PLAINS TWP. — With a new hotel and convention center that opens to guests today, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Casino has officially become a stay and play attraction.
“It’s definitely going to be a destination now,” said Merle Mackin, the director of the Luzerne County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
With 238 rooms, plus meeting space and other amenities, the $50 million addition off Route 315 will attract gamblers from greater distances as well as the convention and wedding industry that likes a site where rooms are available.
“These conventions bring in big bucks and have a huge economic development opportunity,” Mackin said.
In addition, the visitors usually head out to enjoy local attractions and wind up eating at area restaurants, shopping at area stores, seeing sporting or other leisure events and filling their vehicles up with gas from local convenience stores.
Mike Bean, president and general manager at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, said the hotel will enable the casino to attract guests from outside its current “territory” and more people that come to this area will find plenty of local attractions that are likely to entice them to make return trips, even if the casino isn’t the destination.
Room tax revenue
In addition to the money spent on games, food, gas and more, the 5 percent room tax that’s in place in Luzerne County stands to see a huge increase thanks to the new rooms.
“It’s going to be substantial,” Mackin said. “It’s hard for me to speculate (what it’s expected to generate) but I would say it will be a substantial amount.”
Under the room tax provisions, 80 percent of the money generated goes to the Arena Authority to help pay off debt, 18 percent goes to the county’s marketing bureau to promote the county’s attractions, and 2 percent goes to Luzerne County as the administrator and collector of the tax.
In 2012, the tax generated nearly $2.4 million. Through this year’s first nine months, the total stood at $1.8 million.
Ronald Filippini, a Plains Township commissioner, said that in addition to the room tax and revenue that the casino will generate in the region as a whole, it’s also nice to have the extra $52 per new employee paying the township’s emergency service tax.
“That’s $7,500 each year,” he said with a smile.
As he’s watched the casino grow from its opening in 2006, with expanded slots then table games then the hotel, he’s been awed by the way the casino has been able togrow so quickly and so nicely.
“It’s been exciting for me to see such a facility. It will be first class knowing how they do things here,” Filippini said.
Mackin said that while there may be some concern that Mohegan Sun’s new hotel may “cannibalize” other hotels, he believes it’s too early to know if that will be the case. He said he doesn’t think that will happen and that the hotel/convention center, with an event center that can hosts concerts and other shows, will bring more people into the area, not all of whom will stay at the Mohegan hotel.
The opening of the hotel at Mohegan Sun, the state’s first casino, brings the number of casinos in the state with an attached hotel to five. There are 12 casinos in the state and all three in the eastern part of the state — Mount Airy in Paradise Township, Sands Bethlehem and Mohegan Sun — are among them. The others are the Valley Forge Casino Resort and the Lady Luck Casino in Fayette County.
“The addition of amenities such as this at Pennsylvania casinos is the logical next phase efforts to continue and ramp up offerings beyond gaming to attract patrons, which in kind helps to sustain tax revenue back to the commonwealth,” said Doug Harbach, a spokesman for the state’s Gaming Control Board.
Of the 46 hotels in the county, Mohegan Sun will replace the East Mountain Inn, also in Plains Township, as the largest hotel by number of rooms. East Mountain Inn has 152 rooms. The Woodlands Inn and Resort has 150.
All three are located in Plains Township.