Saturday, July 12, 2014

Free beer another battle for bars near casino

Drink orders at Mohegan Sun more than triple in first week of new promotion.

May 11. 2013 12:08AM

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PLAINS TWP. — For a place like the Cracker Jack Bar & Grill, selling 1,422 draft beers would take about a week, maybe two. But just down East Main Street, the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs gave that many away to gamblers during the last week — each day.

Plenty of gamblers are toasting the casino’s latest promotion, but some nearby tavern owners aren’t doing cartwheels.

Ronnie Wilgus, owner of the Cracker Jack, at 378 E. Main, Wilkes-Barre, said the ability to offer free beer “is unfair” and “I totally disagree with what they’re doing.”

She believes some of her customers will choose to head a mile away to drink for free.

“It will definitely kill our business,” said Wilgus. “Why should they drink here when they can drink there for free?”

Louis Dominick, owner of Dominick’s Café on School Street in Plains Township, agrees wholeheartedly.

“And it’s not just the free beer, it’s since day one when the casino opened,” Dominick said. “They want it all. They said they weren’t going to hurt the other businesses, but they have, giving out coupons … having these food and beer parties under tents. Now people are going to be playing penny machines and drinking for free all day.”

Dominick said the casino has been giving out free drinks since opening and enticing wealthier gamblers with the Sagamore Club, an exclusive lounge in which frequent and high-stakes gamblers can enjoy free food and deeply discounted beverages.

“How is anybody going to compete? They’re hurting the whole Valley,” said Dominick. “I don’t know of any business doing any better now than they were. I’ve been fortunate, I’m here 65 years and I’m established. But if you’re new, forget it.”

Others, such as the Woodlands Inn and Resort on Route 315, Plains Township, have numerous venues on site that serve alcohol, including Club Evolution, the Executive Lounge and Crescenzo’s Sports Bar. But co-owner Ross Kornfeld said while he isn’t a proponent of the free beer offering, he doesn’t believe it’s harming his business.

“Does it help? No,” Kornfeld said. “That doesn’t help anybody else.”

He believes the free beer is keeping people already at the casino there longer, not bringing in too many new guests.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to go there for the free beer,” said Kornfeld. “I mean, I guess there’s a small percentage, but that’s all.”

Part of the deal to get the free draft beer at the casino is that you must be a players card holder and be actively gambling on the casino floor. That means, in order to get that cup of Miller Lite, Heineken, Labatt Blue or Coors Lite, you must be playing at a table game or slot machine. You can’t simply walk onto the gaming floor and drink.

Mike Bean, president and general manager of Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, said that “the free beer promotion has been extremely well-received by our guests. It’s been a nice kick-off and addition to our Hot Summer Fun series.”

Looking at the data regarding draft beers ordered on the gaming floor, it appears guests are taking advantage of the offer.

The free beer promotion kicked off May 1 and Bean said that the first week certainly resulted in more beer being served on the gaming floor. “When compared to both the week prior to the start of the free beer promotion and to the comparable week in 2012, draft beer orders increased more than 350 percent,” said Bean.

“The daily average for the week went from 393 draft beer orders to 1,422 draft beer orders.”

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