Connecticut's Mohegan Sun, a property of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, decided to invest $15 million last month and build a new VIP lounge and other amenities, including upgrades of its two most luxurious hotel suites and improvements to Mohegan Sun Golf Club. "We always try to keep our brand fresh, especially for our premium customers," Jeff Hamilton, President and General Manager of Mohegan Sun, explains in an exclusive video interview with Yogonet, where he also describes how the company plans to integrate all these differential features into their own rewards program, covering multiple other verticals like online casino and sports betting soon.
He notes that the tribal casino operator, which led the state's market in March with $44.7 million in slots revenue, has tried over the course of the last three or four years to create immersive experiences. "So every aspect of the property is really looking at it and trying to create an experience that is differentiating both within the market and then really from a property standpoint throughout the whole United States."
With the aim of launching by late fall of this year, Mohegan Sun has started work on a new VIP Lounge & Bar to be located in Casino of the Earth. This new venue will stretch 6,500 square-feet and feature dining, a full bar and a fireplace at the center of the venue. "It's different than really any casino lounge that I've seen throughout the country, where the level of detail, the service and the experience are going to be differentiating," Hamilton describes. "So we are going to create an upgraded experience which is already great for our premium players." Upon completion of this new Lounge & Bar in Casino of the Earth, Mohegan Sun’s Sachem Lounge will also begin work on a renovation that will renovate this luxury food & beverage area inside Casino of the Sky.
From an infrastructure standpoint, Mohegan Sun boss believes the casino's product offering is currently over any of its business competitors, but he adds that the key is to always have something new for customers to come back to. "What we found is that when you're able to provide that premium experience, people talk about it. And then ultimately we believe that leads to additional patronage."
In terms of competition, it is poised to be significantly expanded as neighboring New York State last month included plans for three downstate casino licenses in this year’s budget. The move accelerates their timetable, as the licensing process was originally set to launch next year. "Obviously we're getting ready for New York table games. We believe there's going to be a Downstate Casino. There could be a brand new resort coming out of that, or multiple brand new resorts. So just like we do with Massachusetts, making sure that our customers feel like we're doing enough to retain their patronage, that our service is top line and we have new things that they can experience. They don't need to go to a new property," Hamilton says.
From a market share perspective, Mohegan Sun is the market leader in Connecticut, and the casino's President claims to have the strongest database in the state. When asked about New York's mobile sports betting records since January's launch, "those are New York residents that maybe went to Jersey or went to Connecticut," he says. "But you think about it from a wallet perspective, I would say that wallet has grown significantly now that you've taken that barrier of having to go somewhere and having the ability to do it right at your house while you're watching a game. I think as it relates to us in the state of Connecticut, we are the market leader and then from an infrastructure standpoint, for that New York resident, if they want to get away and go to a resort, we have always been one of the top choices." And he adds: "Really our business drivers are full go. Coming out of COVID, it finally feels like we've gotten some momentum and we're looking forward to just great six months."
One of the key competitive advantages for Mohegan Sun is its rewards program —Momentum—, which launched just a few weeks ago, integrating land-based with digital operations allowing users to earn Momentum Dollars for online play. "Not many properties are doing that currently. So if you play online in Connecticut, you can earn Momentum Dollars that you can use on property here. And working with Mohegan Digital, the thought process has always been we want our digital platform to be a driver for our bricks and mortar location." Though it is still too early for numbers, the company already sees "a lot of earning going on" there. "We believe over the course of the next two months we'll be also offering Momentum Dollars for on-premise sports betting, which we don't see happening at other locations."
Mohegan Sun's permanent FanDuel Sportsbook opened up back in February, in time for Super Bowl, and then had a grand opening the following month. "Our brand new sportsbook is going great. We've seen great results from that. The Celtics being in the playoffs here in New England has been beneficial and we're really excited about the NFL's season," Hamilton says. He also sees a correlation between sports betting and table games play. "So I think that's something that we can look forward to continuing to grow on, especially with this new sportsbook."
Though this brand new sportsbook has become a destination, people in general don't go to Mohegan Sun just for sports betting, the property's GM notes, and points to a record non-gaming revenue through the first quarter. "So we're really excited about that kind of just creating this unique immersive destination experience in every aspect of our business, whether it's the hotel, or our F&B with TAO, and now this new lounge. And we believe we'll have two new food and beverage partners to talk about over the course of the next 90 days. The sports betting, this brand new destination sportsbook, just trying to make sure that really every aspect of our business is a destination and is an immersive experience."
Looking ahead, Hamilton anticipates this new way of gambling to drive future customers to the property via their integrated rewards program will continue to grow. "I think long term you're going to see that happen between jurisdictions. We operate in multiple jurisdictions currently. So the growth of Momentum is something that is a key strategy for us over the course of the next 3 to 5 years, something that has been a competitive advantage for us here in Connecticut. We're going to grow that in other jurisdictions and again, always utilizing online to drive people to our bricks and mortar properties."