Making the News

The Day, New London

Originally Published:Tuesday, July 7, 2009
http://www.theday.com/re.aspx?re=39079f63-51bf-40d2-b3c1-9039934d97f9

Teaming Up To Take On Atlantic City
Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun come together to promote an 'unparalleled destination'

By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day, New London

Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, long the fiercest of rivals, have joined forces to take dead aim at their main competition: Atlantic City's 11 casinos.

Collaborating on a marketing campaign that promotes southeastern Connecticut as "an unparalleled resort destination," the tribally owned casinos launched their attack Monday online and on billboards on Interstate 80 in New Jersey, the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95), the Atlantic City Expressway and the Long Island Expressway (I-495).

View the joint billboard campaign

"This is a clear case of the sum of the parts being greater than the whole and we are excited to partner with our neighbor, Mohegan Sun, in this historic undertaking," Michael Speller, president of Foxwoods' Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprises, said in a statement. "We feel the collective amenities we offer to consumers are on par, if not better than, any resort destination in the world."

The collaboration grew out of meetings among Speller, who arrived at Foxwoods last December; Mitchell Etess, the Mohegan Sun president and chief executive officer; and other top casino and tribal officials, according to Robert Victoria, Foxwoods' senior vice president of consumer marketing. Local tourism officials were kept apprised of the effort, Victoria said.

The billboards and the Web site, www.playCTcasinos.com, will remain in place through September, at which time the campaign's effectiveness will be evaluated, Victoria said. At that point, a print-advertising component could be launched.

The casinos are contributing an equal share to the campaign, though no casino official would say how much.

"It's very important for us to get people to look at the Connecticut casinos as a destination," Etess said. "It's Atlantic City or Connecticut - not Atlantic City or Mohegan Sun, or Atlantic City or Foxwoods. ... We're targeting the North Jersey area, where we think we can generate new revenues."

THE MESSAGE

The Foxwoods-Mohegan Sun campaign, devised by the Adams & Knight agency of Avon, includes eight billboards placed in northern New Jersey, metropolitan New York and on Long Island with the following message:

Two worlds beat one City.

 

Way beyond the boredwalk.

 

Escape the Jersey snore.

Tony Sheridan, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, said he would not comment on the casinos' campaign until he had received official word of it. Donna Simpson, executive director of the Eastern Regional Tourism District, was unavailable.

While noting that the Foxwoods-Mohegan Sun alliance was rare if not unprecedented among tribal casinos, industry analysts said casinos in other gaming markets have long pooled their marketing efforts and resources.

"For a long time, Las Vegas has been marketing itself as Las Vegas, not as Caesar's Palace," said Clyde Barrow, director of the Center for Public Analysis at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. "Atlantic City's been doing it for a decade."

Barrow described the alliance as "the logical culmination of a trajectory they've been on for some time."

"They're in very stiff competition with Atlantic City, New York, Pennsylvania and likely Massachusetts," he said. "If Massachusetts gets gambling, it's going to recapture a sizable piece of the regional gaming market. That's why Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have to be part of a larger tourist destination. This could be the start of them becoming a national or international destination.

"Atlantic City casinos view themselves as competing with and losing to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. They don't have the same convention space, the entertainment, the golf courses."

In a report last month on the economic and social impacts of gambling in Connecticut, the New Jersey-based Spectrum Gaming Group found that the state's promotion of tourism is fragmented and underfunded and that the casinos could be bettered "leveraged."

Michael Diamond, the Spectrum researcher who led the study, said he was pleased to hear of the Foxwoods-Mohegan Sun alliance.

"There seemed to be very fierce competition between th e two entities - and I guess that's a good thing," he said. "But this is a positive sign, a sign of the times. I think Atlantic City casinos are trying to work together more than ever before, too."

The Connecticut casinos' collaboration was not born of dissatisfaction with other campaigns that market the region, Etess said, adding, "It would be nice if this part of Connecticut received more recognition as the primary driver of the state as a destination for out-of-staters. Perhaps it should receive a better share of the (tourism) funding, but that's a separate issue."

With most state workers serving a furlough Monday, state tourism officials were unavailable to comment.

 

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