In the week that Massachusetts removed the last challenge to its new gaming industry, voting down a potential repeal, one of Connecticut’s casinos showed off exactly how it’s preparing for competition from the north.
These days at Foxwoods, it’s not so much about the slot machines and the blackjack tables as it is about the high-end bargains. The massive construction site visitors have seen over the past year at the resort is becoming the Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods, what its backers say will be the only outlet mall attached to a casino anywhere in the U.S.
“We’re going to drive a lot of traffic to the casinos and the casinos are going to drive a lot of traffic to our retail outlet,” said Matt Armstrong, President of the Greenwich based Gordon Group, one of the developers of the $120 million project. The mall will host 82 stores, big brands like Nike, H&M, Gap, American Eagle and Calvin Klein. It’ll have the feel of a streetscape, he said, but it will be entirely enclosed.
The structure connects the Foxwoods Resort Casino building to the Fox Tower, and Armstrong said the site itself came with a host of construction challenges, including a wetlands area, pre-existing roads, and a wall of solid rock that had to be blasted out over two months.
"It got to a point where every day at 2:00, we’d have a blast, and it wasn’t a covered blast, so it was quite a spectacle to see," Armstrong said. "People would line up in their hotel rooms and come outside and stand. Free entertainment!"
The point of all of this effort is to create something called destination retail: a mall that’s not just an added extra at the casino, but something people might actually travel to visit, even after MGM is up and running in Springfield, and Wynn opens near Boston.
"This resort really becomes the 800 pound gorilla. It’s something that nobody can replicate," said Armstrong. "We have it all: golf courses, shopping, dining, entertainment, two large theaters. It is the largest gaming facility in the United States. Can somebody else build a casino? Yes. But it’s going to be very difficult to replicate what we’ve got here."
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation -- the owners of Foxwoods -- said the defeat of the referendum question on gaming in Massachusetts signals that it’s time to get serious.
"We know, right? It’s better than having the unknown out there," Butler told WNPR. "We’ve been preparing for additional competition. We’ve been facing additional competition for the last decade. So that’s where we focus on initiatives like Tanger. We’re really focusing on our core."
But while Foxwoods is the focus, there is still one license to be awarded in Massachusetts, in the southeast corner of the state. Butler isn’t willing to completely close that door. "You never know what opportunities are going to come up and we’re always open to them," he said.
The Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods is due to open Memorial Day Weekend next year.