Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun is one of the great casino resorts in the U.S. In fact, it was recently named the top casino in the USAToday poll. Ray Pineault has been running the property since 2015 and before that was chief operating officer for three years. Pineault talked about recent development phases at the hotel, which has added rooms, meetings and convention space, restaurants and retail attractions. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at the G2E trade show, held in Las Vegas in October.
GGB: What are some new developments at the property within the last couple of years?
Ray Pineault: In our market we’ve had over $2.5 billion in investment by competitors coming in. So we’ve been working on things and solidifying the property and solidifying our player loyalty. Two years ago, we added 400 hotel rooms. We added the largest expo center in Connecticut, which has been a tremendous success. Our hotel is still running at over 97 percent occupancy. In addition to that, we’ve been working on non-gaming amenities, like the new Roadhouse comedy club and a new lounge. So we’re looking to continue to enhance and grow our non-gaming amenities and give people more reasons to visit the property.
MGM opened last year in Springfield and Wynn opened Encore Boston Harbor. What’s been the impact of those openings?
We’re talking about $2.5 billion in investment in Massachusetts, and both of those markets were feeder markets for Mohegan Sun. But when we look at our top-line revenues, we’ve been pleasantly surprised with the loyalty our guests have shown to Mohegan Sun. Obviously, they’re going to try those places, but many are coming back to visit us. They may not visit as often, but they’re still coming to Mohegan Sun because of the offerings we have.
Entertainment has always been a big part of the Mohegan Sun experience. How important is the arena?
This is a huge driver for us. Every time we run a show, we have the opportunity to bring 8,000 to 10,000 people to the property. And while a few may not be gamers, they may stop and spend $20, $30 eating or drinking. We know they’re using the hotel. They’re certainly using the spa and shopping at our retail, so we’re getting additional spend from them.
And of course we’re very proud of our WNBA team (the Connecticut Sun). Unfortunately, they lost the championship, but they battled really hard. They had a tremendous season and we look forward to bringing them back next year and hopefully finishing it off.
We saw a change in the tribal leadership earlier this year. Is there still a big commitment from the tribe to the success of the entire gaming enterprise?
I can’t be prouder or happier to work with the tribal council that we have. But we have an election for our tribal leadership every two years. So there’s always some transition, whether it’s through retirement or people coming up through the ranks, like any politics.
The tribe has always been committed to Mohegan Sun. It’s their property, it’s their homeland, and they are exceptionally committed to the growth and overall well-being of the company.
What about sports betting in Connecticut?
From my perspective as the operator, we need to come to the realization that we now have Rhode Island and New York doing sports betting. And it’s not that sports wagering is the economic panacea that people were dreaming about, but it’s a competitive disadvantage for us. So if a guest has a spouse or family members who want to go enjoy a facility, but they want to lay a wager down on any particular game or sporting event, we could lose that guest, at least for that trip. So when you don’t have the full complement of product it’s a lost opportunity.