MGM Springfield is one of three resort casinos in Massachusetts. After a tornado ripped through the city in 2011, the 2018 addition of the casino resort to downtown Springfield aimed to transform the business district entirely.
About a third of the downtown area was damaged in the aftermath. The construction of MGM Springfield promised to turn an area that was economically depressed into a vibrant center of entertainment. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic halted progress on the rejuvenation of downtown.
The recent launch of sports betting in Massachusetts provided a boost to the facility, but MGM Springfield still has non-gambling plans to get back on track.
Entertainment and employment goals
MGM Springfield and the state’s two other casinos had to shut down for three months in 2020 due to the pandemic. Consequently, revenue dipped sharply and didn’t return to steady pre-COVID levels until 2022.
But even as the casino raked in money from slots and tables, some of its non-gambling entertainment options remained closed or were slow to re-open.
Springfield leaders, including Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, met with MGM Resorts International executives in January to discuss re-opening non-gambling attractions and retail outlets. The local officials pressured the casino to hasten the re-opening of these venues so that the casino could meet its community agreement obligations.
According to the city government, the meeting was a success.
“This was a good and productive meeting that reaffirmed MGM Springfield’s commitment to the property by announcing set and established plans to re-open and expand their attractions and amenities,” Sarno said in a release.
As of mid-March, MGM Springfield completed re-opening and extending the hours of its entertainment, dining and retail venues, capped by a celebration hailing the re-opening of the Indian Motorcycle 1901 store at the casino. Sarno, MGM Springfield COO Chris Kelley and other local politicians attended the event.
The store will also sell merchandise for the casino-sponsored minor league hockey team, the Springfield Thunderbirds. Kelly said that the re-opening represented “the story of a comeback” after the economic hits of the pandemic.
MGM Springfield agreed to a series of entertainment and employment goals as part of its Host Community Agreement with the city in 2013.
The entertainment objectives included:
- At least 7,000 square feet “of retail space adjoining the casino floor and facing and opening onto Main and State Streets.”
- At least 20,300 square feet of “pedestrian-scale retail space facing and opening onto Main and Union streets as well as a cinema multiplex and bowling alley.”
- At least seven “distinctly branded restaurants, lounges or cafes.”
- Regular entertainment scheduled at MassMutual Center, Symphony Hall, or City Stage.
- An ice-skating rink for public use during the winter.
Employment objectives downgraded
On the employment front, the agreement required that the casino provide at least 3,000 permanent jobs. At least 35% of those positions should be held by city residents, and no more than 10% should be taken by workers from outside of the surrounding area.
After the January meeting, Sarno also addressed the need for the casino to uphold its commitment to supplying jobs to residents. He said the MGM executives “reaffirmed their commitment to boosting and increasing the number of jobs on the property.”
“They mentioned that there are currently 279 open positions they are ready and able to fill,” Sarno said. “Their hotel has been fully open, but they need people to apply and fill these jobs and positions so that they can continue to move forward reaching full capacity at their hotel and start the process of fully re-opening all aspects within the property. They are even willing to pay for potential job candidates to get the training needed to be a dealer.”
Area residents who want to apply for jobs at MGM Springfield can learn about opportunities on the casino’s Career Center page.
With the addition of a retail sportsbook at MGM Springfield in January, there are also jobs directly related to sports wagering listed on the page. When the sportsbook opened, it added 20 additional jobs to the casino.
Despite these promising numbers, the casino still employs a little less than half of the projected 3,000 workers in the Host Community Agreement. During the meeting in January, MGM Resorts International President and CEO Bill Hornbuckle conceded that 3,000 employees is unrealistic and that 2,000 is more in line with economic reality.
“There is capacity in that building for 3,000 jobs,” Hornbuckle told city officials. “But it is going to involve making Springfield more of a destination, and it’s not all on MGM. We can’t do it alone.”