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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council (EDC) and MGM Springfield are collaborating to host a networking event on Tuesday, May 23 from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Aria Ballroom of MGM Springfield.

The event is designed to provide support to local vendors, including minority-owned, women-owned, LGBTQ+-owned, and veteran-owned businesses. The goal is to bring regional anchor institutions and local vendors that provide goods and services together. Vendors will have the opportunity to meet directly with the MGM Springfield sourcing team and learn about future vendor contracts. Support will be available to prepare and scale potential vendors for contracts.

The event is influenced by the Western Massachusetts Anchor Collaborative (WMAC), which provides comprehensive, systemic, and locally led solutions to regional women- and minority-owned businesses (MWBE) and workforce challenges. The EDC and MGM Springfield hope to enhance their impact and drive regional economic equity and financial vitality for their communities by connecting stakeholders in the region. This is done through networking events and assistance in cultivating a resilient local supplier pipeline. Attendees and vendors can register for the event by clicking here.

Representatives from the Center for Women Enterprises, the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council Inc., and the Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office will speak at the event and provide guidance and information regarding available resources and vendor-certification opportunities.

“We are strengthening the relationships between large anchor institutions and local vendors, creating a more resilient and connected economy in Western Massachusetts,” said Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Western Massachusetts EDC. “The upcoming supplier networking event is a key part of this effort, providing an opportunity for local businesses of all backgrounds to connect with MGM Springfield and learn about upcoming contracts and, more importantly, making that direct connection with leaders from MGM Springfield and partnering organizations.”

Arlen Carballo, MGM Springfield’s vice president of Finance Operations, added that “MGM Springfield is thrilled to partner with the EDC to bring local vendors and members of our sourcing team together. This event is part of our continued commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our business, paving the way for positive economic impact in our community.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Summer in New England comes early this year as live music returns to MGM Springfield with the new and expanded Free Music Fridays concert series. Every Friday from May 26 to Sept. 8, some of the area’s most popular bands and national artists will perform on the Plaza at MGM Springfield in the city’s South End, starting at 7:30 p.m. (weather permitting).

Kicking off the 2023 series is the popular Pink Floyd tribute band Brain Damage. Additional local favorites such as Trailer Trash, Brass Attack, Back in Black, and Aquanett, among others, are scheduled to perform throughout the summer. MGM Springfield will also welcome new additions to the Free Music Fridays lineup, including local light Brynn Cartelli, season 14 winner of The Voice. Also debuting on the Plaza stage is Zac Brown tribute band Zac N’Fried; Springfield based R&B, soul, and hip-hop group Malado!; and national pop and hip-hop band LFO.

“MGM Springfield is thrilled to welcome guests and the community back to the Plaza starting even earlier this season, to enjoy free live music under the stars,” said Chris Kelley, MGM Springfield president and chief operating officer. “Based on the incredible success of last summer, we have expanded the lineup and will kick off just before Memorial Day. Many local fan favorites will be back, and we are excited to announce the addition of nationally known artists who will take the Plaza stage for the first time.”

MGM Springfield will continue its partnership with White Lion Brewing Co. to provide guests with a wide selection of craft beer during each Free Music Fridays concert.

“MGM Springfield is a local community collaborator and partner that continuously bridges the gap between small business and vendor opportunity,” said Ray Berry, White Lion president and general manager. “It is their commitment to the region that affords companies like White Lion the ability to align itself with a global company and brand. We look forward to continuing our partnership and offering local artisan beverages on the Plaza of MGM Springfield during Free Music Fridays.”

The series will also feature local food trucks, including North Elm Butchers Block, Batch Ice Cream, Cousins Maine Lobster, Las Kangris, and many more.

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Go HERE to view all episodes

Episode 156: April 3, 2023

George Interviews Robert Westerfield, vice president of Casino Operations at MGM Springfield

The sports betting era has begun in Massachusetts, and it’s off to a fast and intriguing start. On the next installment of BusinessTalk, Robert Westerfield, vice president of Casino Operations at MGM Springfield, talks with BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien about sports betting, March Madness, and what to expect moving forward. It’s must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest and sponsored by PeoplesBank.


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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield announced the reopening of Indian Motorcycle 1901 on Thursday, March 16 at 11:30 a.m. With front doors located on the MGM Springfield Plaza, the store will feature a variety of merchandise from the iconic Springfield-born pioneers of the American motorcycle industry. For the first time, the venue will also sell items from the Springfield Thunderbirds.

Attending the reopening will be MGM Springfield President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Kelley; Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno; Springfield Thunderbirds President Nate Costa, co-owner Paul Picknelly, and mascot Boomer; and other VIP guests.

Daily News

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Gaming Commission reported that, during the month of January, MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor, and Plainridge Park Casino generated approximately $96.9 million in gross gaming revenue (GGR).

MGM Springfield generated $22,853,749 of that: $18,452,254 from slots and $4,401,494 from table games. Those figures generated $5,713,437 in taxes.

Additionally, each property launched sports wagering on Jan. 31. Approximately $65,706 in gross sports wagering revenue was generated at MGM and Planridge for the month of January, which consisted of one day of operations. Encore reported losses of $75,230.

To date, the Commonwealth has collected approximately $1.317 billion in total taxes and assessments from the three casino operations since their openings.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., the state’s first legal sports wager was placed at the BetMGM Sportsbook & Lounge by Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, along with Boston hockey legend Ray Bourque.

“The BetMGM Sportsbook at MGM Springfield is a phenomenal sports-betting hub designed for New England’s passionate sports fans,” BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt said. “Today is a monumental step for BetMGM and sets the stage for us to deliver a best-in-class sports-wagering experience across Massachusetts.”

Betting lines are displayed on large screens at MGM Springfield.

The BetMGM Sportsbook & Lounge at MGM Springfield offers a state-of-the-art gameday experience. The space features a 45-foot, LED viewing wall and four betting windows, making it easy for guests to access a variety of sports-wagering options. Additionally, the resort houses 18 sports-betting kiosks conveniently located throughout the gaming area.

“This has been a long time coming and brings yet another chapter of innovation to enhance the operations and development at MGM Springfield,” Sarno said.

Chris Kelley, president and chief operating officer for MGM Resorts’ Northeast Group, added that “we’re thrilled to add this new amenity, strengthening our commitment to being New England’s premier entertainment and gaming destination. We are incredibly grateful for the tireless work of the state delegation to bring this historic bill to the finish line, and to the MGC [Massachusetts Gaming Commission] for crafting the necessary regulations. The BetMGM Sportsbook at MGM Springfield allows us to create even more one-of-a-kind engagements for our guests while generating tax revenue and job opportunities for our community.”

State Sen. Adam Gomez noted that “BetMGM will bolster our economy locally and statewide. It’s a momentous occasion to have some of the first wagers on sports betting take place in Springfield today.”

State Rep. Carlos Gonzalez added that “today reaffirms our collective support to pass legislation for sports betting. It will bring more visitors to Springfield’s MGM, create jobs, and generate $20 million to $30 million in revenue to Massachusetts.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Massachusetts’ three casinos will begin taking sports bets today at 10 a.m., six months after the state Legislature legalized sports betting in in the Commonwealth.

Some big names are expected to be on hand at the state’s casinos Tuesday to place their bets, including Johnny Damon, Cedric Maxwell, Matt Light, and Julian Edelman at Encore Boston Harbor; Rob Ninkovich at Plainridge Park Casino; and Ray Bourque at MGM Springfield.

MGM Springfield is also touting its 4,586-square-foot sports-wagering lounge with stadium seating, a 45-foot viewing wall, an enclosed wagering counter, and space for wagering kiosks.

Sports betting is expected to bring in about $50 million in annual revenue to the Bay State. Mobile sports betting, allowing people to use apps on their smartphones, is the next phase, but no date has been given for when that will begin.

Daily News

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Gaming Commission reported that, during the month of December, MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor, and Plainridge Park Casino generated approximately $103 million in gross gaming revenue (GGR).

MGM generated $22.5 million of that total: $17.6 million from slots and $4.8 million from table games, paying $5.6 million of that in taxes to the state. The three casinos combined to pay $28.8 million in taxes in December. To date, the Commonwealth has collected approximately $1.29 billion in total taxes and assessments from MGM, Encore, and Plainridge Park since the respective openings of each gaming facility.




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.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield and its online sportsbook, BetMGM, both received approval Monday for sports betting in Massachusetts, when the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) voted 5-0 to approve the casino’s retail application.

Last week, the MGC voted to award a mobile-betting license to WynnBET, allowing it to partner with Encore Boston Harbor, which received the first in-person sports-betting license in the Commonwealth.

The approval comes despite concerns among Springfield leaders that MGM has fallen far short of fulfilling its promises of jobs and economic development, and among commissioners about a lawsuit against MGM over its employment diversity practices.

“Thank you to the entire commission,” MGM Springfield President Chris Kelley said. “We recognize that this is a multi-step process. But this is a very important step forward for our entire team at MGM Springfield, and so we thank you. And we appreciate the thoughtful and deliberate approach that the commission has taken. And I have to say we are extraordinarily excited about, in the not-too-distant future, transitioning an extraordinary sports lounge into a sportsbook.”

The Springfield casino has built a 4,586-square-foot sports-wagering lounge with stadium seating, a 45-foot viewing wall, and an enclosed wagering counter and space for wagering kiosks. There will be betting windows and betting kiosks in the sportsbook area, as well as other betting kiosks spread around the main gaming floor and in the casino’s high-limits area.

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Go HERE to view all episodes

Episode 141: December 19, 2022

George Interviews Mike Fenton, Springfield city councilor and chairman of the city’s Casino Oversight Committee

Michael A. Fenton, Esq.

BusinessWest editor George O’Brien has a lively discussion with Mike Fenton, Springfield city councilor and chairman of the city’s Casino Oversight Committee. The two talk about recently voiced concerns about MGM Springfield not delivering what was promised when it was granted a gaming license, and what actions are expected from the parent company in the weeks and months ahead to improve the picture on Main Street. It’s all must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest in partnership with Living Local 413 and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Chelan Brown, former diversity manager at MGM Springfield, filed a discrimination lawsuit last week alleging that senior management, including then-President Michael Mathis, racially discriminated against her and pressured her to submit falsified reports on the company’s diversity hiring practices to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), among other allegations.

According to casino.org, MGM Springfield originally tasked Brown with ensuring that the construction workforce hired to build the $960 million facility was diverse and satisfied state requirements. The casino opened in August 2018.

The MGC gave MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor ambitious diversity hiring goals. During construction, the MGC said each casino should strive to contract at least 10% of the overall construction work with women-owned businesses. At least 2% of the vendor contracts were additionally to go to veteran-owned entities.

Upon opening, the MGC said minorities and women should account for at least half of MGM Springfield’s total workforce. The numbers reported by MGM Resorts to the MGC during construction and the casino’s opening outpaced those minimums. But Brown claims many of those statistics weren’t accurate.

In a lawsuit naming MGM Springfield and Mathis, as defendants, Brown alleges that she was forced to fudge the casino’s diversity numbers. When she eventually refused to further relay fabricated numbers, Brown alleges she was demoted to a lesser position with longer hours and less pay, which eventually resulted in her termination.

MGM Resorts and the MGC both acknowledged Brown’s lawsuit, but said the organizations had no immediate public comment.

Brown is seeking financial damages for allegedly being racially discriminated against and retaliated against by MGM management, breach of conduct, failure to deliver on promises of employment, and attempts to force an employee to submit fraudulent documents.

Brown, who has since gone on to work with Behavioral Health Network, said she was repeatedly harassed by Mathis while the two worked at MGM Springfield. Mathis stepped down from his position in January 2020, just two months after Brown was fired.

Brown alleges in her legal complaint that Mathis forced her to overstate employment statistics for many of the contractors MGM Springfield hired during construction. When she told Mathis she didn’t feel comfortable reporting the diversity metrics to the MGC, “President Mathis stated angrily that he would present the numbers to the MGC and ordered the team to ‘report the numbers this way,’ meaning inaccurately,” Brown’s lawsuit asserts.

Brown claims Mathis retaliated against her by demoting her to a conference services position, an area in which she had no prior experience. She took the job anyway, as it was the only option afforded to her after Mathis said she wouldn’t be retained as diversity manager. The conference services role came with a pay package that was 6.34% less than her diversity management role.

Brown’s lawsuit also alleges that she was forced to routinely attend corporate events where Mathis and other MGM executives overconsumed alcohol. “Senior levels of the organization began acting like they were in charge of a fraternity house and not a responsible organization,” Brown’s attorneys allege.

Cover Story

At the Goal Line

With 35 other states having done so already, Massachusetts lawmakers were eager to pass a bill this summer legalizing sports betting, and Gov. Charlie Baker followed suit, signing it into law. Now comes the hard work by the Gaming Commission to establish a framework and scores of regulations — and the continuing research into a recreational activity that brings a still-uncertain level of economic benefit, alongside some well-established social risks.

The MGM Sports Lounge

The MGM Sports Lounge was designed to enhance the sports viewing — and eventually gambling — experience.

Rachel Volberg has been researching the effects of gambling for almost four decades, and since 2013, she’s been doing it at the behest of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), which selected her team a decade ago to research the potential impacts of casinos.

“We’ve kept a pretty careful eye on things, but only a few U.S. states have any funding in their legislation to conduct research, so we know surprisingly little about the social and economic impacts of betting in the United States as a whole,” she told BusinessWest, and that’s even more true when it comes to legalized sports betting, which Massachusetts recently became the 36th state to legalize.

A research professor in the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, for the past decade Volberg has been the principal investigator with Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA), whose latest report — the first of its kind in the nation — deals with the potential impact of legal sports gambling in the Bay State. And if the picture is still uncertain, it’s coming into focus.

“I think the biggest surprise for us was how little research had actually been done, particularly on the economic impacts — what does the industry look like once you legalize it, once it’s operational? What kinds of jobs, what kinds of revenues, and how are those jobs translating into economic benefits? There were literally only two or three economic studies we were able to identify, so there’s clearly a lot of work to be done in that area.”

What is emerging may not thrill proponents of sports gambling who support legalization on economic grounds. The study contends that direct economic impacts will depend on shifting spending from the illegal to legal market, and the impacts will not be entirely new since the majority of these already occur due to the illegal market. In addition, sports betting will primarily redistribute money already in the economy rather than attracting new money from outside Massachusetts.

“Sports betting is, by far, the number-one question I get asked on a daily basis, and it has been for years now. The entire team is looking forward to welcoming the first bet. When the time comes, we’ll be ready.”

“When you compare the tax revenue we anticipate being generated in Massachusetts by sports betting, the optimistic scenario is $60 million a year,” Volberg said, “which is not very large compared to the lottery, which in 2019 generated $1.1 billion in tax revenue, or casinos, which in 2019 generated about $168 million.”

That’s not nothing, of course, and state lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the bill to bring sports gambling out into the open, as did Gov. Charlie Baker, who signed the bill into law shortly after. It was the culmination of momentum that had been building since sports betting was legalized by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2018. Area legislators pointed out that, with every state in the Northeast having followed suit, Massachusetts was losing money to its neighbors.

“Legalizing sports wagering in Massachusetts will allow us to finally compete with neighboring states and will bring in new revenue and immense economic benefits,” state Sen. John Velis said in August.

The bill allows for 15 online licenses for companies like DraftKings and FanDuel, in addition to five retail licenses for the three casinos and two racetracks in Massachusetts. The bill also creates a commission to study additional licenses for smaller businesses, such as bars and restaurants.

The bill includes out-of-state collegiate betting but does not allow bets on Massachusetts college teams unless they are in the playoffs. The bill also includes a 20% tax on mobile bets and a 15% tax on retail bets, which would be paid by the operating company.

Rachel Volberg

Rachel Volberg

“At this point, the most optimistic scenario for sports betting tax revenues in Massachusetts is about $60 million, and that’s assuming the legal operators are able to capture the great majority of the legal market. It also assumes it will attract people who haven’t bet on sports before there was a legitimate, legal provider.”

“Sports betting is, by far, the number-one question I get asked on a daily basis, and it has been for years now,” said Chris Kelley, president and chief operating officer of MGM Springfield, which built two sports viewing lounges last year partly in anticipation of legal sports betting (more on those later). “The entire team is looking forward to welcoming the first bet. When the time comes, we’ll be ready.”


Devil’s in the Details

With the legislation now law, the MGC will work out the details that will make legal sports betting a reality. It has already come up with a list of about 225 regulations that will need to be drafted.

“A great deal of work has already been done by our team in anticipation of sports wagering becoming legal in Massachusetts,” Gaming Commission Executive Director Karen Wells said last month. “This includes identifying over 200 potential regulations, adopting a framework to utilize industry-recognized technical standards, establishing an infrastructure to investigate and license applicants, initiating the hiring of a chief of Sports Wagering, and scheduling public meetings. Now that we have a law that defines our responsibilities as regulator, we will work with our stakeholders to swiftly stand up this new industry with a focus on integrity, player safety, and consumer protection.”

They’ll take a hard look at SEIGMA’s report in crafting that framework and its many elements, Gaming Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said, noting that “this report will aid the MGC as we begin to regulate a sports-wagering industry in the Commonwealth with an uncompromising focus on integrity and player safety.”

Volberg added that “we were trying to give a very broad overview of what is known at this point about the social and economic impact of sports betting, and it’s the first nationwide effort to do that. It also summarizes what we know about sports betting in Massachusetts.”

She told BusinessWest that the ‘handle’ — a term that refers to all money bet, including rewagered winnings, creating a high level of churn — is not the same as the total revenue taken in by operators.

“It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that sports betting is run on very narrow margins, so the actual revenues the operator is able to generate are a very small number of what the handle numbers are,” she explained. “At this point, the most optimistic scenario for sports betting tax revenues in Massachusetts is about $60 million, and that’s assuming the legal operators are able to capture the great majority of the legal market. It also assumes it will attract people who haven’t bet on sports before there was a legitimate, legal provider.”

Because so little information about the impacts of sports betting is available, Volberg’s team mined data from their own surveys and studies that are part of the research ordered by the Massachusetts Legislature when lawmakers passed the Expanded Gaming Act in 2011. Meanwhile, a representative survey of 8,000 adults was completed in Massachusetts earlier this year and provides a snapshot of changes in gambling behavior, attitude, and problem-gambling prevalence since 2013-14.

“The National Council on Problem Gambling has seen a significant increase in sports-betting participation since 2018,” she told BusinessWest, noting that it has also reported an increase in people saying they had experiences with one or more impacts or harms.

“That suggests that an increase in sports betting has the potential to come with increased harm, which is not a surprise, but in Massachusetts, because the Gaming Commission already has familiarity with implementing measures to try to minimize and mitigate harm — because they already have that experience with casinos — we’re hopeful those harms can in fact be minimized,” Volberg added.

Cathy Judd-Stein

Cathy Judd-Stein

“This report will aid the MGC as we begin to regulate a sports-wagering industry in the Commonwealth with an uncompromising focus on integrity and player safety.”

Alisha Khoury-Boucher, a clinical supervisor at MiraVista Behavioral Health Center, agreed to an extent. “Gambling has been a concern for a long time, but we already have a casino close by, so we don’t see a major change with the people we serve from legalizing sports gambling; if they wanted to do those things, they were already doing those things. It’s the behavior more than the access.”

Still, she added, “in my opinion, where we may see more of a problem is with young people, college-age people, who may still be home with mom and dad and have more disposable income. We might see an increase there, but that’s to be determined.”

“Any time a new entertainment is starting up, it’s always going to be advertised toward young people,” Khoury-Boucher said, citing vaping as one example. “They weren’t looking for middle-aged people who’d been smoking for 25 years; they were looking at mid- to late adolescents. It’s kind of the same thing with sports gambling. If you’re a sports fan, you’re seeing advertising that looks like the old beer commercials — everyone’s happy, it’s exciting, it’s flashy. They’re targeting young people, and that’s potentially a problem.”

Indeed, SEIGMA’s study notes that sports betting occurs in all demographic groups but appeals most to young, well-educated men. It adds that problem gambling is higher among sports bettors primarily because they tend to be involved with a large number of other gambling activities, so legalizing sports betting in Massachusetts has the potential to increase rates of gambling harm and problem gambling.

To mitigate those concerns, SEIGMA is advising the Gaming Commission to require operators to provide player data to the MGC on a regular basis and to cooperate with researchers; to prohibit live, in-game sports betting, which is disproportionately utilized by problem gamblers; and to restrict advertising and celebrity endorsements, which tend to promote sports betting in young people, precipitate relapse in recovered gamblers, and counteract the effectiveness of messages advocating limited, lower-risk involvement.

Volberg noted that only four states have funded any kind of research about sports betting, while 12 have provided funding for problem-gambling services. This contrasts with Massachusetts, where 9% of the tax revenue raised from sports betting will go into the Public Health Trust Fund that supports research and services to mitigate gambling-related harms.

“We are in a unique position in Massachusetts to be able to monitor the impacts of sports betting as it becomes legal and make adjustments to its provision so as to maximize the benefits and minimize the harms.”


Sit Back and Watch

Those benefits, as noted, are uncertain, but operators are excited about the prospects.

For maximum economic impact, SEIGMA’s report recommends issuing licenses for online operators, and a variety of them, since most sports betting is done online. That lines up with the Gaming Commission’s plans.

“While it is likely that sports-book operators, including land-based and online operators, will benefit from sports-betting legalization in Massachusetts,” the study notes, “it is difficult to predict whether sports bettors will add legal sports betting to their repertoire or simply substitute betting on sports for spending on other types of gambling.”

Still, as the leader of the only casino in Western Mass., Kelley sees potential benefits not just for his facility, but for the region itself.

“Massachusetts residents are already driving across the border to Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and New York to place bets. Keeping the millions of tax dollars generated annually by sports wagering in the Commonwealth is a big deal,” he told BusinessWest. In addition, “sports betting at MGM Springfield will bring more foot traffic and visitors to downtown Springfield. We are thrilled at the prospect of not only having more people come and enjoy our property, but to experience all of the amazing businesses nearby.”

To enhance the viewing and gambling experience, the MGM Sports Lounge opened in August 2021, featuring more than 70 lounge seats and a 45-foot state-of-the-art HD viewing wall, inviting fans to watch multiple sporting events at once. A new VIP Sports Lounge also opened last August within TAP Sports Bar, offering a more intimate experience, including a state-of-the-art HD viewing wall.

“As a New England sports fan, I can tell you the MGM Springfield Sports Lounge is the best spot to watch the Patriots, the Red Sox, the Celtics, the Bruins, you name it,” Kelley said. “It’s also just a great place to gather with your friends for a fun night out. As soon as we get the green light, we are ready to incorporate the BetMGM platform into our property.”

Yes, the green light — it’s what many in the gaming industry in Massachusetts have been anticipating for a long time, hoping the benefits of legal sports betting exceed early projections — and outweigh the potential harms.


Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]


Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Massachusetts Gaming Commission reported that the month of August at MGM Springfield, Plainridge Park Casino, and Encore Boston Harbor generated approximately $92 million in gross gaming revenue (GGR).

MGM Springfield generated $4,474,746.40 from table games and $17,518,085.09 from slots for a total of $21,992,831.49, generating $5,498,207.87 in taxes.

MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor, category-1 resort casinos, are taxed on 25% of GGR; those monies are allocated to several specific state funds as determined by the gaming statute. Plainridge Park, a category-2 slots facility, is taxed on 49% of GGR. Of that total taxed amount, 82% is paid to local aid and 18% is allotted to the Race Horse Development Fund.

To date, the Commonwealth has collected approximately $1.181 billion in total taxes and assessments from MGM, Plainridge Park, and Encore since the respective openings of each gaming facility.

Daily News


SPRINGFIELD MGM Springfield and the Mass. Convention Center Authority announced that MGM Springfield has been awarded the venue-management contract for the continued management of the MassMutual Center. 

Beginning July 1, the new contract awards a seven-year term, plus the option to extend for an additional three years.   

The Mass. Convention Center Authority held its monthly board meeting on April 21, and part of the agenda was the selection of management for the MassMutual Center for the next 10 years. By a unanimous ‘yes’ vote, the board selected MGM Springfield as its management partner. 

MGM Springfield initially assumed management for the MassMutual Center on July 1, 2017, and since that time, the MassMutual Center has hosted more than 730 events that have attracted more than 1 million people to the Greater Springfield area, despite the impacts of COVID-19. MGM Springfield has been able to expand the quantity and quality of world-class entertainment and events, as well as the number of major meetings and conventions including: AHL All-Star Classic, Slayer, Aerosmith, Bill Burr, John Mulaney, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement, Cher, Stevie Wonder, Red Sox Winter Weekend, for King & Country, Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, World Quilt New England, Massachusetts Association of Realtors, New England Fence Association, Massachusetts Teachers Association Annual Meetings, Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership Lean Conference, New England Library Association, Yankee Security Convention, New England Regional Volleyball Association, and many more. 

The MassMutual Center is also home to the Springfield Thunderbirds and the American International College’s Men’s Hockey team, the Yellow Jackets. 

“We are thrilled with this decision,” said Sean Dolan, general manager of the MassMutual Center. “Our staff is the best in the business, and this gives us an opportunity to expand on our operational excellence, guest services, community involvement, diversity initiatives, public safety features, and our investment and partnership with the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau.” 

Said Chris Kelley, MGM Springfield President & COO, “We’re incredibly proud to continue our relationship with the MassMutual Center and MCCA. The venue is an integral part of our region, having served as Springfield’s premier event space for nearly two decades. We look forward to bringing more world-class experiences for years to come.” 

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest, in partnership with Living Local, has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Go HERE to view all episodes

Episode 100: February 14, 2022

George Interviews Beth Ward, director of Community Affairs at MGM Springfield

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien has a lively, wide-ranging discussion with  Beth Ward, director of Community Affairs at MGM Springfield. The two talk everything from the Valentine’s Day menu (5-pound lobster), to the prospects for sports gambling, to MGM Springfield’s steady climb back to something approaching normalcy after two years of pandemic. It’s all must listening, so join us on BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest in partnership with Living Local and sponsored by PeoplesBank.




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Daily News


SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield will ring in the holiday season on Nov. 26 with its annual tree lighting ceremony to mark the opening of its Holiday Winter Wonderland on Armory Square, featuring the city’s only outdoor skating rink.

Guests are invited to join the celebration beginning at 6 p.m., led by MGM Resorts Northeast Group President and COO Chris Kelley and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. There will be special appearances by the Dan Kane Singers, the New England Patriots Cheerleaders, and Santa Claus.

A hot chocolate bar and festive adult beverages will be available, along with a special to-go menu from TAP Sports Bar. Local favorite Hot Oven Cookies will also have its food truck on location.

Tickets for the ice rink can be purchased in person. Hours are: Monday and Tuesday, closed; Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m.-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 1 p.m.-10 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.

The MGM Springfield Skating Rink will be open Nov. 26 to Jan. 2. Holiday hours are 4 p.m.-10 p.m. on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

A coordinated holiday tree light and music show will be on display every hour on the hour from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, from Nov. 26t through Jan. 2.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — For the first time in more than 18 months, poker enthusiasts will have the opportunity to ante up and compete in live cash games in the MGM Springfield Poker Room. Scheduled to reopen its doors today, Oct. 29, at 11 a.m., it will be the state’s only venue currently offering poker.

“MGM Springfield is thrilled to reopen our poker room. We are looking forward to welcoming back our loyal players and dozens of employees who have waited for this day for more than a year and a half,” said Chris Kelley, MGM Springfield president and chief operating officer.

With the health and safety of guests and employees at the forefront, the room will offer 13 total tables, up to nine players per table, live cash games, and daily play from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield’s Free Music Friday concert series will move inside to the Aria Ballroom beginning Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Doors are scheduled to open at 7 p.m.

The upcoming lineup includes LA’s BackStage Pass (Oct. 15), Beyond Purple (Oct. 22), Raise Your Hands: Bon Jovi Tribute (Oct. 29), and Trailer Trash (Nov. 5).

“We are thrilled to continue offering this free concert series to our community featuring some of our most talented local artists,” said Chris Kelley, MGM Springfield’s president and chief operating officer. “Based on the success of the summer program, it makes perfect sense to bring the fun inside to one of our fantastic MGM Springfield venues.”

Beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages will be available during the shows. Guests also can enjoy MGM Springfield’s diverse food and beverage offerings before or after the concerts, including the Chandler Steakhouse, Tap Sports Bar, and South End Market.

For additional details on the Free Music Fridays concert series, including lineup updates, click here.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield continues to focus on expanding amenities to accommodate increasing numbers of guests as demand grows and visitation continues to rise. To that end, two of the casino’s popular nightlife hotspots, Commonwealth Bar and Lounge and the Knox Bar, reopened last week.

Commonwealth will be open Thursday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. The Knox will be open 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. every Friday and Saturday.

MGM Springfield also will expand operating hours of TAP Sports Bar beginning Wednesday, Sept. 15. The venue will be open Wednesday through Friday from 4 to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 10 p.m.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — ROAR! Comedy Club is back and ready to bring the laughs. Tickets to see comedians Ray Harrington on Saturday, Aug. 14, and Marty Caproni on Saturday, Aug. 28, are on sale at mgmspringfield.com/roar. ROAR! Comedy Club is located in the refurbished Armory at MGM Springfield.

MGM Springfield and John Tobin Presents will host comedy nights in ROAR! through the remainder of the year, with more shows to be announced in the upcoming weeks. The club, which launched in 2019, is a staple of MGM Springfield’s entertainment offerings.

“We are ecstatic to be re-opening ROAR! Comedy Club and bringing the great people of Springfield, Western Mass., and Connecticut laughter again,” said Ryan Cott, managing partner at John Tobin Presents. “It’s been a long 16 months without shows at ROAR!, but we couldn’t be happier to renew our fantastic partnership with MGM Springfield, who have been instrumental in bringing top-notch entertainment to the area.”

Chris Kelley, president and chief operating officer of MGM Springfield, added that “the return of ROAR! Comedy Club marks another milestone in reintroducing entertainment to our campus and downtown Springfield. We kicked off our Free Music Friday concert series last month and put the spotlight on premier local talent. Now, we look forward to reopening the doors of the iconic Armory for evenings of laughter. MGM Springfield is proud to offer the best in entertainment as we continue to celebrate the strength and resilience of our community.”

Daily News

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission reported today that the month of June 2021 at MGM Springfield, Plainridge Park Casino (PPC), and Encore Boston Harbor generated approximately $84 million in Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) for the Commonwealth.

Breaking down the numbers, MGM Springfield generated $16.53 million in slot GGR and $3.67 million in table game GGR, for a total of $20.2 million, which netted $5.05 million in taxes. These numbers are down from May, when the casino generated $17.23 million in slot GGR and $4.02 million in table GGR, for a total of $21.25 million. But the numbers are slightly better than June of 2019 (the casino was closed to the pandemic during that month last year), when MGM Springfield generated $14.7 million in slot GGR and $5.3 in table GGR for a total of $19.9 million in total GGR.

This June, Encore generated $29.35 million, and $23.2 million, respectively, for a total of $52.56 million in GGR and $13.2 million in taxes, while PPC generated $11.3 million in slots GGR and $5.45 million in taxes.

PPC, a category 2 slots facility, is taxed on 49% of GGR. Of that total taxed amount, 82% is paid to Local Aid and 18% is allotted to the Race Horse Development Fund. MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor, category 1 resort-casinos, are taxed on 25% of GGR; those monies are allocated to several specific state funds as determined by the gaming statute.

To date, the Commonwealth has collected approximately $816 million in total taxes and assessments from PPC, MGM and Encore since the respective openings of each gaming facility.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELDMGM Springfield will present Brian Regan at Symphony Hall on Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. Tickets go on sale June 16 at 10 a.m. at MGMSpringfield.com, Ticketmaster.com, and the MGM Springfield Box Office. M Life Rewards members will receive exclusive presale access July 15 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

Regan stars in his own Netflix series, Stand Up And Away! With Brian Regan, a four-episode original series that combines sketch comedy and stand-up, executive produced by Regan and Jerry Seinfeld; and the Netflix special, Brian Regan: Nunchucks And Flamethrowers, which is also available as a vinyl album.

Regan can also be seen in the role of “Mugsy” in the Peter Farrelly TV show, Loudermilk, on Audience Network. Farelly personally cast Regan in the series, which premiered to rave reviews with Regan earning accolades for his portrayal of a recovering addict who is estranged from his family.

In 2015, Regan made history with his stand-up special, Brian Regan: Live From Radio City Music Hall, as the first live broadcast of a stand-up special in Comedy Central’s history. He made a scene-stealing cameo in Chris Rock’s film, Top Five, and is a guest on two episodes of Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which is now streaming on Netflix.

Regan has made numerous appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and was a regular guest on The Late Show with David Letterman, appearing on nearly 30 episodes of the CBS show. 

For announcements and additional details on upcoming events at Symphony Hall and MGM Springfield, visit MGMSpringfield.com.

Daily News

BOSTON — During a remote public meeting on May 26, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) voted to rescind COVID-19-related restrictions for gaming establishments and horseracing and simulcasting facilities.

The casino operators agreed, as part of the new guidelines, to retain a pandemic safety officer until further notice and continue to report any positive COVID tests to the MGC’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau and their respective local boards of health.

“It’s been 15 months since the Gaming Commission convened with all three casino licensees in a virtual setting to discuss the rapid reach of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Cathy Judd-Stein, MGC chair. “The three gaming licensees have cooperated fully throughout this process, working always to serve the public’s interests and protect their patrons and employees.

“We thank Plainridge Park Casino, MGM Springfield, and Encore Boston Harbor for their compliance and dedication to health and safety during this difficult period,” she continued. “I also wish to extend my sincere gratitude to the entire MGC team for its consistent commitment over the last 15 months.”

The commission also allowed horseracing and simulcasting licensees, including Plainridge Park, Raynham Park, and Suffolk Downs, to rescind their respective MGC-approved COVID-related reopening plans, with similar agreements in place regarding pandemic safety officers and COVID reporting.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Wahlburgers announced that its restaurant at MGM Springfield is now open to the public and ready to serve guests. The Wahlburgers MGM Springfield team is looking forward to becoming a part of the community and providing guests with an exciting dine-in experience as well as offering takeout.

“My goal for Wahlburgers has always been to combine simple and delicious food with amazing hospitality. We’re honored to have the opportunity to bring our restaurant experience to the historic community of Springfield and invite everyone to stop in, sit down, and make memories with us,” Executive Chef Paul Wahlberg said.

The popular casual dining concept founded by brothers Mark, Donnie, and Paul Wahlberg, and the subject of A&E Network’s Emmy-nominated reality show for 10 seasons, will feature a chef-inspired menu that brings guests its signature lineup of burgers along with entrée salads, sandwiches, and more. The restaurant’s full bar will offer a large selection of craft cocktails, wines, and local beers.

Wahlburgers Springfield MGM is located at 1028 Main St., at the corner of Main and Union streets in downtown Springfield. The 4,900-square-foot restaurant will be open daily for lunch and dinner. In honor of the late family matriarch, Alma Wahlberg, the chain’s Springfield location includes a special ‘Alma’s table.’ This design element is adorned with photos from her childhood through her adult life, along with snapshots of her family members.

Those who join the WahlClub rewards program by downloading the Wahlburgers app will have access to exclusive promotions, earn points for every dollar spent, and redeem rewards for free food and merchandise. Online ordering and delivery are also available via the Wahlburgers app.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Live music will returns to MGM Springfield with the new Free Music Fridays Concert Series. Every Friday from June 4 to Sept. 3, some of the area’s most popular rock bands will perform on the Plaza at MGM Springfield starting at 7:30 p.m., weather permitting.

Kicking off the 2021 series is FAT featuring Peter Newland. Additional local favorites such as Trailer Trash, Darik and the Funbags, and Michelle Brooks-Thompson, among others, are scheduled to perform throughout the summer.

“MGM Springfield is known for its diverse outdoor programming with a focus on entertaining guests and bringing the community together,” said Chris Kelley, MGM Springfield’s president and chief operating officer. “We look forward to welcoming guests, as well as members of the Springfield community, every weekend this summer with an evening of music and fun. The revitalization of the downtown community continues to be a priority for our team, and we can’t wait to host guests on the Plaza for the first time in more than a year.”

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno added that “I am very happy to see the return of live music with Free Music Fridays at our world-renowned MGM Springfield. As we continue with the transitioning of a phased reopening of our city and the Commonwealth, it is exciting to see that MGM Springfield is bringing back this vibrant and festive event of live music to downtown Springfield. I want to thank MGM Springfield President and COO Chris Kelley and his leadership team for their continued commitment and investment in our city and I am looking forward to celebrating the return of these musical events once again.”

The Plaza Bar will reopen for Free Music Fridays, offering summer cocktails, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages, among other options. Guests also can enjoy MGM Springfield’s diverse food and beverage offerings before or after the concerts, with options including the Chandler Steakhouse, Tap Sports Bar, and Southend Market venues including Bill’s Diner, Jack’s Lobster Shack, Wicked Noodle, and Hearth Grill.

“I am so proud of our community and the efforts we’ve all taken to get to this point,” said Chris Russell, executive director of the Springfield BID. “As we continue along this positive path, we’re very excited to see people return to doing the things they love in downtown Springfield. Thank you, MGM Springfield, for bringing concerts back to the city.”

For additional details on the Free Music Fridays Concert Series, including lineup updates, visit mgmspringfield.com.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Massachusetts casinos recorded a second straight positive month of revenues in April, as MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor, and the slots parlor at Plainridge Park Casino jointly generated $84.63 million in gross gaming revenue last month, about $673,000 million more than in March.

That yielded about $24.16 million in taxes and fees for the state, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission announced. The state’s share from April is more than it has collected from the three gaming facilities since February 2020, the last month without COVID-19 restrictions.

MGM Springfield reported more than $21.93 in gross gaming revenue last month, including more than $4.28 million in table-game revenue. Slot revenues were slightly less than the record set in March, but still totaled almost $204.1 million in April. The house kept 8.65% of that for about $17.65 million in slot revenue.

Cover Story

But MGM Springfield Leader Optimistic About the Next Chapter

Chris Kelley had just arrived in Springfield and was still getting acclimated to the region when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived almost exactly a year ago.

Then, he had to get acclimated to something else — something no one in the casino industry had ever seen or been forced to endure before.

“These facilities just weren’t meant to be closed,” said Kelley, president of MGM Resorts’ Northeast Group, which includes MGM Springfield. But they were, of course — for four long, brutal months, before finally reopening in July, but only at one-third capacity and with a number of restrictions in place. Later, the state’s casinos had to reduce hours and close at 10 p.m. as a late-year surge in cases moved the goalposts again.

Now, some restrictions are being eased, and later this month, the state will enter what is known as step 1 of phase 4, prompting Kelley to glance toward the future with optimism in his voice. But in all ways, and by all accounts, the ‘ramping-up’ period for MGM Springfield — the one we all heard so much about in the months before COVID dramatically changed the landscape — has been turned on its ear.

“People are just really excited to be part of bringing downtown West Springfield back.”

In some ways, it will be like starting over for this operation, which recently reopened its hotel for weekends and also its sports bar, and is waiting with what can only be called bated breath to see if and to what degree patrons will return to the blackjack tables, slot machines, bars, and, eventually (but no one really knows when) large-scale events like concerts, shows, and fundraising galas.

In a wide-ranging interview, Kelley, who has remained mostly quiet, from a press perspective, since arriving in this region, talked with BusinessWest about the past year, but mostly about what comes next for this highly visible, nearly $1 billion business that opened to great expectations 32 months ago.

That look back was understandably painful, although he said the past year has certainly been a somewhat beneficial learning experience on many levels (more on that later) and a time when changes coming to the industry were greatly accelerated.

As for the future … it is obviously clouded by question marks that involve everything from how much pent-up demand there will be for everything a casino has to offer, to the fate of sports gambling in the Bay State.

Chris Kelley says, it feels like starting over

In some ways, Chris Kelley says, it feels like starting over at MGM Springfield.

Kelley is optimistic about both.

He said Las Vegas has recently returned to its 24/7 character and something rapidly approaching conditions that existed pre-COVID — and the early indications are certainly positive.

“With vaccine distribution ramping up around the country, there’s good reason for cautious optimism as we look at our ability to gather in larger numbers, and for our industry, in the broader sense, to see improvement as opposed what it was experiencing only a few months ago. As we look at the calendar year 2021, I think we see significant opportunities for improvement, especially as we move into the second half of the year.”

As for sports betting, he said several bills are in various stages of talk and progression through the Legislature, and he’s optimistic that the state will ultimately pass one, especially with other states already doing so, with revenue flowing to them as a result. More important than simply approving a bill, though, is passing legislation that will enable the state to effectively compete and ultimately become an industry leader in this realm. Such a bill might bring $50 million in additional tax revenues to the state annually, he projected.

“We’re looking for Massachusetts to be able to compete with all of the surrounding states that have or soon will have sports betting,” he said, noting that Connecticut will soon be in that category. “A level playing field for MGM and the other casinos in the state is very important, as is giving our customers an amenity, and an experience, that they’ve been asking for now for years.”


Doubling Down

Reflecting on the past year, what it was like, and even what he’s learned as a manager, Kelley started by flashing back to what were the darkest of days — when the casino was closed and there was no indication of when it might open again.

“It’s a very uncomfortable experience to walk through these facilities when they’re dark and there’s no activity and action — the sights and sounds that ultimately drew us all into this industry,” he told BusinessWest, noting, again, that once a casino cuts the proverbial grand-opening ribbon, its doors are never locked.

The fact that they had to be locked was just the first in a string of unprecedented steps that defined the next several months, from the shuttering of the hotel and restaurants to the cancellation of scores of events that were on the books, to ultimately laying off two-thirds of the employees working at the casino before the pandemic arrived.

Overall, Kelley said, this has been a humbling experience in some ways — a challenging time, to be sure, but also a learning experience and an opportunity to accelerate, out of necessity, some changes that were coming to the industry anyway.

“No business model for any company will be exactly the same, post-COVID,” he explained. “We have innovated along the way, adopting best practices, and many of those will remain, to the benefit of the guests,” he told BusinessWest. “Digital innovations are an area I would point to; MGM Resorts and MGM Springfield were already headed toward many digital innovations pre-COVID, but the pandemic really accelerated the implementation of those efforts — things like digital menus, the use of QR codes, mobile check-in, and digital keys; those things will remain, and those are a positive part of the guest experience today and moving forward.”

Elaborating on what was learned and how the casino and its staff responded to the rapidly changing landscape, Kelley said some valuable experience was gained that should benefit his team moving forward, especially when it comes to — here’s that word again — pivoting.

“We want to make it more walkable, more friendly, and more inviting so we can complement the business investment that’s happening there.”

“When the pandemic hit, it was a huge learning experience for everyone in this industry,” he said. “We all had to create new ways of operating and coping with restrictions that we had never experienced before. We put an emphasis on internal communications and external communications with our guests, and we found ways to stay in contact with our teams virtually. And through this process, we’ve been working hand-in-hand with our state and local officials and our community partners to weather this experience with the strength and support of each other. That ability to come together as a community during times like this is the silver lining to a very difficult period.

“As a team, we recently discussed the importance of leadership agility,” he went on, “because we have had to learn how to be very nimble and adjust to ever-changing conditions, which I believe will ultimately benefit the business in coming out of all this.”

Barriers at the gaming tables and social-distancing reminders have been facts of life

Barriers at the gaming tables and social-distancing reminders have been facts of life during the pandemic at MGM Springfield.

In recent months, business — and gross gaming revenues — have steadily improved, said Kelley, and this has been while the hotel and some restaurants have been closed. Looking forward, he expects this trend to continue and for there to be a good amount of pent-up demand for casino-style entertainment.

“It remains to be seen what the reaction of our communities will be to a vaccinated population, but we’re optimistic that we’ll see the return of guests to our property,” he said. “We had seen resiliency even during this time.”

The hotel reopened on a limited basis the first weekend in March, he went on, with the goal being to gauge guest demand and comfort levels and then adjust the business model accordingly. He said initial bookings have been positive, and he expects improvement to come gradually.

As for events in the casino’s various venues — gatherings have brought people and energy to the downtown area and business to a number of hospitality-related ventures — Kelley said it is too early to know when this aspect can resume.

“Ultimately, that will be up to the state to determine,” he noted. “What we can do is make sure that we’re as prepared as possible for that day; we do discuss those things frequently, and we’re actively engaged in planning for the return of those amenities.”


Plenty of Wild Cards

Speaking of being prepared … this is exactly what the casino is striving to do when it comes to another key focal point moving forward — sports betting.

New Hampshire became the 16th state to legalize such betting (there are now 22) in July 2019, and officially went live in late December that year. Meanwhile, Connecticut has taken huge steps in this direction, although some complicated negotiations remain between the many parties involved when it comes to where venues will be located, how many there will be, and who will operate them.

As for the Bay State, Kelley counts himself among those who believe it’s a question of when — not if — sports betting gets the green light, and he obviously considers that step pivotal if the state’s casinos are going to going to tap the full potential of what has long been considered an attractive market.

But he stressed repeatedly that his focus is not simply on working with state legislators to pass a bill, but to create a playing field on which the state’s casino can effectively compete. And this is the consistent message he and others with MGM have been delivering to state officials.

“We’re encouraged by the number of sports-betting bills that have already been introduced, and each of the bills that has been drafted has been tailored to the unique interests of the sponsor,” he explained. “So we’ve been focused on advising lawmakers on what our experience has shown us.”

Elaborating, he said this experience has shown that the lower the tax rates are on sports-gambling revenues, the better one’s odds are of effectively competing against what he called the “illegal markets,” and also against the growing number of neighboring states already in or soon to get in this game.

“We want to create a competitive operating model, and so a tax rate that is on the lower side is helpful in creating the best payouts for the guests, and also helpful in competing against the illegal markets, and it’s helpful in competing against border states,” he went on. “And we believe that, ultimately, it creates the best guest experience as well.”

He said the casino has a plan in place and has the ability to move “very quickly” when state legislators decide to pull the trigger.

“We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the property and where a sports book makes sense, and also at how to create an experience that would really be a market leader and that will benefit the community at the same time,” he explained, adding that there is a good deal of experience in this realm within the MGM corporation that he and his team can benefit from. “We’ll have many resources to draw upon, and we’re excited about that.”

Reflecting again on those dark times that coincided with his arrival in Springfield, Kelley said those memories linger, even as many can see that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. And they make him appreciate a return to something ‘normal’ even more.

“To see us moving back in the direction of offering those positive moments, those positive milestones, those positive experiences for our guests, is extraordinarily gratifying, and part of what I love about this business,” he said, adding, again, that while question marks still dominate the landscape, he remains optimistic about not only turning back the clock to pre-COVID levels of revenue and progress, but setting the bar higher.

Ultimately, this story is still in the early chapters, he told BusinessWest, and the ones to come will hold plenty of intrigue.


George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield will reopen its hotel and TAP Sports Bar on Friday, March 5. The hotel will reopen in a limited capacity to invited casino guests only for the immediate future. TAP Sports Bar will be open Friday through Sunday.

Other dining options at MGM Springfield, as of March 5, include the Chandler Steakhouse, Friday and Saturday; and South End Market, featuring Bill’s Diner, Wicked Noodles, and Jack’s Lobster Shack (all open every day) and Gelato & Espresso (Friday and Saturday).

All guests and employees are required to wear masks everywhere on property. Visit mgmspringfield.com for current hours of operation.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield returned to 24-hour operations effective today, Jan. 29. To meet state guidelines, the casino’s capacity will remain at 25%. Health and safety protocols are in place throughout MGM Springfield. Click here for details about MGM Resorts’ company-wide, seven-point safety plan.

“MGM Springfield returns to 24-hour operations today, and it feels like a step toward a level of normalcy,” said Chris Kelley, president of the Northeast Group, MGM Resorts. “We appreciate everyone having done their part to slow the rise in COVID-19 cases, and we will continue to be vigilant with our health and safety protocols. We are happy to welcome back some team members today, and as the capacity restriction is eased and additional amenities reopen, such as the hotel and Tap, our hope is to welcome back even more.”

Daily News

BOSTON — Revenues at Massachusetts’ three casinos dipped slightly as coronavirus cases climb and the state faces more restrictions ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Gross gaming revenues at the state’s casinos totaled about $69 million in October, down about $1 million from September, according to the state’s Gaming Commission.

MGM Springfield generated about $17.5 million in total revenues in October, while Encore Boston Harbor reported about $40 million, and Plainridge Park reported roughly $10 million. The revenues generated nearly $20 million in tax collections for the state.

Monthly revenue numbers at each of the facilities have remained relatively unchanged since they reopened this summer following the statewide economic shutdown imposed at the start of the pandemic, but the totals are down from what the facilities were generating prior to the pandemic. For example, in January, the three casinos generated about $80 million in gross gambling revenues, delivering nearly $22 million in state tax revenue.

Daily News

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.

Sections Special Coverage

Reopen for Business

Cindy Olivio recalls the day in mid-March she and her colleagues left MGM Springfield after the governor announced that the state’s casinos would have to close as part of a general shutdown of non-essential businesses. At the time, she really thought it would be for just two weeks.

“That’s how people were talking — that’s what we all thought,” she recalled, noting that, by April, she was taking things week to week. And when the governor’s phased reopening plan was finally announced in mid-May, she fully understood that it would be early summer at the earliest before she was back at the casino — specifically, its South End Market, which she serves as assistant general manager.

“It was a long time to be out, and it’s good to be back,” she told BusinessWest Monday, as the casino reopened to the general public following a soft opening a few nights earlier.

With that, she spoke for most everyone on the floor that day, guests and employees alike.

It was a long time to be out, and while the casino looks very much the same as it did when it went dark back in March, there have been a number of significant changes, from plexiglass partitions on some of the games to signs on the floors and walls alerting people to stay six feet apart.

And they were on full display Monday as the media was given the opportunity to talk with some employees, and also some guests.

People like Darlene Lajeuneffe of Chicopee, who was there with her husband and other family members celebrating the couple’s 46th wedding anniversary. She was marking the occasion with a glass of champagne and some time on one her favorite slot machines.

“It was hard — we love it here,” she said of the nearly four-month shutdown of MGM Springfield, which she frequents maybe once a month, along with Mohegan Sun; she’s never been fond of Foxwoods. She told BusinessWest she was getting used to some of the new rules and protocols, especially distancing guidelines that generally prohibit people from sitting next to one another, which presented a dilemma.

Indeed, Lajeuneffe learned there was an area where family members could in fact sit together, but it did not include her favorite slot machine. So, faced with a choice, she was leaning strongly toward that machine and keeping family as least close by.

Such adjustments are part of the reopening, said Seth Stratton, MGM Springfield’s vice president and general counsel, who told BusinessWest on Monday that, so far, guests are noting the new rules, and adhering to them.

“We’re pleased with how willing customers are to understand and comply with the new measures,” he said. “There was some concern initially around the enforcement of mandatory facemasks when the discussion first came up several weeks ago. But things have evolved since, and customers are very willing to wear them. We’ve had virtually no enforcement issues with mask wearing.”

Stratton told BusinessWest that the company’s management team put a thoughtful plan in place for the reopening. First, there would be a soft opening, the weekend of July 11 and 12, to help ready staff for the full reopening on the 13th. And by staging that reopening on a Monday, this gave the staff several days to ramp up for the weekend, which has historically been the casino’s busiest time.

“The strategy we followed was to have a staggered opening so that, over the weekend, which might otherwise be a busy period, we had our invited guests so we could ramp up from Friday through Sunday, gradually increasing the capacity, and then open to the public on a Monday,” he explained. “That gave us the ability to stagger the opening and get folks back and employees back and get them comfortable in the new environment so that, by Friday or Saturday, our busiest period, everyone will have a week under their belt of the new policies and procedures.”

The casino reopened at one-third capacity, one of the stipulations set by the Masachusetts Gaming Commission, and while that number is limiting in many respects when it comes to revenue, it will help ensure the safety of guests and employees, which is the top priority at the moment, Stratton explained.

“It’s all about showing we can do this safely and responsibly,” he said. “We don’t want huge crowds right now; as we ramp up and as we get these protocols into place, we feel that, if the customers see it’s not that crowded, they will feel more comfortable and be more willing to return.”

—George O’Brien

Sections Special Coverage

If you read between the lines when scanning or listening to the comments made by MGM Springfield officials in the run-up to the reopening of the facility today, it’s easy to see they have some real concerns about whether the restrictions they’ve been placed under will enable them to succeed.

“We’re excited to be here in this moment,” Chris Kelley, president and chief operating officer, told members of the press being given a tour of the pandemic-adjusted facilities last week. “We have significant occupancy constraints that the business will be opening with, but we approach this moment with gratitude for the opportunity to serve our guests and this community again.”

We’re not sure how much gratitude, but we are sure these occupancy constraints and other restrictions, put in place to keep guests and employees safe, are going to present stern challenges for the casino operators.

Roughly two-thirds of the slot machines will be disabled in the name of social distancing; many table games, including roulette, craps, and poker, will be shut down; capacity in the restaurants will also be limited, again in a nod to social distancing; the bars will be closed, and drinking will be limited to those playing the games that are still open; and large gatherings, such as concerts and shows, are still prohibited.

Add it all up, and then add in the cost of retrofitting the casino for play in the middle of a pandemic, and it’s fair to wonder whether opening is even a sound business decision given the high overhead at such facilities. That question remains to be answered.

What isn’t in doubt, though, is whether the city and the region need this facility open for business. To that question, we give a resounding ‘yes.’

Indeed, the tourism industry has been absolutely battered by the pandemic, perhaps harder than any other sector. Hotels, restaurants, bus companies, tourist attractions, and other businesses have been crippled by this. And the announcement that there will be no Big E this fall dealt that sector another huge blow.

We’re not sure how much reopening MGM Springfield will help those businesses — many visitors to the casino don’t make any other stops before or after they do their gambling — but any help would certainly be appreciated.

There’s also the support the casino provides to other businesses, especially its vendors. We’ve written much over the past few years about how important MGM’s business is to these vendors — from the sign makers to the dry cleaners — and the trickle-down, while limited in some respects, is very real.

Then there’s the psychological factor. Much of Main Street in Springfield was shut down by the pandemic, from shops to restaurants to businesses in the office towers. It’s starting to come back somewhat, with outdoor restaurants on Fort Street, Worthington Street, and around One Financial Plaza, and the office towers slowly (as in slowly) but surely coming back to life.

MGM is another, very important piece of the puzzle. With the casino again welcoming guests, Springfield, and the region, will seem all the more open for business after a dreadful spring.

We’re under no delusions here. Reopening MGM is not going to dramatically alter the fate of many of the businesses that have been decimated by the pandemic. But it might provide a spark — another spark, to be more precise — as the region tries to fight its way out of a disaster unlike anything it’s ever seen.

MGM’s managers are certainly not thrilled with the hand they’ve been dealt, as they say in this business, but perhaps they can do something with it — show they can operate safely while eventually building their capacity back up. In the meantime, the city and the region get another boost when they so badly need one.

COVID-19 Daily News

LAS VEGAS — MGM Resorts International released a report outlining the comprehensive health and safety protocols the company is implementing prior to reopening its domestic properties and resorts that were temporarily closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including MGM Springfield.

The report details MGM Resorts’ “Seven-Point Safety Plan,” a multi-layered set of protocols and procedures designed in conjunction with medical and scientific experts to deter the spread of the virus, protect customers and employees, and rapidly respond to potential new cases.

“Preparing for the moment we can reopen our doors, MGM Resorts focused on developing a plan that puts health and safety at the center of everything we do. Our ‘Seven-Point Safety Plan’ is the result of months of consultations with public-health experts and outlines our comprehensive approach to welcoming guests back safely,” said Bill Hornbuckle, acting president and CEO of MGM Resorts. “Our properties will not look the way they used to for a while, and that’s not only okay, it’s critically important. We will continue providing the hospitality experiences we are known for, but we must do so safely. We will continue working with experts and following guidance from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and government officials and regulators as we evolve these protocols based on the latest information.”

MGM Resorts is working with Dr. Shannon Magari as its lead health and safety advisor for this process. Magari is vice president of Health Sciences for Colden Corp., an occupational health, safety, and environmental firm. The plan’s seven points are as follows:

• Screening, Temperature Checks, and Employee Training. MGM Resorts has implemented employee-screening measures to assess signs and symptoms of infection and whether the employee resides or cares for someone who has recently been diagnosed with the virus. Employees will continue to go through temperature checks before entering properties.

Guests will be asked to abide by a similar self-screening protocol prior to arriving and during their stay. Guests who have reason to believe they may have been exposed to the virus are strongly urged to follow CDC guidelines for self-quarantine and not travel until the self-quarantine period is complete.

• Mandatory Masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). All MGM Resorts employees will be provided and required to wear an approved mask when on the property. MGM will also strongly encourage guests to wear masks in public areas and offer masks to any guests who need one, free of charge. Gloves will continue to be worn by employees who require them to do their jobs, such as food handlers and employees who clean public areas. Additional categories of employees required to wear PPE will be identified by medical experts. 

MGM will ask guests to minimize the amount of time masks are removed when drinking on the casino floor, and will ask guests to refrain from eating on the casino floor to minimize the amount of time masks are removed.

• Physical Distancing. A six-foot physical-distancing policy will be in place, wherever feasible, with floor guides serving as reminders throughout MGM Resorts properties. From time to time, six-foot distancing will be challenging, and in those cases, reasonable mitigating protocols will be implemented, such as plexiglass barriers or eye protection for employees. Plexiglass barriers will be installed in areas throughout casinos and lobbies, where appropriate, for the safety of guests and employees. Signage will be installed throughout properties to guide employees and guests on how to safely practice physical distancing.

• Handwashing and Enhanced Sanitization. Prior to property closures in March, MGM Resorts implemented increased and enhanced routine cleaning, based on CDC guidelines, with a focus on high-touch surfaces in common areas. It will continue using proven cleaning products in accordance with EPA guidelines for coronaviruses, bacteria, and other infectious pathogens. Electrostatic sprayers will be used in many large areas to apply disinfectant more efficiently.

In addition, custom-built handwashing stations with soap and water, along with hand-sanitizing stations, will be readily available in high-traffic areas. Signage will be installed to remind employees and guests of the importance of proper handwashing protocols.

• HVAC Controls and Air Quality. MGM Resorts has always placed a high priority on air quality for guests and has reviewed the operation of HVAC systems to identify additional opportunities to enhance their effectiveness. Rigorous measures in accordance with established guidelines to help mitigate the risk of virus transmission have been taken throughout the properties.  

As scientific information becomes available about the virus, and as additional guidance from state and local authorities and medical experts evolve, MGM will continue to review and adjust the operation of its HVAC systems, fully recognizing the important role they have in keeping employees and guests healthy and safe. 

• Incident-response Protocols. MGM Resorts has protocols in place aimed at reducing the chance infection will spread. In the unfortunate event a guest or employee tests positive for the virus, MGM will activate incident-response protocols to ensure the infected individual has access to medical treatment, exposed areas are thoroughly sanitized, and, when possible, those who may have come in close, prolonged contact with the infected individual are notified. MGM Resorts has medical and security personnel on staff to respond quickly in the event of an incident.

• Digital Innovations. MGM Resorts is reimagining several aspects of the guest experience through technology to transition current processes into contactless options for guests that eliminates or reduces the need for waiting in line.

Guests will have the ability to complete the check-in process entirely themselves through the MGM Resorts mobile app. This includes the ability to process payment, verify identification, and obtain a digital room key, all through a mobile device. If preferred, physical keys will be available through self-serve key encoders. Employees will be available for guests who prefer check-in without using their mobile device, while still maintaining a line-reduced environment.

Digital food and beverage menus will be available to view on personal mobile devices via QR code. Virtual queues will be in place for guests when immediate seating is unavailable. Guests will receive a text-message notification when their table is ready.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Furloughed workers at MGM Springfield — and other MGM casino properties — could lose their jobs permanently if the company does not recover quickly following the economic shutdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As casinos closed across the country in March, about 63,000 of MGM’s 70,000 staffers were furloughed. In a notice to employees this week, Bill Hornbuckle, MGM’s acting chief executive, said there are no guarantees all those jobs will return. Employees will continue to be paid health benefits through Aug. 31, but then may be permanently laid off if they haven’t yet returned to work.

“When our industry bounces back, we will welcome you with open arms,” Hornbuckle wrote. “However, we understand you may find permanent employment elsewhere. We encourage you to do whatever is best for you and your families during this challenging time.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield announced a donation of 160 portable sleeping cots and 16 outdoor heaters to Mercy Medical Center and the city of Springfield. A portion of the cots will provide much-needed overflow support for the hospital, while the other portion of cots and the outdoor heaters will assist the city’s work to help the homeless population amid the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are a strong community, but this is a challenging time, and MGM Springfield will continue to do what we can to support those impacted and those on the front line,” said Chris Kelley, president and chief operating officer of MGM Springfield.

Added Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, “I want to thank MGM President and COO Chris Kelley and his MGM team for stepping up in support of our city’s ongoing and continued efforts in responding to this coronavirus situation. These much-needed items will go a long way in assisting our city’s coronavirus response.”

Deborah Bitsoli, president of Mercy Medical Center and its affiliates, added that “we are grateful to MGM Springfield for the generous donation of cots for use during the pandemic. This is another example of the local area’s remarkable community partnerships that assist our efforts to care for patients during this difficult time.”

COVID-19 Daily News

SPRINGIELD — As Western Mass. continues to mobilize in response to the COVID-19 crisis, MGM Springfield has brought together a group of local partners and stakeholders to help feed the men and women on the pandemic’s front lines.

“This is a close-knit community, and we wanted to find some simple ways to say ‘thank you’ to those friends, neighbors, and family members working tirelessly to serve and protect us during this challenging time,” said Chris Kelley, president of MGM Springfield.

In partnership with the Springfield Thunderbirds, Sheraton Hotel, Hilton Garden Inn, and Uno Pizzeria & Grill, MGM Springfield is leading an effort to prepare and deliver hot meals to healthcare workers and first responders across the city over the coming week. 

The food deliveries will begin today, March 24 at 8 p.m., when volunteers from MGM and the Thunderbirds drop off hundreds of cooked meals to emergency-room workers at Baystate Medical Center.

Subsequent deliveries will take place on Wednesday, March 25 at the headquarters of the Springfield Police Department, Springfield Fire Department, and American Medical Response. 

“The Thunderbirds are proud to partner with MGM Springfield, Sheraton, and Hilton Garden Inn to show our appreciation for these true hometown heroes,” said Paul Picknelly, managing partner of the Springfield Thunderbirds. “Perhaps now more than ever, our community must pull together to help each other through these uncertain times, and that starts with supporting those men and women on the front lines of this crisis.” 

These meal deliveries follow last week’s donation by MGM Springfield of 12,000 pounds of food to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and partner agencies like Open Pantry.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to place unprecedented demand on the region’s public-health system, MGM Springfield will remain engaged with the local community to support those frontline workers, organizations, and residents most impacted, Kelley said.



Mike Mathis, the individual who guided MGM Springfield through the permitting and construction phases and then the first 17 months of operation, is out at the South End resort casino. MGM has chosen to go in another direction, leadership-wise, and probably also with regard to how the casino operates.

Mathis’s ouster was announced Tuesday, and it was immediately linked to December’s record-low monthly performance for the Springfield casino when it comes to gross gaming revenues — under $19 million. That same month, Encore Boston had its best month since it opened last summer (with $54 million), and the juxtaposition of the numbers is telling.

What they show, at least from a gaming revenues standpoint, is that MGM is not attracting enough gamblers — it’s not bringing enough people to its doors. Chris Kelley, who ran MGM’s operation in Northfield Park in Ohio and took over in Springfield on Tuesday, will be charged with changing that equation. Mathis will assume a new role as senior vice president of Business Development at MGM, working on various company initiatives.

“We are excited to have Chris lead the MGM Springfield team,” said Jorge Perez, regional portfolio president of MGM Resorts International. “Chris’ experience in Ohio, rebranding and integrating a property and introducing MGM to the community, will be an asset for Springfield as we continue to work closely with the community and strive to not only be a world-class entertainment destination but also a good corporate neighbor.”

That won’t be an easy assignment. Indeed, while MGM Springfield has succeeded in bringing jobs, additional vibrancy, and opportunities for a number of small businesses, it hasn’t really succeeded in its primary mission — bringing people to Springfield.

This has been clear since the day it opened in August 2018, when visitation was well below what was expected. For roughly a year, Mathis repeatedly used the phrase ‘ramping up’ to describe what was happening, with the expectation — based on previous experience at other casinos — that the numbers would improve.

There have been some good months since, but the numbers haven’t improved significantly, if at all. And now that Encore Boston seems to be hitting its stride, it will that much more difficult to improve those gaming revenues.

From the start, the question has always been ‘will people come to Springfield?’ But there have been variations on that query, including ‘will people come to Springfield now that Encore Boston is open?’ and ‘will people come to Springfield instead of Boston, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and all the other places where there’s casino gambling?’

Roughly 17 months after the casino opened, the answer to the question is the proverbial ‘yes, but…’ And the ‘but’ is followed by ‘not enough of them.’

It’s clear that MGM will have to create more draws — like the highly successful Red Sox Winter Weekend that brought an estimated 10,000 people to Main Street — to bring individuals and groups to the City of Homes.

In short, people need more reasons to come to the Springfield casino, and it will be Chris Kelley’s assignment to create them.



‘How are they doing?’

That’s the question that seemingly everyone is asking these days, with the ‘they’ obviously being MGM Springfield, the $960 million resort casino complex in Springfield’s South End. Everyone wants to know how they’re doing because this is the biggest business development in this part of the state in who knows how long, the expectations were and are sky-high, and the stakes — for MGM, the state, the city, and the region — are equally high.

And people want to know because, well, it’s not clear just how well they’re doing so far. The revenue numbers, meaning GGR (gross gambling revenues), are not on pace to come close to what MGM told the state they would be for the first year of operation at this facility — just over $400 million. Indeed, over the first six months or so of operation, MGM Springfield was averaging just over $20 million per month. You can do the math.

But beyond the revenues, there are other signs that perhaps this casino is not performing as well as all or most us thought it would and hope it will.

Going all the way back to opening day, the traffic, the lines to get in, the crowds of people downtown just haven’t materialized. Yes, there have been some big days (usually Saturday nights) when it’s difficult to maneuver around downtown Springfield, but not as many as we were led to believe.

Thus the question, ‘how are they doing?’

It’s a difficult question to answer because there are many ways to answer it, and aside from those really qualified to answer that query, no one truly knows.

More to the point, and Mike Mathis said this to BusinessWest for a recent interview, it’s still early in the game when it comes to both gaming in Massachusetts and MGM Springfield, and perhaps much too early to be drawing conclusions about how MGM will fare even this year, let alone in the years to come.

He’s right. These early months can tell us something about how MGM Springfield is going to perform over the long term, but they’re not going to tell us everything. Several of these first months have come in late fall and winter, a typically slow period in this region for both business and tourism.

Meanwhile, MGM Springfield is still very much in the process of trying to figure out what works in this market and what doesn’t, and how to achieve maximum efficiency for this multi-faceted operation. Mathis and others at MGM call this period ‘ramping up,’ and they project it might take three years to get all the way up the ramp.

But there are many reasons for optimism, starting with a change of season and the likelihood that MGM will make far better use of its vast and unique outdoor facilities. There’s also the emerging ROAR! Comedy Club and a multi-year partnership agreement recently inked with the Boston Red Sox that will make MGM Springfield the team’s ‘official and exclusive resort casino’ (replacing Foxwoods in Connecticut) and home to its January Winter Weekend.

Finally, when it comes to the ‘how are they doing?’ question, the most important aspect of the answer relates not to revenues for the state‚ although those are important, but impact on the city of Springfield and the surrounding region.

In the years and then months leading up to the casino’s opening, area officials — and those of us at BusinessWest — said MGM was going to be big piece of the puzzle, not the entire picture. It was going to be a big contributor to the overall vibrancy in the region, but just one of many potential contributors.

Overall, we expected the casino to be a catalyst, not a cure-all, a force that would help put Springfield on the map and help bring people to that spot that on the map.

Maybe all the revenues are not as solid as we hoped they would be, but thus far, the casino is doing most everything we anticipated it might do.