Business

Foxwoods, biggest US casino, cuts back on gambling

HARTFORD — Foxwoods, the largest casino resort in North America, is reducing its number of slot machines and table games to free up space for nightclubs and other new attractions as it adapts to fierce competition.

It’s a transition that the new chief executive, Felix Rappaport, said probably should have started years earlier but was perhaps held up by emotional attachments. It reflects a decline in the number of people gambling at the cavernous Foxwoods Resort Casino.

‘‘We think we have too much gaming,’’ Rappaport said Monday.

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The tribal-owned property in Southeastern Connecticut has 5,800 slot machines and 350 table games in several casinos. Foxwoods is identifying gaming areas that can be converted for other purposes. It will probably end up with about 4,800 slot machines and 250 table games, Rappaport said.

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Foxwoods enjoyed a monopoly on casino-style gambling in the region for years after it opened in 1992. It had 6,300 slot machines and 380 table games before the Great Recession brought a decline in gambling revenue that has yet to be reversed.

The resort is positioning itself to endure competition that’s expected to intensify in coming years with as many as three casinos in Massachusetts. Foxwoods and its local rival, Mohegan Sun, are already losing revenue to casinos in the New York City area and to Rhode Island’s Twin Rivers Casino, which recently added table games.

At Mohegan Sun, the Tribal Gaming Authority’s chief executive, Mitchell Etess, said last week that its gaming floor has shrunk, but he does not anticipate more big cuts.

‘‘I think we’ve really done a good job at getting the floor down to what’s manageable and what’s right and then scheduling it for the times when the people are here,’’ Etess said.

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Rappaport was named chief executive last week by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. He joined Foxwoods in February and was part of a management team focused on expanding the resort experience, including with new nightclubs, restaurants, and an outlet mall expected to open in the spring.

He worked previously as president of the casinos Excalibur, New York-New York, and Luxor in Las Vegas, where he saw each property have a ‘‘golden era’’ and then have to adapt — and sometimes contract — as changes came to the marketplace.

Rappaport said Foxwoods is evolving in the same way, adding attractions with the goal of stirring excitement and keeping visitors on the property for longer periods of time.

‘‘The industry in general has become less gaming-centric,’’ he said. ‘‘I think in Foxwoods’ case we have exactly the same opportunities.’’

He said he expects Foxwoods will move toward earning 65 or 70 percent of its revenue from gambling — down from 80 percent.