Connecticut's 2 casinos post rare increase in Dec. slot bets, though revenue down at Foxwoods

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HARTFORD, Connecticut — Connecticut's two Indian casinos posted increases Thursday in slot machine bets in December, a rare spike in what had been a persistent decline.

Foxwoods Resort Casino, owned by the Mashantucket Pequots, still reported a decline in the share of wagers known as revenue, to $36.2 million, down 4 percent, from December 2013. But total slot machine bets rose 3 percent, to $446.3 million.

The Mohegan Sun posted a 7 percent increase, to $49 million, in revenue, from December 2013. Slot machine bets last month totaled $600.4 million, up 5 percent.

The eastern Connecticut casinos have struggled for years as they faced rising competition in New York and Rhode Island. In addition, consumer spending declined during the recession and failed to fully return during the weak recovery.

Bobby Soper, president and chief executive officer of Mohegan Sun, credited the falling price of oil and gasoline that's putting more money in consumers' pockets and the timing of Christmas and New Year's Day. The two holidays fell on Thursdays, which extended weekends, he said.

Another positive factor was that because of bad weather, particularly on weekends, business was down significantly in December 2013, making for an easier comparison with last month, Soper said. Still, it's only one month.

"I think that it's too early to call this a trend," he said.

Retail centers run by Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods are in the works as the two casinos seek new sources of revenue.

The casinos also have pursued casino licenses in Massachusetts, which authorized the licensing of up to three regional resort casinos and one slot parlor. Competition is expected to be fierce, prompting the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods to seek licenses in Massachusetts.

Foxwoods is interested in applying for the southeastern Massachusetts license, and Mohegan Sun bid unsuccessfully for the Boston-area casino license. It was rebuffed by residents of Palmer in a narrow vote in November 2013.

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