05/18/2006 11:00PM

Expect Foxwoods to get boost from MGM Mirage


In the movie "Wall Street," the Michael Douglas character, Gordon Gekko, has many memorable lines, including this one: "I look at a hundred deals a day. I pick one."

MGM Mirage chairman Terry Lanni is a lot like Gekko nowadays, with business ethics, of course. Many deals have passed Lanni's desk lately and one plum he chose to pursue was to partner with Foxwoods, the wildly successful Mashantucket Pequot Indian casino in Connecticut.

Foxwoods is a cash-rich company with eyes on expansion. MGM Mirage has the know-how and marketing savvy to open doors worldwide. On paper, it looks like the 1954 celebrity marriage between Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe.

Their first opportunity together involves Foxwoods's plan to build a $700 million expansion next door to what already is the largest resort casino in the world. The new hotel, to be called the MGM Grand, will have 825 luxury rooms and house a 5,000-seat concert venue.

According to its signed compact with the state, Foxwoods must own and manage the new facility because only a federally recognized tribe can own and operate a casino in Connecticut.

Currently there are two Indian casinos in Connecticut, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. I was at Mohegan Sun over Kentucky Derby weekend and learned some interesting details from the local media.

First, with less than half the number of slot machines, 3,600 versus 7,400 at Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun is more profitable. Last year, Mohegan Sun paid the state $213 million compared with $205 million from Foxwoods.

Much of that is due to Mohegan Sun doing a better job in creating non-gaming revenue. A centerpiece is its state-of-the-art 10,000-seat arena that houses the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA and scores of top-flight concerts.

Also, Mohegan Sun has higher per-capita wagering for a couple of reasons. Simply put, its location is easier to reach from the prime New York City market and it has done a better job enticing a well-heeled clientele.

This is where the influence of MGM Mirage can help Foxwoods.

MGM Mirage has a premium patron database that Foxwoods can reach into. Just having access to the high-roller list makes the deal worthwhile for Foxwoods. Plus the expertise that MGM Mirage has in developing non-gaming revenues will come into play very quickly.

Las Vegas megaresorts have adapted to a changing marketplace where the goal to achieve revenue from gaming and non-gaming sources should be around 50-50. Currently Foxwoods has an old-school ratio of 78 percent gaming and only 22 percent from other sources.

It will be interesting to follow the progress of the new partnership. It reinforces the notion that Las Vegas gaming companies must keep one eye on the horizon while having their feet firmly planted in Nevada.

Richard Eng is the turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and author of "Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies."