Doubling Down on Intrigue

Editorial

And then … things got even more interesting. And that’s saying something.

There was already considerable anticipation, speculation, curiosity, and intrigue involving the $950 million casino taking shape in Springfield’s South End, but in recent days, it seems everyone simply doubled down on all of the above.

For starters, MGM Resorts International announced that the casino would open ahead of schedule — August 24th to be exact — giving this region a date with destiny and a ramp-up period that’s only been accelerated. Meanwhile, Wynn Resorts chief executive Mike Maddox told CNBC late last week that the corporation isn’t planning to sell the $2.5 billion casino currently under construction in Everett. That move is a clear effort to tamp down the speculation that a sale is imminent, and that MGM Resorts might be interested in buying the property, thus putting a huge question mark on the Springfield Casino.

With that announcement as background material, a Boston Globe columnist — no, not the one accused of embellishing material he wrote about the Boston Marathon bombings — turned up in Springfield last week and started asking elected officials and men and women on the street for their thoughts on the prospect of a name other than ‘MGM’ going up on the casino rising in the South End.

One of those asked that question, a business owner in the South End, reportedly said “we can’t hold them (MGM) back if they want to buy something else … but I’ve got one of those big brooms and we’re going to chase MGM with that broom if there’s something goofy going on.”

Like we said, things have gotten even more interesting. And there’s a good chance that this pattern will only continue until August 24 and beyond.

For now, maybe a deep breath — or two — is in order.

Let’s start with what we know. The MGM name will be on the South End casino when it opens; that’s not going to change. All systems are go on that score, and the city is moving quickly to make sure the downtown is ready for the estimated 12,000 visitors a day and looks the part of a community on the rise.

If you visit downtown, you’ll notice that the streets are being paved, sidewalks are being redone, police substations are being readied, flowers are being planted — and those are just some of the steps being taken.

As for the MGM Springfield, it is moving ahead aggressively with putting a workforce in place — it must feel good about that daunting process if it moved up the opening to August — and with finalizing contracts with area vendors (see story, page 6). And, of course, the construction work continues, outside and especially inside.

A process that began more than five years ago and has been talked about for more than a decade is in the home stretch, the final furlong, as they say, and the excitement is palpable.

As for the speculation about the Wynn property and whether the MGM flag will fly there instead of in the South End … it’s just that, speculation. But in keeping with this region’s somewhat pessimistic outlook and inferiority complex (yes, it’s real) some are already resigned to the worst happening.

Maybe it will, but why would Wynn seemingly give up on a project, and a market, it fought so hard to get into? Yes, the company’s reputation has taken a big hit with the controversy surrounding ousted chairman Steve Wynn and it will take another one if an investigation concludes that executives looked the other way when it came to Wynn’s indiscretions, and selling that license may be a way to cut the company’s losses. But the Boston market is extremely lucrative, and many are now saying that it is likely that Wynn will fight hard to stay in it.

One thing we’ve learned in this market from our limited experience with the gaming industry is that the picture can change quickly and that the landscape can be altered in ways we couldn’t have imagined.

We’ve seen that happen already in the South End. Could we see it again?

There already was plenty of intrigue. Now, it’s like everyone just doubled down.

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