Heading South For The Winter: Foxwoods To Reopen Puerto Rico Casino

Written By Martin Harris on February 11, 2021

It’s winter in Connecticut, with snow on the ground and temperatures below freezing. It seems as good a time as any for the tribal operators of Foxwoods Resort Casino to be looking south and warmer climes.

More specifically, the Caribbean.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation have announced plans to open a new Foxwoods-branded casino in coastal Carolina, Puerto Rico.

The tribe has partnered with the LionGrove hospitality investment firm to reopen the shuttered El San Juan Casino, located inside the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel on Isla Verde Beach.

The new casino will be dubbed Foxwoods El San Juan Casino. No opening date has been announced as yet.

A rebirth for once-popular El San Juan Casino

The reopening will require a $12.5 million investment in order to add further to the old casino’s renovation. Including several years’ worth of other upgrades, that brings the total to $137.5 million.

According to the Mashantucket Pequots, the casino’s reopening will “generate an estimated economic impact of $22 million back into the island.”

The original El San Juan Casino first opened in 1958 and for many years was an especially popular tourist spot. Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr. and Liza Minnelli were among those who performed at the El San Juan during its heyday.

LionGrove acquired the property in 2015. And in the summer of 2016, the hotel and casino closed for extensive remodeling. However, upon completion of those upgrades in early 2017, LionGrove decided not to reopen the casino.

According to Caribbean Business, that decision centered primarily upon economic factors. At the time, LionGrove indicated no specific plans for the 15,000-square-foot casino. It appeared likely it would become a non-gaming space going forward.

Casino reopening part of larger recovery from Hurricane Maria

In September 2017,  the devastating Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico especially hard. The Category 5 hurricane caused severe property damage, devastated the island’s infrastructure and resulted in more than 3,000 fatalities. The hotel suffered significant damage as well, and the property has remained closed ever since.

“I am incredibly pleased with the reopening of El San Juan Casino which will result in the creation of hundreds of jobs,” Governor of Puerto Rico, Honorable Pedro Pierluisi, said during the press conference.

The Mashantucket Pequots and LionGrove estimate the reopening will bring 360 new jobs to the region. Nearly half of those new positions will be at the casino itself.

Back in cold CT, lawmakers and tribes explore gambling expansion

The relatively small Foxwoods El San Juan Casino will contrast with its prodigious namesake to the north. One of the largest gaming properties in the world, Foxwoods Resort Casino features nearly 350,000 square feet of total gaming space.

The news of a new Foxwoods casino in the Caribbean comes as the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes continue to pursue gambling expansion in Connecticut. Lawmakers are considering new bipartisan legislation to legalize both sports betting and online gambling in the state, with the state’s two federally recognized tribes central to those discussions.

To boot, Gov. Ned Lamont included revenue from expanding gambling in his biennial budget. He has also submitted legislation for authorization to amend agreements with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to allow for the activities.

Photo by AP / Ricardo Arduengo
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