The Mohegan Sun’s slot machine revenues for July increased over 2019 while its Connecticut rival Foxwoods Resorts Casino’s revenues fell sharply during that month.
According to the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, the Sun reported keeping $47.5 million after paying out prizes, which was 1.7 percent higher than last year. Foxwoods, which is owned by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe retained $30.5 million, a 19.8 percent plunge over last year.
Both casinos closed for two months beginning in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When the two casinos reopened June 1 they reported strong numbers the first month, which was attributed to a long-denied demand from patrons who had been locked up without anything to do—plus no regional competition those first weeks.
Mohegan Sun President and General Manager Jeff Hamilton attributed his casino’s higher numbers to its going the extra mile to make patrons feel safe. He told the Day, “Customers tell us they feel safer at Mohegan Sun than anywhere else they’re going,” he said. “They know that if people aren’t wearing a mask, we’re holding them accountable.”
That good news didn’t mean entirely good news for the Sun’s employees. Some furloughed workers learned August 13 that those not called back to work by the end of September will be laid off. How many that is, is undetermined at this point, said Hamilton. That’s because the casino is still calling some of its furloughed workers back and shifting others into open positions. It has recalled about 75 percent back at this point.
Hamilton said in a statement, “As a result of the impact of Covid-19, effective September 30th, 2020 Mohegan Sun will conclude our furlough program that has been in place since March 2020.”He added, “This will reduce our workforce for team members who have not been called back to work prior to the end of September. We are working with affected team members to find new positions and are offering retraining in areas of demand such as table games.”
He admitted to being wrong when he said originally that no jobs would be lost when the casino closed. “I thought the impact on the business would be minimal. When we closed, I thought we would reopen in a week or two.” It actually lasted 76 days. He added, “We’ve gotten to a point where we can’t reasonably say to all of our team members that you’re going to return to work soon and in some cases, if ever.”
Foxwoods recently reopened its HighFlyer Zipline, Cedar’s Steak & Oysters restaurant and Hard Rock Café, pronouncing them safe. When the casino reopened June 1 many of its restaurants, hotel rooms and other amenities remained shuttered.
Foxwoods Interim CEO Jason Guyot told the Day, “COVID-19’s impact continues to be felt by most industries and gaming venues, but we are encouraged by guest response and traffic, and we feel our calculated and thoughtful approach in reopening Foxwoods in phases is the right move.” He added, “We have been doubling down on safety — that is the main focus — and we’re pleased that guests see Foxwoods as a secure, welcoming environment where they can stay, shop, game, and dine, all in a resort perfectly sized to allow for social distancing.”
Meanwhile, Foxwoods has canceled or moved all concerts that had been scheduled for September, that includes performances by the Little River Band and Lil’ Kim.
It hasn’t yet addressed upcoming shows in October, including scheduled performances by Stephanie Mills and the Whispers and the Survivor.
Foxwoods net revenues declined 71 percent during the two months that it was closed. Q2 revenues were $55.7 million, compared to $192.7 million the year before. Gaming revenues were $48.2 million, 69.7 percent lower than $159.2 million. Partially softening that decline was a 57.9 drop in operating expenses.
The Pequot tribe’s action to increase liquidity by extending the maturity of its loan by six months, which prompted Moody’s Investors Service to attach a “limited default” designation to its debt. Moody’s wrote, “Moody’s believes that Mashantucket would not have been able to repay the … loan in its entirety on June 30 given that present cash flows, while positive, plus available cash balances are not sufficient to meet all of the Mashantucket’s’ debt service obligations.”