March 14, 2022 Tribal, Interview

Mohegan Sun Rising


Gaming America had the opportunity to sit down with Ray Pineault, President and CEO of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE), to discuss major trends in the industry today.

Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE) recently launched a mobile betting partnership with the market-leading operator FanDuel. What does MGE hope to achieve with this partnership and why did you go with that operator as opposed to others?

That’s a great question and I think that, for our mothership in Connecticut, it really came down to looking at who was the best operator in the United States, of who had a proven track record of being number one. FanDuel immediately rose to the top as that operator. We thought they were the perfect partner for our flagship property in Connecticut, which is the preeminent property in the Northeast. From there, we would launch digital gaming to our Connecticut and Northeast guests who are able to visit the state (because, obviously, you have to be within the state in order to participate).

I think it created a very symbiotic partnership of teaming together the two preeminent names of gaming to offer a new product to our guests.

As a major land-based operator, is there a fear that the astronomical rise of mobile sports betting in this country will cut into your bottom line?

Honestly, we don’t see mobile betting as cutting into anything. We see it as providing that complete omnichannel approach to marketing to and engaging with our guests. We think the two will work in cooperation with one another – between our land-based casino and our digital division – to make sure that we are reaching our guests through that multichannel. Ultimately, we want our guests to have more opportunities to engage with us and we think it’s going to be more successful if they work together, and are marketed together. We will market our land-based offering online, and our online offering in the land-based setting. In this way, we will continue to engage and build guest loyalty.

How are you looking to further expand MGE’s online presence?

In Connecticut, online betting has only been legal for a few months, since October 2021 to be precise, so operating online is still in its infancy and there’s still a lot of work to do. As you know, this is a work in progress and we need to make sure that we continue to refine it and continue to provide the best guest experience and product that we can. We are obviously already looking at opportunities where we can expand. We have already announced that we are in Ontario with our Niagara properties. We have the opportunity to launch our digital product there, as well, and we look forward to adding that in the very near future. We’ll continue to explore additional jurisdictions as we move forward. We want to make sure that, as we go into each jurisdiction, we’re doing it right, we’re doing it well, and it’s well received by our guests. We’re not going to run into jurisdictions just to be there, we’re going to do it so it’s done right and so it offers a great guest experience. 

What is the difference between being competitive in the online world versus the land-based world. Do either demand different things from you as a manager?

Each of the divisions – the online division and each of its operators – has its own leader.  I think, though, that when you are looking at running the online section, engaging guests is done more over the social media channels, whether it be Google, Facebook, Twitter and all of those various channels. In contrast,
the brick-and-mortar locations tend to engage customers more through traditional advertising. That said, the digital channels are growing and engaging ever more with the land-based. So, again, there’s a symbiotic relationship going on there.  We do use our land-based advertising and marketing materials to promote our digital offerings. We are actually combining the two. While a predominant number of guests from digital come from a different media than the land-based do, we think we can use both to attract guests and engage the customers more. 

Mobile betting recently went live in the state of New York, a mammoth market directly to Mohegan Sun’s south. There are talks that the next big move is going to be in favor of legalizing online casinos. Are you at all worried that the evolving status of gambling in New York will adversely affect your bottom line at GME?

I’m not. I’m not because we have been in a competitive environment and we know how to operate in a competitive environment. When I think about just our Connecticut property alone as an example, we’ve been competing with Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania; I can go on and on with the competition we’ve been facing. This is nothing new to us and we know how to operate in a competitive environment. Making sure that we deliver the best guest experience and deliver the best product to our guests, that we’ll get our fair share of the market and we’ll do so profitably. 

I would not be surprised to see Massachusetts get into online gaming at some point in time. They’ve been talking about it for years. This is going to keep on expanding, but we’re going to continue to do what we need to do to satisfy those guests, bring them back and build that loyalty.

And what exactly do you need to do to stand out above the competition?

It’s about a fully-integrated resort and providing our guests with a wide variety of options. It’s about delivering the best guest service possible. Each time a guest comes to us, we want the guest to be rating us as an ‘A.’  By doing things right, you build loyalty, and drive traffic of the people who will spend more money and more time with us. That’s our focus each and every day: to make sure that every guest experience is a great one, not just a good one.

Is the casino today centered around the casino floor or has it become much more a multi-faceted entertainment complex? 

I think people are looking for more of a variety of things to do, so we’re making sure that our properties are offering that to our guests. They don’t want to just come and gamble, they want to be able to stay, visit a spa, spend some time at a pool, sunbathe on a deck, have some fine dining, come to a convention.
We make sure that we offer all of those options to our guests, so they have a multitude of things to do. So, when they’re coming, they can spend their entertainment dollars on a wide variety of things, and we focus on that in each of our properties. 

MGE has expanded its holdings considerably over the last decade and a half, from its original Uncasville, CT base to properties all over the country and even the world. What expansion plans have your attention at the moment?

That’s a great question. We’re always exploring opportunities. As you’re probably aware, we have recommenced the process of constructing a multi-billion-dollar resort in Incheon, South Korea. That is a focus of ours. We are in a twenty-month sprint right now to get that open and operating by the end of 2023. 

But we continue to look for properties. We get approached by potential partners all the time. We have a group that specifically seeks out opportunities. We are looking for things that are going to be right for us in the long-term. We don’t want something that’s going to be with us for a year or two, we want something that’s going to be with us for a long time to come, something that will support the tribe down the generations.

Do you see a lot of potential for growth in the South Korean market, or the Asian market more generally?

South Korea itself, and Asia in general, is the most underserved market when you look at the per-person versus the number of gaming positions available. Asia is by far the lowest served market in the world. We are excited to be entering the Korean market. We are, as I said, approximately 20 months away from doing so, but we are building an integrated resort there.

It’s going to have a marina, a casino, three hotels, a Splashdown Park, retail, dining, and shows. We are really looking forward to that development and I think it’s a great opportunity for us and I’m really excited about getting that open and operating. Right now, we’re in a spring to get construction done, the island done, procedures in place, and get it up and operating.  

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