Once an umbilical cord, Mohegan Sun weaned off NYC-Boston buses

Always a crowd pleaser at Mohegan Sun, the buffet will go on hiatus for a while as the resort gets back up and running after two years of pandemic adjustments.

As for the cheap buses that have dropped off so many people from New York and Boston over the years? They may be inactive for the long term, the CEO of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment suggested on Thursday — but seemingly with little impact on gaming revenue that funnels some of the action into Connecticut coffers.

In the last three months of last year, revenue at Mohegan Sun Casino in eastern Connecticut exceeded what it had recorded in the last quarter of 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. results in shutdown and slow recovery to normalized service. Revenue from hotels, entertainment and gaming all exceeded the totals for the last three months of 2019, with only the restaurant service lagging behind.

Speaking to Trumbull on Thursday, Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment CEO Ray Pineault noted that the station has been able to rebound despite its abandonment of New York and Boston bus shuttles – a development he said he could not have imagined two years ago.

“We thought, quite honestly, that we could never get rid of New York and Boston buses,” Pinault told a business conference sponsored by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association. “We were doing about a third of our tabletop game volumes from buses in New York and Boston.”

With the advent of online gaming in Connecticut last October, however, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods now offer virtual gaming tables for those who want the action but want to skip the trip. Mohegan Sun is also partnering with FanDuel for a sports betting app that people can use to bet on games, while operating a sports betting lounge at the resort.

These days, at the Mohegan Sun, there’s one less appeal for fans of old-world resorts — the Seasons Buffet, which for under $30 offered an assortment from oysters to prime rib.

But in the absence of the buffet and the buses, customers keep coming back — and Connecticut is taking advantage. In the three months between January and March, Mohegan Sun’s slot revenue jumped 27% to $528 million. Foxwoods generated a slightly lower rate of increase to a handful of $372 million last month.

Mohegan Sun’s overall revenue totaled $252 million in the last three months of 2021, about $8 million more than in the latter part of 2019, according to MGE’s Securities filings. & Exchange Commission of the United States.

Like Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, so does overall tourism in Southeast Connecticut, whether it’s business spilling over to other attractions and activities, or people looking to try some of the restaurants. famous in the region.

“Casinos are a key part of the Mystic experience,” Stephen Coan, the longtime director of the aquarium and its parent company Sea Research Foundation, said in an interview last month with Hearst Connecticut Media. “We partner with them for discounted tickets and hotel experiences that include admission to the aquarium and VIP programs.”

In mid-May, Mohegan Sun will make it easier for people to get to the station, with a shuttle from New London. But Pineault said he does not anticipate the return of bus services from New York and Boston, although a spokesperson for Mohegan Sun said there were signs that private bus companies could add station to their routes.

“Visitors still drive to Mohegan Sun, often by car,” MGE spokesman Cody Chapman said in an email response to a query. “We also continue to see bus charters, whether for the first time or after a long hiatus.”

Since April, a return weekend ticket on Metro-North and Shore Line East from Grand Central Terminal to Union Station in New London costs $56. According to Uphail.com, Lyft or Uber rides to and from Union Station cost between $35 and $70 more for the trip.

On the Amtrak Acela train to Union Station, it’s a more expensive trip. For a set of tickets each way on a weekend in April, the coach class fare is $142. But Amtrak and Shore Line East passengers will soon have a better option for getting to the casino from there.

“A new London-based shuttle will also return on May 19 and will have a weekend schedule,” Chapman said. “Customers arriving via the Orient Point Ferry, Shoreline East or Amtrak can take the New London Shuttle by simply showing their ticket to the driver.”

Dattco, which has long offered Mohegan Sun bus service with nearly a dozen stops from East Haven to Westchester County, NY, has no immediate plans to resume service. Mohegan Sun had contributed with vouchers for food, shopping and free bets which a New Britain-based Dattco representative said made the race popular with customers.

“This program remains suspended by Mohegan Sun for the same reason as the subsidized buses – the marketing expense would be greater than the return on this cost,” Dennis Lyons, vice president of Dattco’s bus and tours group, said per e -mail. “Although we have received calls from passengers interested in the service at the casino, their interest quickly fades when they learn that the packages would not be provided. With this limited interest in the service, it is simply not financially viable to operate at this time.

New Yorkers have alternatives closer to home at Resorts World New York City and Empire City Casino in Yonkers, NY, with Governor Kathy Hochul expressing support for up to three more in the New York metro area. New York. Massachusetts added Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield, and Rhode Island the Twin River Casino Hotel and Tiverton Casino Hotel.

But Mohegan Sun stands out as an entertainment destination on another front. More than 185,000 people attended shows last year at Mohegan Sun Arena, trailing Pollstar, the 10th-highest total in the nation and behind Madison Square Garden in the northeast.

And for size even among US casino resorts nationwide, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are topped only by Oklahoma’s WinStar Casino & Resort.

MGE opened a new casino last month in Las Vegas, and under Pineault, construction is underway for a sprawling complex in Seoul, South Korea. It’s a big bet on the continued upward trajectory of legalized gambling, whether it’s traditional tables and slots or emerging opportunities like sports betting.

“We learned a lot about our business,” Pineault told Trumbull Thursday. “We learned a lot about our customers, what was most important to them and what they really wanted.”

Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-842-2545; @casoulman

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