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Foxwoods Jumps Into Fray For Eastern Mass. Casino

Stephen Singer, Associated Press
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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s Foxwoods Resort Casino has joined the race to open a casino in eastern Massachusetts.

CEO Scott Butera told The Associated Press on Monday that it is working with real estate developer David Nunes to compete for a casino in Milford, about 40 miles west of Boston.

Building a casino just 70 miles from Foxwoods in southeast Connecticut will not lead to destructive competition between the two casinos, but help bring in customers in Connecticut and Massachusetts, which “will hopefully lead to growth in both markets,” he said.

Butera and Nunes have known each other for years, and Nunes “reached out to me some time ago,” Butera said. Nunes already has reached an agreement with the town of Milford to build an $850 million resort casino.

Foxwoods, the largest casino in the Western Hemisphere, is the right partner because it’s the most familiar with the New England gambling market, Nunes said.

“To me it was a no-brainer in terms of attracting the best company to manage the operation for us,” he said.

The Nunes venture, Crossroads Massachusetts, will compete for the eastern Massachusetts resort casino license with Suffolk Downs in Boston and Steve Wynn, who has proposed a casino for Everett.

“I don’t think the competition is as daunting now that we have Foxwoods on board,” Nunes said.

Butera would not disclose how much Foxwoods would invest in the Massachusetts venture, only that “we’re making a substantial commitment.”

Revenue at Foxwoods and its Connecticut rival, the Mohegan Sun, has been under tremendous pressure for several years as consumers pulled back spending on entertainment in the recession and weak recovery that followed and because of rising casino competition in the Northeast.

Butera said Foxwoods is not counting on a strong recovery in the economy, which has so far been anemic.

“Certainly, we hope for that,” he said. “If that happens, we’ll have a very strong project that will do quite well. We’re planning for very moderate growth.”

Mohegan Sun also has been working to get a foothold in Massachusetts. The casino, which is run by the Mohegan tribe, has been courting Palmer officials and residents in advance of its application for a state permit to open a casino in western Massachusetts.

The Mashantuckets agreed last year to restructure $2.2 billion in debt. Bond holders received new securities with lengthened maturity dates and holders of subordinated special revenue obligations receive new debt at a discount to face value of accrued principal and interest.

Butera has said increased gambling competition was forcing Foxwoods to shift its business to include more nongambling enterprises such as retail and conferences.

Separately, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno announced on Monday that he would negotiate host community agreements with MGM Resorts International and Penn National Gaming, which have proposed casino developments for the western Massachusetts city.

The decision follows a review process and could result in Springfield voters choosing from two casino proposals. Under the state’s casino gambling law, any host community agreement that is reached between a city and a developer must be approved by voters.

MGM Resorts International has proposed a resort casino and entertainment complex in downtown Springfield. Penn National Gaming, in partnership with Peter Pan Bus Lines chairman Peter Picknelly, has proposed one in the city’s North End.

Hard Rock International, which has plans for a casino resort at the Eastern States Exhibition in West Springfield, also hopes to compete for the western Massachusetts license.

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Associated Press writer Bob Salsberg contributed to this report from Boston.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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