Connecticut casinos see increase in business after storm

Nov 5, 2012 9:53 AM

Connecticut’s two casinos have been doing a good business in the wake of Monday’s storm, which shut down the 12 casinos in Atlantic City.

Neither the Foxwoods Resort Casino nor the Mohegan Sun Casino, which are located in hard-hit southeastern Connecticut, lost power during Sandy, and both report their hotels have been filled to capacity all week.

‘‘We’ve had previous experiences with Atlantic City casinos shutting down and there is a little bit of a bump up,’’ said Bobby Soper, the president and chief executive at Mohegan Sun. ‘‘We do see that we do get patrons that get to experience our property as an alternative, who otherwise would not have tried us out.’’

Both Connecticut casinos remained open even during the height of the storm, though many of their shops and restaurants were shuttered.

Foxwoods marketing director Becky Carr said the resort closed two of its four hotels on Monday and consolidated guests in the other two because of staffing shortages. Both casinos said they excused any storm-related employee absences.

‘‘We didn’t increase reservations for that Monday and Tuesday, so we could have the staff to support the people that were here,’’ Carr said. ‘‘But then we opened up everything and we’ve been at capacity since then.’’

Maryanne Paine, 49, of Pawtucket, R.I., was among those who weathered the storm at Foxwoods. She and a friend decided to keep their reservations because they felt they would be safer in the casino and wouldn’t have to worry about losing power, she said.

‘‘We had our pick of machines,’’ she said. ‘‘We were there and having a good time, so we decided to stay and just continue our good time there.’’

This was the fourth time in the 34-year history of legalized gambling in Atlantic City that those casinos were ordered closed. Since gambling began in Atlantic City in 1978, the only other times the resort’s gambling halls closed were during Hurricane Gloria in 1985; during a state government shutdown in 2006 that shuttered the casinos for three days, and for three days in August 2011 as Hurricane Irene approached. That closure caused an estimated $45 million worth of lost business during what would have been one of the busiest weekends of the year.

All but two casinos in Atlantic City planned to be back in business Friday.

Soper and Carr both said they are sensitive to the plight of the Atlantic City casinos and were not trying to steal their customers or capitalize on their misfortune.

But Foxwoods sent out an email to all of its patrons, letting them know they were open this week and offering a 50 percent discount on rooms this week, some for as low as $99 a night.

‘‘A number of people took advantage of that,’’ Carr said. ‘‘Whether it was an escape or they truly needed a warm shower and a hot meal, I couldn’t tell you.’’

Tino Punturiero, 49, rode out the storm at home to keep an eye on the house in New Fairfield, Conn., while his wife and daughter stayed at a hotel at the Foxwoods Resort Casino.

He said his family enjoyed their time at the hotel, although it got a little hectic by the day after the storm.

‘‘They said they were limited because of the power situation,’’ he said. ‘‘They had one casino open and the food was getting kind of limited at the end,’’ he said.

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