MA Casinos could change the face of East Coast Poker

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Jan 21, 2012 Posted in Live Poker News, Op-Ed | No Comments »

After Governor Deval Patrick vetoed a casino bill passed by the state legislature in 2010, it looked like Massachusetts residents were going to have to continue making the long trek to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, or head to their northern neighbor New Hampshire to play in that state’s charity poker rooms for the foreseeable future. But all that changed when a casino bill was finally passed in 2011.

The proponents of legalized casinos in Massachusetts didn’t give up after their 2010 defeat, and went back to the drawing board to address the concerns raised by Gov. Patrick, and in 2011, in an overwhelming vote, the Massachusetts legislature passed another casino bill, this time to the Governor’s approval.

With the doors now open for legalized brick & mortar casinos in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts I wanted to take a look at how the proposed casinos could alter poker on the East Coast –living just outside of Boston, and having been part of poker community for well over a decade, I thought my unique insights into the area and the poker community of Massachusetts could shed some light on precisely what these new casinos will mean.

Colleges

The first thing I thought of when I heard casinos would be coming to the state was the extremely large college population in Boston (Boston has more private colleges than any other city). Furthermore, these small, private colleges are not cheap; a lot of the kids going there have money, and if there is one thing the poker boom has proven to us, it’s that college kids like to play poker!

With a casino a lot closer than an hour and a half away (the average drive-time from Boston to Foxwoods) these college kids will likely take to the tables in the Boston area casino in droves, now that three hours of their day is not spent on travel-time.

The Massachusetts Poker Culture

There is also a thriving poker culture in Massachusetts, with groups like the Eastern Poker Tour taking the idea of Bar Poker Leagues and turning it into a state-wide (and now region-wide) phenomenon. While the state is in the middle of the pack in terms of population, the unemployment rate is well above the national average, as is the average median income. All of these things add up to enough people in the state with disposable income, which should help create a thriving poker economy once the casinos are opened.

What the Casinos Mean for Connecticut

Connecticut has long been the gambling playground of Massachusetts residents, and while I don’t expect the Mass Casinos to siphon off enough of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun’s player bases (as they pull in people from nearby Rhode Island, New York, and even New Jersey, Massachusetts Casinos should create a buffer between Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont residents, who will cut their drive times in half by going to Massachusetts instead of Connecticut.

All in all, I’m expecting big things from the three casinos set to be built in Massachusetts, as it looks like it will bring a lot of new players from College kids to Northern New Englanders into the poker economy.

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