Page 8 - BusinessWest March 17, 2021
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  Barriers at the gaming tables and social-distancing reminders have been facts of life during the pandemic at MGM Springfield.
 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 rev- enues to the state annually, he projected.
“It’s going to be a tough year, but there are reasons for optimism — we see things opening back up.”
“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 cate- gory. “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 indus- try,” he told BusinessWest, noting, again, that once a casino cuts the proverbial grand-opening rib- bon, 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 shut-
tering of the hotel and restaurants to the cancel- lation of scores of events that were on the books, to ultimately laying off two-thirds of the employ- ees 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. “Digi- tal innovations are an area I would point to; MGM Resorts and MGM Springfield were already head- ed toward many digital innovations pre-COVID, but the pandemic really accelerated the imple- mentation 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.
“When the pandemic hit, it was a huge learn- ing 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 inter- nal communications and external communica- tions 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 commu- nity 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 impor-
tance 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.”
In recent months, business — and gross gam- ing revenues — have steadily improved, said Kel- ley, 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 popula- tion, 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.”
“We want to make it more walkable,
more friendly, and more inviting so we can
complement the business investment that’s
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.
      8 MARCH 17, 2021
happening there.
 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
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