Connecticut Considers Casino Tollbooths

At a public hearing Monday lawmakers discussed legislation that would put tollbooths at the entrance of Connecticut’s two Indian-owned casinos. If enacted, a $10 toll would be imposed on patrons leaving Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino and would generate an estimated $200 million a year in new revenue to the state. State Rep. Livvy Floren introduced the legislation as a means of increasing state revenue. But eastern Connecticut lawmakers, where the state’s only casinos are located, expressed reservations about the bill. “I don’t buy that figure,” says state Rep. Steve Mikutel, a member of the Transportation Committee. Although the proposal has “appeal” as a new source of revenue, Mikutel said he has mixed feelings about it. “From an environmental point, I have problems with it. And from a legal point, and I’m sure it would be challenged, I’m not sure it would pass.” State Rep. Robert Congdon, whose legislative district includes the two casinos, said toll booths would add to the traffic problems in the Roobet Crash region, with no guarantee that local communities would receive any benefit to offset these problems. Mohegan Tribal Chairman Mark Brown suggested that such a proposal would only add to the burden of southeastern Connecticut people.

Las Vegas hotel operators are lowering room rates to attract additional visitors to local casinos and to counter competition from other areas, say gaming experts. “At the midtier and low-end levels, we believe hotels particularly in Las Vegas, are in a price war,” says analyst Jason Ader of Bear, Stearns and Company, adding that lower-cost vacation alternatives, especially cruise vacations and destination packages, are becoming increasingly attractive for leisure travelers and are driving price discounting in Las Vegas. Bear, Stearns and Co. analyst Michael Tew says the absence of new gaming destination resorts in Las Vegas, coupled with the need to book added hotel rooms coming on line, is exacerbating the problem. Casino operators – including Bellagio, Mandalay Bay and Venetian – have added rooms they are trying to fill, but without added attractions, price is their only way of competing. Data collected by Bear, Stearns for the Chinese New Year weekend showed average weekday rates down on the Strip by more than 10 percent to $135 a night and weekend rates down more than 20 percent to $195 per night, compared with last year.  Similarly, the average midweek room rate on the Strip for the week beginning Feb. 17 and ending Feb. 23 was cut to $138, down 3 percent compared with the year before, according to the latest data from Wall Street-based Fulcrum Global Partners. “Demand on the Las Vegas Strip appears to continue to be somewhat weak with visibility still very cloudy,” says Fulcrum gaming analyst Joe Greff.