Foxwoods scratch game could mark new era with state lotteries | Crain's Connecticut

Foxwoods scratch game could mark new era with state lotteries

Foxwoods is now selling the High Roller scratch ticket. | Photo courtesy of Foxwoods

A new Foxwoods Resort Casino-branded scratch ticket game may mark the beginning of an era of greater cooperation between tribal casinos and state lotteries nationally, analysts say.

Not so long ago Eastern Connecticut’s two tribally owned casinos and the Connecticut Lottery had nothing to do with each other. Not until four years ago were Connecticut Lottery products sold at either casino. The breakthrough came when Mohegan Sun began selling lottery tickets in 2013. Two years later Foxwoods followed suit.

Participants in the growing relationship saw Foxwoods’ 25th anniversary as a prime opportunity to bring together “two of the best Connecticut gaming brands,” CT Lottery Interim President and CEO Chelsea Turner said in an email.

The lottery began selling $10 Foxwoods High Roller tickets on June 12. As many as 1 million tickets are available for sale, according to the agency’s website. There are four top prizes of $125,000 each and two had already been won as of July 18. Tickets are sold until the supply is exhausted or all top prizes have been claimed, a lottery spokesman said.

The game features 25 chances to win, which is a way of drawing attention to Foxwoods’ 25th anniversary. Also included are 25 second-chance drawings in which holders of non-winning tickets can enter to win a “Wonder of it All” weekend. The experience includes a two-night stay at a Foxwoods hotel, round-trip limousine service, a $2,000 check from the lottery and a $1,000 gift card from Foxwoods.

Feedback from Foxwoods customers has been outstanding, thanks greatly to the fact that every ticket is a “guaranteed” winner, said Foxwoods Vice President of Brand Marketing Paul LaRocca. That’s because people can go to a rewards booths at Foxwoods and exchange the tickets for giveaways like free slot play and meal discounts, he said.

High Roller tickets are being sold at multiple locations on the Foxwoods property and at 2,900 Connecticut Lottery retailers statewide, Foxwoods said in a June 13 press release.

The tickets are selling “very well,” Turner said. For its first three weeks of sales, Foxwoods High Roller was the No. 6 seller out of the lottery’s 168 $10 games and ranked No. 2 out of those 168 in percentage of tickets sold. For second-chance tickets, the Foxwoods game has the most ever entered via the Internet, she said.

Tickets have sold out at multiple Foxwoods on-property selling locations, necessitating reorders from the lottery, LaRocca said.

The casino/lottery collaboration has accelerated in an atmosphere of declining revenue from slot machines, the casinos’ biggest revenue source, and existing and planned casinos in nearby states including Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. That includes a casino scheduled to open in Springfield, Mass., next year that’s being developed by MGM Resorts International.

The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, which own the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos, respectively, have joined forces and plan to build a casino in East Windsor in hopes of keeping Connecticut gambling patrons from traveling to the Springfield casino. The East Windsor casino is likely to open some time in 2019, said Andrew Doba, spokesman for the tribal joint venture.

The new scratch game adds a “unique” dimension to the strategy, according to Alan Meister, a California-based economist who is author of the annual Indian Gaming Industry Report.

 “The lottery development is another example of the good collaboration that seems to exist between the State of Connecticut and the tribes,” he said. “They’re working together to prevent the loss of gaming business.”

California, home to more than 30 Indian casinos, and other states are likely to take note of Connecticut’s “innovative branding partnership,” said Jeff Dense, a political science professor at Eastern Oregon University and an expert on state lotteries.

 “Decisions can’t be made in a box any longer,” Dense said. “There are developments in other states that affect a certain state’s bottom line.”

However, the Foxwoods game might “cannibalize” other scratch ticket games and hurt lottery earnings, he said.

 “Without having seen the agreement, I don’t see how it helps the lottery,” Dense said. “But for Foxwoods it seems to be all good.”

The lottery signed a licensing agreement with Foxwoods but the agreement does not include revenue sharing with the casino, Turner said. About 30 percent of sales will be sent to the state’s general fund with the majority of the game’s revenue being paid as prizes to ticket buyers, she said.

Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun pay 25 percent of their slot-machine revenue to the state government, so declining slots business means less revenue for the state budget. Other operations run by the tribes—including table games, off-track betting, hotels and food and beverage—are not taxed since the tribes are recognized by the U.S. government as sovereign nations and their financial dealings with the state are governed by signed compacts.

Foxwoods President and CEO Felix Rappaport said he sees the collaboration with the lottery growing beyond the High Roller game.

“We look forward to building upon this relationship to continue providing guests with innovative and fun ways to win in 2017 and beyond,” he said.

The lottery doesn’t have any additional products in development with Foxwoods but “is open to more opportunities,” Turner said.

Mohegan Sun has not decided upon any games but talks with the lottery are ongoing, President and General Manager Ray Pineault said.

“We do not currently have any definitive plans for a Mohegan Sun-branded scratch ticket, although we have discussed the idea and concept with [the lottery] and are considering looking at a joint effort on something of this nature in the future,” he said in an email.

Turner said a Mohegan Sun-branded game is a possibility, as are other partnerships related to the planned East Windsor casino, Turner said.

July 17, 2017 - 3:49pm