UMass survey: Visits to R.I. slot parlors declining

DARTMOUTH, Mass. – Though more Rhode Island residents have been visiting Lincoln Park, fewer have been visiting Newport Grand, and those who visit the slot parlors have been doing so less often over the past two years, according to a report released yesterday by the University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth’s Center for Policy Analysis.

Massachusetts residents also have been making fewer visits to the Rhode Island venues, the center reports. Bay State residents now account for 37 percent of the Grand’s patrons, down from more than half just a few years ago.

About 17 percent of Rhode Islanders and 4 percent of Bay State residents said they had made at least one visit to either Lincoln Park or Newport Grand in the past 12 months. Ocean State residents made nearly 1.4 million visits to the two parlors over the past 12 months, and Massachusetts residents, about 657,000.

Meanwhile, Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun have seen increasing visits by both Rhode Island and Massachusetts patrons, the center found. “Massachusetts residents are now patronizing Foxwoods in even greater numbers, and that suggests that Bay Staters are diverting more of their gambling to Connecticut’s resort casinos,” said Clyde W. Barrow, the center’s director.

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“It is still too early to discern whether the falloff in Massachusetts patronage to Rhode Island’s slot parlors is due to the sluggish state of the economy, Lincoln Park’s ongoing renovations, or a combination of both,” he said.

But, he added, the entertainment upgrades at Lincoln Park “seem to have had a positive effect on luring additional Rhode Island and Massachusetts patrons,” helping that venue to avert the “precipitous” fall-off seen at Newport Grand.

The declining visitations and revenue at the Rhode Island venues “directly repudiate” the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council’s projections that revenue increases at the slot parlors will grow by 13 percent per year over the next several years, the report said.

The report is part four of a seven-part behavioral study on New Englanders’ attitudes toward casinos and slot-machine parlors, for which UMass researchers interviewed residents of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

In part three, released on Monday, nearly 35 percent of Rhode Islanders said they had visited either Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun in the past 12 months, the highest precentage in any of the four states. in the past 12 months. And nearly 35 percent of those

In 2006, Rhode Islanders spent an estimated $322.5 million at the two casinos. In the past 12 months, UMass found, they made 1.7 million trips to the casinos, where they made up an estimated 16 percent of Foxwoods visitors and 8 percent of visitors to the Mohegan Sun.

Overall, the study found, 77 percent of respondents who said they’d visited the casinos had not visited either Lincoln Park or Newport Grand.

“Per capita, Rhode Islanders – even more than Massachusetts residents – overwhelmingly prefer visiting Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun for casino gambling and the recreational and entertainment amenities the two casinos offer,” said Barrow.

During their visits, he added, they also spent more time and money than others surveyed on non-gambling expenditures in Southeastern Connecticut.

Many Rhode Islanders view their casino visits as “mini-vacations,” Barrow explained. “They’re spending more time in that region overnighting, attending a cabaret show or sporting event, shopping and dining at restaurants.”

For additional details of today’s survey report, and of the other reports in the series, go to “What’s New!” at www.umassd.edu/cfpa.

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