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Video SCRABBLE debuts at Foxwoods

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. – What two words totaling 13 letters mean “an electronic word-making game?” If you guessed “Video SCRABBLE,” you’d win 23 points.

Video SCRABBLE is the latest incarnation of the slot machine to make its debut at Foxwoods Resort Casino.

In a press release in late November, the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise – the business arm of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation’s casino operations – announced that it had teamed up with Lightning Gaming, Inc., to offer the first installation of Video SCRABBLE at Foxwoods.

Lightning Gaming, is a Pennsylvania-based software game developer for casinos and entertainment venues worldwide.

“We’re thrilled to be able to offer our guests the first opportunity anywhere to play the new Video SCRABBLE,” said Michael Speller, MPGE president. “This exclusive debut is yet another example of how the Foxwoods team is continually working to offer unique and exciting products and services to our casino visitors.”

Video SCRABBLE is a bonus slot machine that engages players with a simple two-draw game play. The object of the game is to score the highest possible word using the official SCRABBLE tournament word list of more than 178,000 words.

Players don’t need to be an expert in spelling or vocabulary, however, since the game instantly assembles the drawn letters to form the highest possible word score and will automatically provide word definitions, which MPGE said would add “an enjoyable learning aspect to the game.”

A Video SCRABBLE game demonstration and top word scores are available online.

There was no mention in the press release of how many Video SCRABBLE machines have been added to the floor, but Foxwoods, with its nearby companion, MGM Grand at Foxwoods, is the largest casino in North America with more than 7,200 slot machines, 380 table games, including blackjack, craps, baccarat, roulette, Caribbean stud poke and pai gow poker, the only WPT World Poker Room in New England, High Stakes Bingo, and Ultimate Race book. The resort includes 1,416 guest rooms and suites in three hotels, more than 30 restaurants, a luxurious spa, more than 50,000 square feet of premium meeting and event space, 24 retail shops, and five entertainment venues, including the 1,400-seat Fox Theatre.

While the new slot machines are being introduced, slot revenues continue to fall, and the nation is in the midst of its worst economic downslide.

On Nov. 16, the nation disclosed that it paid $14 million – $7 million short on a $21 million scheduled payment on a $500 million debt, and expects to enter default within 30 days. In August, the nation announced it had hired an investment bank to help restructure more than $2 billion in debt.

All of Indian country is closely monitoring the Mashantucket’s financial circumstance and how it will be resolved as it will set a precedent for Indian casinos and other businesses everywhere.

Tribal nations and their creditors are in a unique financial situation, creditors can’t take over an Indian casino or force the sale of its assets, and it is generally assumed that tribes, as sovereign nations, cannot protect themselves by filing bankruptcy, although that assumption has never been put to the test in a U.S. court.

So, Foxwoods and other casinos facing harsh financial times have to remain open under whatever loan restructuring agreement is settled upon in order for their creditors to be repaid.

Whatever the outcome at Mashantucket, the current economy and the prospect of tribes defaulting on loans means higher financial costs, smaller loans, and fewer creditors willing to take the risk of lending money with no guarantee of its return.