HARTFORD, Conn. — Increased gambling competition is forcing the largest casino in the Western Hemisphere to shift its business to include more non-gambling enterprises such as retail and conferences, the chief executive of Foxwoods Resort Casino said Thursday.
Scott Butera, CEO of the Indian-run casino, said in an interview with The Associated Press that Foxwoods anticipated the success of New York’s Aqueduct Racetrack “racino.”
“We planned for the effects of Aqueduct,” Butera said.
A record $1.13 billion was wagered in July at the Resorts World Casino in New York’s borough of Queens. The sums gambled and net revenue of $59.8 million for July were at an all-time monthly high since its opening in October.
Butera said Foxwoods, which is owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in eastern Connecticut, has launched a plan to redevelop its food and beverage business and is looking at improving group sales and corporate events at its MGM Grand hotel.
“We are definitely looking to enhance other businesses that have been less prominent in the past,” he said.
The success of Aqueduct is raising fears in the industry of casino crowding in the Northeast. Massachusetts approved casino gambling last year, though the first casinos won’t open in the Bay State for years.
“It will mean our business will change.” Butera said.
Revenue will likely shift from a strong emphasis on table games and slot machines to a blend of business tied to Foxwoods’ hotel, food and beverage and entertainment businesses, he said.
Butera, a former chief executive of Las Vegas-based Tropicana Entertainment Inc., said he does not see Foxwoods’ business split 50-50 between gambling and non-gambling enterprises similar to casinos in Las Vegas. But it’s “approaching that,” he said.
“Any good business is constantly adjusting to their environment,” he said. “We’re focusing on making sure we’re very much a premium destination with multiple attractions, multiple offerings so visitors have other reasons to come besides gaming.”
But gambling will remain Foxwoods’ prime venture.
“It will still be gaming,” Butera said.
Mohegan Sun, which is a neighbor of Foxwoods, is looking to boost revenue in a venture pursuing management contracts and consulting agreements for casino and entertainment businesses. It announced on Tuesday a deal with Casinos Resorts, taking over the operations of the Atlantic City, N.J., casino.
Foxwoods announced last Thursday it has restructured more than $2.2 billion of debt, resolving a lengthy financial stalemate
“It’s a great first step and I feel we’re on our way,” Butera said. “It was a very concerted effort over a long period of time.”
He said Foxwoods will not disclose when the deal will close.
The parent company of the Mohegan Sun casinos announced in March it has refinanced debt of about $1 billion.
Several Indian-run casinos have struggled to refinance debt after being caught short when the economy went into recession in December 2007. Investors have been nervous about the debt because the casinos cannot file for bankruptcy and creditors can’t foreclose on their properties because tribal governments are sovereign.