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Progress is made in restoring MGM Springfield casino resort to pre-pandemic operations

Paul Tuthill
The Indian Motorcycle 1901 merchandise store at the MGM Springfield casino was reopened. The store now stocks merchandise from the Springfield Thunderbirds AHL hockey team and other Massachusetts' sports franchises.

Following pressure from local officials, more non-gambling amenities return

Officials at the MGM Springfield casino say they’ve kept a promise made to city officials earlier this year to more quickly reopen non-gambling amenities that had remained dark since the pandemic-driven shutdown three years ago.

The reopening this week of the Indian Motorcycle 1901 merchandise store on the plaza of the downtown casino campus marked the completion of a series of re-openings and expanded hours of operation at attractions, restaurants, and bars at MGM Springfield that have taken place since January.

Local officials had said that MGM was not living up to its host community agreement with the city by restricting the non-gambling amenities for so long after the gaming floor reopened in June 2020. Those complaints brought MGM Resorts International President and CEO Bill Hornbuckle to Springfield in January where he announced a timetable to return the property to near normal operations.

“We have not lost contact or faith or ultimately what we believe this opportunity can bring for Springfield and frankly for MGM Resorts,” Hornbuckle said.

Now that the first quarter of the year benchmarks announced by Hornbuckle have been achieved, there will be additional actions in the coming months including a plan for the large vacant building that had been a retail location for Kringle Candle.

Mayor Domenic Sarno hailed the progress.

“I’m very pleased,” Sarno said.

The city is taking steps to try to eliminate blight around the casino. Three mostly-empty office buildings that were purchased by the Springfield Redevelopment Authority are now being actively marketed.

“My goal is to have a Main Street promenade all the way down to our South End area, our Italian-American enclave,” Sarno said. “People can go there for cappuccino, expresso, or some of the great pastries or rum cake and all the other Italian-American delicacies we have there.”

MGM Springfield has been on a roll as far as revenue from gambling is concerned. The more than $23 million in gross gaming revenue generated there last month was the best February take in the casino’s history, said MGM Springfield President Chris Kelley.

“We concluded the year 2022 was actually our best full calendar year, and then February was our best February, January was our best January, so we’ve got a nice little bit of momentum going,” Kelley said.

The NCAA college basketball tournament is underway and Kelly expects the casino's sportsbook and sports bar to see a lot of business.

“It tends to be the biggest betting opportunity across the calendar year and so we are anticipating large crowds,” he said.

According to data from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, $1.8 million was wagered at the MGM Springfield sportsbook in February – the first full month of legal sports betting in the state.

Mobile sports betting became available on March 10th. Online wagering is expected to quickly dominate the sports betting market in Massachusetts.

Total employment at the Springfield casino complex is now just shy of 1,500, according to Kelley. That is half the number of jobs that were promised before the casino opened in 2018.

During his visit to Springfield in January, Hornbuckle conceded that 3,000 jobs was no longer realistic.

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.