Connecticut is back on the map and according to the Office of Tourism, the combined marketing efforts of the state and its partners have made a big difference in state revenues as well.
Consider the independently verified results:
- Visitors are staying longer and spending more resulting in a steady increase in overnight stays, four nights or longer, 13 percent increase in 2012, 17 percent in 2014, 21 percent in 2015.
- Attendance at leading attractions is also up significantly: a 12 percent increase over 2014 from 2,423,692 visits to 2,712,074 visits.
- Traveler spending per trip: up 4 percent over 2014 from $875 per trip to $906.
- Summer overnight stays: Percent occupied, average daily rate and revenue per room have increased over 2014 by 4 percent, 3 percent and 7 percent respectively.
- Room occupancy tax: Increased revenues for the state through the room occupancy tax, up 9 percent $238 million in 2014, $215 million in 2015 creating $22 million in additional revenue.
- Employment growth: 118,500 jobs are supported by the tourism industry with 80,000 being directly in tourism.
- Economic development: $14 billion spent by travelers in 2014, and $1.6 billion collected in tax revenues between the state and local levels.
This means more revenue for businesses and millions in the state coffers from things like the lodging tax. That’s real money. The efforts of our casino partners, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, were specifically singled out as an important driver in this success.
But with the recent groundbreaking for a casino just north of the Massachusetts border in Springfield and its promise to draw more customers from Connecticut than from their own region, the celebration could be short lived.
The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes are working to remain competitive in this new environment with a strategically located, jointly run facility that will directly compete with new gaming options on our border. Last session, the Connecticut General Assembly allowed the tribes to work together and accept proposals from towns interested in hosting this new facility.
It’s important to understand what this means for the state of Connecticut. The fact is, unless we take steps to protect the casinos and their revenue, the state will lose more than 9,000 existing jobs and $100 million in revenue. This is something we cannot afford.
As a state, we have gone to great lengths to protect jobs and businesses here. When the federal government threatened to close the Navy’s submarine base in 2005, a bipartisan group of state leaders rallied to successfully convince the Pentagon to keep the base open, protecting thousands of civilian and defense jobs.
Today, we have two of the state’s largest employers and biggest tourist attractions that need our support. They are wonderful community partners that not only contribute to the state’s economy, but also support charitable organizations. From the United Way and Special Olympics to Hospice of Southeastern Connecticut, the hospitals and numerous other groups, including the Mystic Aquarium, these organizations benefit from the financial and human capital of the tribes. Without the casinos’ support, their bottom lines would certainly suffer too.
In addition, Connecticut, has directly benefited from the billions of dollars in slot revenues contributed by the tribes to the state’s coffers. That is why it is in the state’s best interest to provide the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes the tools and the necessary support to compete and protect their businesses, and the thousands of direct and indirect jobs associated with their operations.
To those who question the concept of a jointly run casino, I suggest that they look at the marketing studies. We already know that a strategically placed casino in Massachusetts will capture business from Connecticut; we can use that knowledge to keep customers here.
Gaming has been part of nearly every civilization in history. The industry isn’t dying; it is changing. And the jobs the industry provides are good paying and stable. Many of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun workers have been at the resorts since they opened, raising families, buying homes and putting their kids through college.
The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes have been good neighbors and friends to the state for 13 generations, and business partners for the past two decades. They are asking the state to support a plan to protect jobs, business and revenue. Doing so is a win-win for all.
Tony Sheridan is the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.