FACE-OFF: Foxwoods vs. Mohegan Sun

FACE-OFF: Foxwoods vs. Mohegan Sun

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Sunday, February 22, 2004

Two of the world's largest casinos -- Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun -- are within eight miles of each other in the woods of southeastern Connecticut. And they're only a day's drive from Washington. So how do these two betting behemoths stack up against each other? We asked special contributor Marshall S. Berdan to check out the Nutmeg State's big daily double.

SIZE: On Feb. 15, 1992, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation opened up a high-stakes bingo hall. Twelve years later, Foxwoods Resort and Casino is the world's largest casino complex, boasting more than 320,000 square feet of gambling space -- including more than 350 table games and 6,400-plus slot machines. And it's getting even bigger, thanks to an addition scheduled to be completed later this year. By contrast, Mohegan Sun (opened by the Mohegan Pequot Tribe in 1996) offers only 300,000 square feet of gambling space, with 6,200 slots and nearly 300 table games.

Advantage: Foxwoods

AESTHETICS: Assuming you even notice the nondescript green and blue floral designs, all six of Foxwoods' gambling halls will remind you of every other modern, oversize casino you've ever been in. Likewise, its pedestrian areas will remind you of every other forgettable shopping mall or food court you've ever been stuck in.

By contrast, Mohegan Sun, which is decorated in the grand, full-timbered style of Yellowstone's Old Faithful Inn, is anything but forgettable. Simulated buffalo hides mute the bright lights in the Casino of the Earth, whose ceiling fades into darkness in imitation of the night sky. It's even more impressive in the Casino of the Sky, where the Wombi Rock, a cubist white-marble jungle gym for adults, angles upward under one of the world's largest planetarium domes. In addition, Mohegan Sun's marble-floored and illuminated glass-walled pedestrian areas are anything but, especially near the downright artistic 85-foot-high Taughannick Falls fountain.

Advantage: Mohegan Sun

FOOD: Insofar as Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are isolated destinations unto themselves, each does its best to get you to both stay put and cough up a little -- if not a whole lot -- of your winnings. To that end, both resorts offer roughly two dozen dining options, including at least six premium selections (entrees $15-50).

Medium-size spenders, however, will prefer both the variety and flavor of Mohegan Sun's more casual offerings -- e.g., Big Bubba's BBQ and Jasper White's Summer Shack -- while buffet bingers have a choice of two all-you-can-eats, with neither exposed to the gawking eyes of passers-by.

Advantage: Mohegan Sun

ENTERTAINMENT: Both establishments offer high-quality, slightly-past-their-prime headliner entertainment (March offerings include Rod Stewart, Frankie Valli and Howie Mandel) in their respective theaters (ticket prices start at $25 for some of the lesser names but can top $100 for someone you might actually want to see). So if you're going primarily for the shows, your choice will depend on who it is you want to see, though chances are that you will prefer seeing them in Foxwoods' relatively intimate Fox Theatre (1,400 seats) rather than Mohegan Sun's 10,000-seat sports arena. Lounge lizards, however, will prefer both the setting of Mohegan Sun's Wolf Den and the caliber of its free, once-big-name acts, such as Eddie Money and David Cassidy.

Advantage: Toss-up

ROOMS AND AMENITIES: Unlike their Vegas counterparts, most patrons of Connecticut's casinos come only for the day or evening. As a result, neither makes much of an effort to entice them to stay where they play by offering deals on overnight lodging. Rooms (nearly 3,000 all told) feature lots of space and great views. Both also have extensive -- and expensive -- spas. Midweek room prices start at $135 and generally are twice as much on Saturdays, but watch for special promotions.

Advantage: Toss-up

OTHER ATTRACTIONS: An integral part of the Foxwoods complex is the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center (800-411-9671, http://www.pequotmuseum.org/; $15), an award-winning and enormous (85,000 square feet) interactive facility that tells a very different story of the settling of America. The museum alone justifies the detour off I-95 for non- gamblers. Mohegan Sun has nothing comparable.

Advantage: Foxwoods

BOTTOM LINE: If happiness is a fat wallet, then those who come north to play are destined to be happiest wherever they locate Lady Luck. But if casino-going is as much of a spectator sport as it is a participant sport, Mohegan Sun is the easy winner. But if you came all this way to see the world's largest casino, you've got to go to Foxwoods. Just make sure you see it first, because once you see Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods is going to pale in comparison.

For more information: Foxwoods, 800-PLAY-BIG, www.foxwoods.com; Mohegan Sun, 888-226-7711, www.mohegansun.com.


© 2004 The Washington Post Company


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