Springfield officials went public recently with their frustration with MGM and what they consider to be poor performance when it comes to everything that was promised to the city and the region by the gaming giant.
It is their hope that these calls will spur some action to bring the operation on Main Street much closer to what was promised in terms of hiring projections, restaurants and the hours they’re open, vacant facilities and storefronts, and more.
While we believe these calls — and they are both literal and figurative in nature — should have come months ago because the problems are not exactly recent, we’re glad they are finally being made.
Indeed, what we’re seeing on Main Street is certainly not what was first promised going back nearly eight years ago when MGM was in contention for the sole Western Mass. casino license. And while the pandemic and the ongoing workforce crisis has certainly made keeping those promises much more difficult, MGM has an obligation to Springfield and this region to do better and do more.
Let’s start with what was promised. And let’s put aside hiring projections for a moment because, like gaming revenues, these numbers were always overly optimistic and probably not to be believed anyway.
What was promised was a first-class, inside-out casino with slots, table games, restaurants, shops, and things to do — an experience for those who ventured to the complex on Main Street. Four years and five months after the doors opened to great fanfare, the experience is far from what was promised or anticipated.
Some of the shops, including the Kringle Candle Emporium located in a church that was famously moved to make way for the casino, have closed, and no replacements have been found. The Chandler Steakhouse is open only on weekends, as are the bowling alleys. Meanwhile, the Main Street entrance to the casino has been closed most of the time, making this far less the inside-out facility that was promised.
As for hiring, particularly the hiring of certain segments of the population, from women to minorities, MGM has been lagging behind what was promised here as well.
Granted, the landscape has changed considerably since MGM opened its doors in late August 2018. The pandemic forced the facility to close for several months, and when it did reopen, there were a host of new conditions that had to be met. Meanwhile, the workforce landscape has changed considerably as well, and the broad hospitality sector has been especially hard hit; there are many restaurants that are now closed a few days a week, and many have had to cut back on what they can offer.
Still, MGM can do better — and it must do better. City officials are a little late with their list of complaints and calls for improvements, but they are certainly right to demand improvement from the casino giant. MGM Springfield was supposed to be a game changer for the city and region, and thus far it has not lived up to those expectations.
The city must do more than demand meetings with MGM’s CEO. They need to demand accountability and stay on the casino operators until they bring this operation far closer to what was promised than what we can see — and not see — today.