Chris Kelley Takes The Reins At MGM Springfield

Posted on January 30, 2020

As 2020 begins, one Massachusetts casino appears intent on making its second year better than its first. A change at an MGM Springfield executive post might work toward that goal.

Chris Kelley has replaced Mike Mathis as the president and COO at the casino. Kelley now faces the task of improving upon the returns at the property.

The credentials of the new MGM Springfield executive

Kelley comes to the Bay State after spending the last eight months in a similar role for another MGM property. He was the COO and VP of MGM Northfield Park in Ohio.

Prior to that, he was the CFO at the MGM Grand Detroit. Kelley got his start in the casino business as the general manager of the Viejas Casino & Resort in San Diego.

During his tenure at Northfield Park, he oversaw the transition of the property from Hard Rock branding. While he won’t have to conquer that in Springfield, there are still challenges ahead.

Jorge Perez, regional portfolio president of MGM Resorts International, sees him as qualified to take them on. According to Perez, Kelley’s experience in “rebranding and integrating a property and introducing MGM to the community will be an asset for Springfield.”

If Kelley can be as successful in Massachusetts as in Ohio, it should be apparent on the bottom line. That’s where MGM needs the most help.

Disappointing results brought Kelley to the Bay State

In MGM Springfield’s first year, the business wasn’t as lucrative as MGM hoped. The casino underperformed its projection for its first year by 37.5%.

During that time, the casino cut 500 jobs, as well. Another bad sign for the casino is that adjacent retail space sits vacant.

Despite those disappointing results, a local study says the casino added half a billion dollars to the state’s economy. Regardless, Kelley’s bosses at MGM are likely looking for more action at the casino.

It’s unclear how much of a profit the facility turned on its $250 million in income during its first year. Given the fact that it projected to take in $400 million in that time, the profit margin was probably not that great.

It’s Kelley’s job to improve that situation. He may follow in the footsteps of his predecessor in one way.

Will Kelley push for sports betting legalization?

During his time in the post, Mathis was a vocal proponent of sports betting legalization in Massachusetts. Kelley has made no statement on that matter of any kind yet.

It’s hard to imagine Kelley coming down on the opposite side of that argument, however. Legal sports betting could represent a great new revenue stream for MGM Springfield.

While the casino’s existing operations will likely consume most of Kelley’s attention, Massachusetts residents shouldn’t be surprised if he follows Mathis’ example and advocates for legalization as well.

In that position, his words will carry some weight in the state. Regardless of how quickly that happens, however, Kelley has the task of increasing the profitability of MGM Springfield. If he can accomplish that, he should have his job in Massachusetts for as long as he wants it.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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