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MGM Springfield Casino Opening Delay Impacts Revenue, Jobs

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MGM Springfield
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A one-year delay in the opening of  the planned resort casino in western Massachusetts because of a major highway project will affect millions of dollars in payments and gambling revenue the state and city of Springfield are counting on.  It would also delay the creation of thousands of jobs.

     MGM wants to delay the opening of its planned $800 million resort casino in Springfield by a year because of the reconstruction of the Interstate 91 viaduct – an elevated portion of the highway that runs through downtown Springfield that provides the main conduit to bring customers to the casino from Hartford, Connecticut.     

     Mike Mathis, president of MGM Springfield, presented a revised construction schedule to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in Boston Thursday that calls for the casino to officially open on Sept. 5, 2018.

    " We feel strongly this is the right decision. It is a difficult decision," he said.

           The casino, with a five star hotel, restaurants, retail stores, convention space,  and other entertainment amenities was expected to open in the fall of 2017 as the state’s first Las Vegas-style casino.

    The highway project had been expected to begin in 2014, but work is now scheduled to start next month and finish during the summer of 2018.  MassDOT said there will be lane reductions and ramp closures for most of the duration of the project. Significant traffic congestion is expected.

    Mathis said it would be foolish for MGM to stage a grand opening for its glitzy casino before the highway project is finished.

    "The industry is littered with many examples of companies that made the wrong decisions for opening. Those are long-lasting decisions that take a long time to recover from. In a very competitive environment, we may lose some of these customers, frankly, forever." he said.

    The MGM project was sold to the voters of Springfield, and later to voters statewide, as a jobs generator.  MGM has committed to provide 3,000 permanent jobs when the casino opens. Now, people looking forward to a job in the casino complex will have to wait.

    Gaming commission chairman Stephen Crosby said the commission will vote on MGM’s plan at a future meeting.

    "We will  check it out," he said. " We want this to be a phenomenal success for MGM, Springfield and the Commonwealth, so if it is better to take a year, then we will take a year."

            The one-year delay in opening the MGM casino will cost the state an estimated $125 million in gambling revenue.

    MGM’s revised schedule also affects the host community agreement with the city of Springfield.  MGM is proposing to pay Springfield an additional $4 million in the fall of 2017 along with all other payments due the city.

    Mayor Domenic Sarno said he supports MGM’s proposal to delay the project and amend the financial compensation agreement he negotiated with the company.

   " I want the ( I-91) viaduct project and MGM done properly, and we want to be sure they ( MGM) have the opportunity to open in the most positive environment," he said.

    MGM held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Springfield casino in March, but major construction work has been delayed by state and local permitting requirements.

    MGM and the Massachusetts Historical Commission are trying to strike an agreement on the fate of several buildings in the footprint of the casino project.  MGM officials said Thursday they were hopeful the outstanding issues of historic preservation can be resolved at a scheduled June 30th meeting with the historical commission’s executive director.

     The Springfield City Council must approve the final design plan for the casino before the city can issue building permits.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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