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$12.5M Foxwoods El San Juan Casino to open by year’s end

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, owner and operator of the Foxwoods Casino in CT, announced a $12.5 million investment to reopen the iconic casino at the Fairmont El San Juan hotel in Isla Verde, to be known as the Foxwoods El San Juan Casino.

During a news conference at the hotel, Rodney A. Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, confirmed that the casino — and the legendary Tropicoro showroom, where Tony Bennet, Sammy Davis, Jr., Paul Anka, Liza Minelli, Rita Moreno, Tony Martin and others performed — will open by year’s end.

In all, the new operation will represent about 360 new jobs, of which 150 will be at the casino that will house 300 slot machines and 15 table games.

“Design has already started on the new 15,000 square foot casino, and we also look forward to hosting a variety of live events at the Tropicoro,” said Butler, who during the announcement confirmed his wife is Puerto Rican. “The investment is expected to generate an estimated economic impact of $22 million back into the island.”

“With a database of more than five million players, we look forward to introducing new stateside guests to the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel and Puerto Rico,” he said. “We know there is a lot of special history here at the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel. Our intent with this new casino is to maintain the rich history and culture of the venue while ushering in a new and exciting future with Foxwoods El San Juan Casino.”

First venture outside US mainland
As one of Connecticut’s highest revenue contributors and largest employers, the Mashantucket Pequots have provided the state more than $4 billion in slot revenue generated by the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, CT through an agreement established in 1993.

In Puerto Rico, casino officials confirmed that the Foxwoods El San Juan “has no tax considerations and [will pay] the same rate based on slot revenue as all casinos in Puerto Rico.”

During the announcement, Butler said aside from the traditional gaming options to be offered at the future Foxwoods El San Juan Casino, the Mashantucket Pequots are open to expanding to other areas, such as online sports betting.

In December, the Mashantucket Pequots announced an agreement with DraftKings Inc., a digital sports entertainment and gaming company, to deliver access for online sports betting ahead of the anticipated launch of legal sports betting in CT. That type of gaming activity is already legal in Puerto Rico and should launch in April, according to published reports.

“What’s really on the cusp and we’re dealing with back home in Connecticut is the expansion of sports betting, and I know it’s a hot topic here in Puerto Rico and it’s an incredible opportunity that we would certainly like to expand into as we as we move forward in the coming months and years,” Butler said.

The Foxwoods El San Juan Casino is the first gaming venue that the Mashantucket Pequots will open outside CT and the US mainland, Butler said.

“This is the first venture outside the US. We were looking at several jurisdictions around the world, and this is the first to materialize and quite frankly we’re most excited about that for all the reasons we talked about throughout this press conference,” Butler said. “Again, the deep connection and correlation between our tribe’s culture and the beautiful culture of this island. Again, the opportunities of it being US residents and the ability to go back and forth easily will give an advantage for Puerto Rico and for this property at large.”

“We had been sending out flares throughout the Caribbean for the past few decades and now we have the opportunity to isolate and focus on Puero Rico,” he said.

Andro Nodarse-León, CEO of LionGrove LLC, co-owner of the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel after acquiring it in 2015, shared some of the history of the property, which underwent two major renovations to bring it back to “its maximum grandeur.”

“The first was between 2016 and 2017, totaling approximately $65 million and the second one, totaling another $60 million, was triggered by the damages caused by Hurricane María when it directly impacted the hotel in September of 2017,” he said, adding that at the end of last year, it ushered in the Fairmont brand.

“Today, the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel is more beautiful than ever. Following the appropriate COVID protocols, the hotel is open and ready to welcome all who visit our amazing island of Puerto Rico,” he said.

“As the world normalizes over the course of this year, we’re extremely excited that, before year-end, thanks to the partnership that we are announcing today, we will be reopening the hotel’s casino as the Foxwoods El San Juan Casino and will be reopening, alongside of it, the legendary Tropicoro showroom,” Nodarse-León said.

Pierluisi welcomes new investment
The announcement drew participation from high-ranking government officials headed by Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, who expressed his support of the upcoming project.

“The addition of a new, modern casino and entertainment setting to this historic and beautiful hotel, is vote of confidence from the industry that Puerto Rico is getting ready to welcome back tourists, to enhance our market, and to continue our quest for excellence,” he said.

“Apart from their much appreciated multi-million investment, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and LionGrove bring a wealth of experience and commitment to the San Juan Hotel and to Puerto Rico, along with the renowned Fairmont brand. This is a partnership that I hope will grow for the benefit of our island and our tourism industry,” the governor said.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 27 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.
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