Sunday, March 02, 2014

Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino - Uncasville, Connecticut

While it used to be the forgotten step-sister of the Foxwoods Resort/Casino now, through some major expansions, Mohegan Sun is giving Foxwoods a run for its money and at least in some ways, has surpassed Foxwoods as the destination for gaming and entertainment in eastern Connecticut.

A high-rise hotel, casino, and “mall” all opened at Mohegan Sun several years ago, effectively doubling, if not tripling the size of the complex. Before the expansion, Mohegan Sun was just a casino that was fairly large and a few restaurants, but it did not have any hotel facilities and did not have any other facilities that might be associated with a casino resort.
Now, since that expansion, Mohegan Sun has two (and a half) casinos, numerous restaurants, a hotel, a spa, a sports/event arena, a cabaret, the world’s largest planetarium (located on the ceiling above the new casino), and a mixed shopping/attraction “mall” between the old and the new casino.  Not only that, Mohegan Sun followed that expansion with the opening of a third (albeit smaller) casino.

Where is it? 

Mohegan Sun is located almost directly off of Interstate 395 (which shoots off of Interstate 95 in Connecticut and then goes up to the MassPike/I90 in Massachusetts). It’s about an hour and 45 minutes or so from Boston and about 3 hours from New York City.

My Mohegan History 

Back when Mohegan was still small – I loved visiting it. It was almost homey. My boyfriend and I knew someone that worked there and no matter when we went, we’d run into her – we’d chat and we’d have a good time. We’d also bring friends down (since I do have a gambling buddy) and all in all, we all agreed that for a purely gaming experience, we all enjoy Mohegan much more than Foxwoods. At that point, Foxwoods was starting to go downhill (aka, things weren't be cleaned as much, the payouts seemed small, etc…) and things at Mohegan seemed to be very nice.

Once the expansion started, it appeared (from a casual gambler's perspective) that payouts decreased somewhat and the crowds increased astronomically. The first night we were there after the second casino opened, but before the hotel itself opened, the place was so crowded that we had to park at least at least a half a mile from the casino and walk – no shuttle buses were provided.

Then when the hotel opened up, along with the arena and the other entertainment destinations, the crowds only increased further. Now I understand that casinos are crowded (except maybe in Vegas because there are so many) but I don’t expect to go to one and be forced to spend 90% of my time wandering around looking for a slot machine or a table that I could sit down at. It was that crowded.

My other big complaint at that time was the lack of quarter slot machines. It seemed that almost everything in the new casino (and much of the old casino too) was in 50 cent and $1.00 denominations. I don’t mind playing them occasionally, but if I want to go and just spend a small amount of money, I’m going to want to play quarters or a low denomination table and you either just couldn't find them, or they were always so busy that you couldn't use them.

Add to that my experience after that. My boyfriend and I, along with two of our friends had gone down for the evening. Part of the reason was we had received coupons for a complimentary meal at the new buffet. So we go to the buffet and we are having a good time when our first round of drinks were all finished up and our waiter was nowhere to be seen. I finally manage to flag down another waitress and ask her for another round of drinks. She comes back with the drinks and then probably about 5 minutes later, the original waiter comes back and says that he got the drinks. I wasn't in a mood to argue at this point and just said – “No, we had another waitress bring them.” At this point, he started arguing with me. He was raising his voice, as was I when I finally told him to get out of our faces and leave us along because we didn't want to be bothered with him. I went and got the manager and started to talk to him when the waiter came up to the both of us and started to call me a liar and started fighting with the manager. The managed assured me it would be taken care of and we got a new waiter afterwards. Since the meals were already comp’ed (from the coupons) it wasn't like we could get a free meal, but it would have been nice to get something – however, other than an apology, nothing happened.

Between the crappy service and the crowds - we all pretty much swore off of Mohegan and started to only go to Foxwoods in place of Mohegan. We also noticed that with the new competition, Foxwoods started to clean up it’s act – replacing and rehabbing a lot of the resort, adding new slot machines, cutting hotel rates and in general, just doing a better job at running the place. In addition, the payouts were improving, along with service so we focused on going to Foxwoods.

Going back 

Eventually though, the new expansions at Mohegan Sun opened that included a new mall, a new casino and a hotel and we started going back to Mohegan Sun. The new casino effectively doubled the size of Mohegan Sun and the mall added a whole new range of shopping opportunities and dinning choices.

When I first went back to Mohegan I was pleasantly surprised with the experience. All of the new facilities were open (such as Michael Jordan’s restaurant, a new buffet, along with several other new restaurants, the spa, and more shops in the mall section). The crowds seemed to be a bit more manageable (at most times) and the payouts didn't seem to be so poor that you didn't even want to bother playing.

Those first few tentative visits convinced me to start focusing on Mohegan when I went to gamble with friends or family. It was clean, well run, and staff that was generally much more pleasant than the staff at Foxwoods. Not only that, their rewards program seemed to be a lot better than Foxwoods.

The New Mohegan Sun 

Nowadays Mohegan Sun is my first choice when it comes to gaming. Chalk it up to years of playing there since the new expansion opened along with their player services. I enjoy the comps that are offered to me when it comes to tickets, hotel rooms, dining and shopping. Not only that, I’ve always had better luck at Mohegan now – winning bigger jackpots and generally just having a much better time than I ever have at Foxwoods.

Plus Mohegan Sun is nowhere near as dirty or rundown as Foxwoods is. Not only that, their air circulation system is much better. As a non-smoker I realize people smoke in a casino, but at Mohegan Sun generally that smoke is quickly sucked up and out of the casino, while at Foxwoods, it tends to just sit in the casino, even if you are nowhere near anyone smoking.

Another plus is the fact that like Vegas, Mohegan seems to get the latest and newest slot machines quite often. At Foxwoods, you have to often wait years before a “new” slot machine shows up. It’s something different and it’s fun to play with the new machines.

While incredibly overpriced, the rooms at Mohegan’s hotel are quite nice, the standard room has all the expected amenities and in general, because they are so new, are quite nice, probably even a bit nicer than the room that I stayed in at Foxwoods. However, like I said they are expensive and unless you get a discounted offer, are generally more than I would pay for a room.

With the opening of the new restaurants, your food options at Mohegan have grown exponentially. There are two different buffets. One serves all three meals, the other only lunch and dinner. There are also 3 other restaurants in the old casino (a steak house, a Chinese restaurant, along with a 24-hour “diner” type place) along with a food court and a coffee bar. The new mall has several new restaurants including Michael Jordan’s restaurant, a seafood place, a Johnny Rockets, a Starbucks coffee shop and another food court. The new casino itself has the new buffet along with a few snack shops scattered around it.

If you’re at Mohegan to shop, even though the stores in the mall are all fairly well known, prices seem to be quite high. So expect to spend some money on anything you buy here. You have to go and look at the giant fish tanks though – even if you don’t buy anything – one store’s door is arched over by a fish tank and it’s so amazing to walk through – surrounded by water and fish. Makes you almost lose your balance.

Mohegan’s Players Club 

Mohegan also offers a player’s club, just like Foxwoods, for people who gamble at Mohegan. For every $80 that you spend gambling, you earn one point in the club. When you get your card, you enter a PIN number and once you have a balance on your card, you can use it at most establishments throughout Mohegan to purchase items or pay for services (1 point = 1 dollar). The player’s club is also the way that Mohegan tracks your play at the casinos and how it figures out what kind of complimentary offers it gives to you. These include coupons for food, discounted hotel room, even tickets and more. The complimentary offers are generally not as extensive as Foxwoods.

Casino of the Earth 

Mohegan’s original casino, Casino of the Earth is still my favorite.  It’s in the shape of a very large circle (you’ll find yourself going around and around) and has a ton of different slot machines and table games.  In the middle of the circle is the Wolf’s Den, a small stage area where various acts perform in free concerts.  So you can be playing on the slots and watch a show at the same time.

On the outside of the circle are some shops, restaurants and other gaming areas.  There’s a high limit slot area along with a slots room, a non-smoking casino and an Asian gaming area.

I think one of the reasons this is my favorite casino is because it’s comfortable.  It has high ceilings which keep the cigarette smoke from bunching up, it’s big enough that crowds tend to get disbursed and you can always find a machine.  I also like the lighting, which is bright enough to see, but otherwise is fairly low.

Casino of the Sky 

The Casino of the Sky was Mohegan Sun’s second casino to open.  This casino is probably slightly larger than the Casino of the Earth and is more open and brighter.  It features a high limit slot area in the center and various slot and table games around that.

In the middle of the Casino is a “mountain” that holds a lounge at its peak.  Above that is a planetarium so you can actually watch the stars and the constellations on the ceiling.  It’s kind of cool but I almost always forget to look up.

There are a couple of restaurants and buffets around the casino along with shops.

Thanks to the high ceilings air quality is good in this casino and besides a few areas near the entrances and exits, it’s almost never all that crowded so that you can find a machine or a table to play.

Casino of the Wind 

Mohegan Sun opened their third casino in August of 2008, which they have named the Casino of the Wind.  This casino isn’t as large as the other two casinos, but it does have a number of different slot machines, table games and provides access to the new Poker area.  Probably the most striking feature of the new casino is the water wall in the back of it.  This stone wall is lit and has water cascading down its front.  The lights are constantly changing giving you a constantly changing wall to look at.  I actually find it a bit disconcerting to walk past – it’s easy to get a bit off balance if you’re watching it and not watching where you’re walking.  However when you’re sitting at a machine, it is cool to watch for a bit.

The Casino of the Wind is a lot more intimate than the other casinos at Mohegan Sun.  It’s fairly small and has the slots and the table games fairly packed in so it can get crowded.  The ceilings are also a lot lower than in other portions of Mohegan so the cigarette smoke does tend to build up here.  That’s one reason I try not to spend too much time in there since it can be very smoky.

In the back of the Casino of the Wind is the entrance to Mohegan Sun’s poker room.  I’m not a poker player so I’ve never been in there, but from what I can see, it does look a lot nicer than the old poker room that had been in the Casino of the Earth.

You can eat and drink at the Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant and bar, which is accessible through the casino and grab a sandwich at the Chief’s Deli.  There’s also a bar in the middle of the casino that offers video poker as you sit and enjoy your drink.

I don’t mind playing in the Casino of the Wind as it does tend to have newer slots than other portions of Mohegan Sun, but it is fairly crowded and the heavy cigarette smoke gets to me quickly.  I usually swing through and play a few games and then move on, if only because I don’t like being crowded in and the smoke can get pretty thick.

Final Thoughts 

All in all, I really like the new Mohegan Sun. Instead of ignoring it like I used to in years past, Mohegan is my first destination for gambling and Foxwoods is a distant second. When I am offered a good deal (or a complimentary one) I have stayed at the hotel, but with the current rates (almost nothing seems cheaper than $200 a night right now), I can’t justify staying there and then spending money to gamble too if I don’t get an offer. It seems a little extravagant, when for another $100 or so, I could fly to Vegas, and spend a few nights up there. However, Mohegan Sun is worth a visit even if you don’t stay there overnight and the new casino and mall area are quite extraordinary to behold. The waterfall in the center of the mall and the mountain with the planetarium above it in the new casino are both must-sees.

Don’t miss Mohegan Sun – it’s definitely eclipsed Foxwoods as the gambling destination in eastern Connecticut. There are two large casinos with almost endless slots and table games, a nifty smaller casino, a number of different restaurants, an entire shopping mall and a nice hotel.

April 21st, 2009 Visit Update 

It's been a while since I've stayed overnight at Mohegan and since I just had a recent experience, I figured I'd provide an update on that hotel side of Mohegan Sun.

My partner and I, along with a friend were spending the night at Mohegan to celebrate my birthday and our recent wedding anniversary. When we had booked the room, which was a complimentary room, we asked for a room with two queen beds. We called the night before we arrived to confirm the two beds, but then when we arrived for check in, we were told that they only had rooms with a single king-sized bed.

I think all three of us were a little flabbergasted and my response was “well you realize there's three of us.” The check-in person explained that a reservation isn't a guarantee of a certain room, just that you'll get a room. I can't say I was exactly thrilled that we'd have a room with one bed. She did say we could have a roll-away bed which wasn't really much of a consolation, though at least our friend wouldn't have to be sharing the bed with us. There really wasn't even much of an apology or anything, it was basically “this is how it is, live with it.”

The rest of the stay was pretty uneventful, though the three of us were squeezed into a fairly small room and with the roll-away bed, it was even tighter.

Our view wasn't that great, we looked up across the casino and out the access road towards the gas station instead of towards the river.
Room service was quick with our morning coffee and the staff did check in with us to make sure that the roll-away bed had arrived and that we were happy.

Overall it was a decent stay, but if I had paid full price for a room ($200-$400), I would have been livid if they had only given me a room with a king-sized bed for the three of us, even if they had given us a roll-away bed. With a complimentary room, I could learn to live with it and since I didn't have to sleep on the roll-away bed, it didn't bother me too much.

March 15-18, 2010 Stay

I have to say that our check and rooms were better on this visit.  This time we went with a friend and my brother.  My partner and I checked into a non-smoking room (which we did have to argue for) with a king bed and they got a smoking room (didn't really want one) with two queens.  The rooms were fine and room service was efficient.  We found that there aren't many options for breakfast other than the buffet or Tuscany.  Dining options in general are kind of limited at the moment since Pompeii and Caesar along with Bamboo Garden and the Longhouse Steak restaurant are all closed for renovations and the remaining restaurants are generally either pretty basic or very expensive.  Not much middle ground.  The pool was nice and we spent a lot of time there.

Winter 2011 Stay

Our experience was not that great when it came to check in.  We had checked in as part of a large group and there was a serious miscommunication about the entire process.  The front desk didn't have records of the reservations and some of the people staying, ended up being billed twice, once to the company that reserved and paid for all the rooms and another charge to the individuals staying there.  It took us several weeks of wrangling with Mohegan Sun customer support to figure out and straighten out the billing.

2013 Updates

I have not stayed at Mohegan Sun since the Winter 2011 stay, but I have visited the site multiple times.  Several restaurants have been closed and then reopened as a new restaurant.  The casinos are more or less the same as they have ever been.  Big name entertainers often do a show at the Mohegan Sun Arena.  I've seen several concerts there and because it's a big venue, but not too big, they can be some great shows.

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