Foxwoods cuts deal w/MGM

May 2, 2006 4:03 AM


As the branding of casinos has expanded, the nation’s gaming venues are beginning to look like a massive Monopoly board.

MGM Grand, the largest casino operating company in the world, will soon have an East Coast presence as it has agreed to license its name for a planned $700 million hotel and casino expansion at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut.

The new hotel and casino will be called MGM Grand, but it will be operated by Foxwoods — the world’s largest casino with 7,400 slots and 365 table games.

Making its own move (past Go!) around the "board," Foxwoods is bringing its successful brand to Biloxi, Mississippi, where it plans to build a $400 million casino at Broadwater Beach.

The MGM deal gives Foxwoods an experienced partner as it tries to expand its convention and entertainment business and attract more minorities. Foxwoods will also gain access to MGM’s data-base of more than 22 million customers and will use MGM’s partnerships with companies to help attract new restaurants and top-flight entertainers to eastern Connecticut.

By partnering with Foxwoods, MGM gets brand exposure in the lucrative Northeast gaming market, currently dominated by Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. MGM does not operate an East Coast casino, though it has a partial ownership of Borgata in Atlantic City.

Foxwoods CEO William Sherlock said he expects to add the MGM name to future projects as part of an ongoing marketing deal between the two companies.

The terms of the deal were not released.

Terry Lanni, chairman and CEO of MGM Mirage, said the two parties have "signed this understanding to come up with ideas and we’ll be exploring that now."

Lanni wouldn’t say when MGM and Foxwoods will announce a new project or venture. "We’re going to do things when they’re right to do," he said.

The new casino at Foxwoods will include an 825-room hotel, 5,000-seat theater, a convention center and ballroom, nightclubs and 1,500 more slot machines.

The two companies also agreed to collaborate on casino investments off the reservation, with MGM lending $200 million to the tribes’ development company, which is planning the casino in Biloxi as well as a 600-acre resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The expansion of Foxwoods into the Mississippi market is just the start, according to Gary Armentrout, chief development officer for Foxwoods Development Company (FDC).

"Foxwoods Development Company was created to leverage the enormous financial resources and enormous human resources, the experience in casino development and management that Foxwoods possesses into other jurisdictions and other projects throughout the U.S.," Armentrout said.

In addition to invading the Biloxi market, FDC is one of five applicants for two casino licenses in Philadelphia, and is partnering with a Native American tribe in California on another project.