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Opinion: For MGM Springfield, There’s Not Much to Celebrate

Suffice it to say that this is not the way MGM Springfield wanted to mark its second anniversary.

Indeed, the headlines were loud and ominous: the casino in Springfield’s South End would be laying off 1,000 furloughed employees, part of 18,000 job cuts being made by the parent company nationwide. The announcement was certainly not unexpected given the sharp impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the casino industry and the broader tourism sector. But it was still a serious blow and one that has brought about a considerable amount of reflection on all that has — and hasn’t — happened since the Clydesdales rumbled down Main Street as MGM Springfield opened its doors.

In fact, these latest developments have already prompted some of those who had misgivings about the arrival of the casino industry in Massachusetts to say ‘I told you so,’ and for others to actually start talking about this casino and its impact on the city in the past tense.

But while we would certainly agree that this $1 billion facility has underperformed in many respects since the first blackjack hands were dealt on Aug. 24, 2018, it is far too early to say that casino gambling, or this casino, has become a bad bet.

It was struggling to even approach the numbers for gross gaming revenues that were projected when the casino was first proposed before the pandemic reached this market, and since then, it has been forced to shut down for more than three months, keep many operations (like the hotel and meeting facilities) shuttered, and operate at one-third capacity, per orders of the Gaming Commission.

This is not a recipe for success, and job cuts like the ones recently announced were all but unavoidable.

The assignment for MGM now — and it’s the same one facing businesses of all sizes and in all sectors — is to hang in through the pandemic, use this time to revisit every facet of the business with an eye toward creating improvements and efficiencies, and emerge from the crisis in a position to succeed.

This pandemic has tested the mettle of every business in this region, forcing many to make needed cutbacks and adjustments in an effort to weather the storm. It’s the same for MGM — only the numbers are larger, as in considerably larger.

Overall, it’s understandable why MGM’s second-birthday celebration was quiet and subdued — if there was one at all. But this facility can still make some noise in this region. And it can still be a bet that pays off for Western Mass.

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