "The new resort will utilize one of the most well-known brands in the hotel/casino resort industry...and will contain the kind of fine dining, nightclub, entertainment, spa and recreational and retail amenities for which MGM Mirage is famous," the official release reports.

Still, Travel Agent asked Rios how closely the new hotel will resemble MGM's Las Vegas property. Her response: "It will be different...not a carbon copy of the other (MGM) properties." As to how much it will resemble the current Foxwoods hotel and casino, Rios says, "It's going to be very different...we're actually referring to it as the third casino in Connecticut."

MGM and Foxwoods will partner on the day-to-day operations of the hotel and casino, although workers will be Foxwoods employees. An official describes the operational structure as a "partnership" between the pair. MGM Mirage and Foxwoods are planning additional projects, yet both companies are remaining mum on the specifics.

MGM Grand at Foxwoods will have an 825-room hotel tower, a new spa, 115,000 square feet of meeting and convention space, more restaurants, nightclubs, retail space and a 4,000-square-foot Performing Arts Theater. Foxwoods says it plans to complete the entire project sometime between the spring and summer of 2008.

One travel agent familiar with the property seemed perplexed by the news. "I'm really confused—unless they have the volume of people that would fill up another $700 million hotel and casino. Personally, I don't see it," says Joan Siebert of Meriden Travel Bureau in Meriden, CT, about an hour's drive from the casino. "It seems like with Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, there is more than enough room for gambling. But maybe they are running at full occupancy. Still, it seems like a really big move."

Foxwoods isn't the only one expanding. Mohegan Sun Hotel Casino & Entertainment (www.mohegansun.com) has hired a Florida architectural firm to evaluate opportunities for expansion on its own southeastern Connecticut property. The official press release, which went out to the media in August and was issued by the architectural firm Wimberly, Allison, Tong & Goo, made no specific mention of expansion.

"Destination design firm WATG has been hired by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority to provide Mohegan Sun with master planning, architecture, interior design and landscape design for the hotel and casino operations."

But an official with Mohegan Sun told Travel Agent that WATG will also examine issues like, "If we wanted to expand, where would it work, how would it look?" But, says the official, "Nothing is set in stone."

In other Mohegan Sun news, last week the company received its license from state officials to install slots at Pocono Downs Racetrack. The renamed property, Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs, will eventually have 2,000 slots.

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