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Springfield officials weigh in on rumored MGM casino sale

Table games at the MGM Springfield casino in 2018
Paul Tuthill
Table games at the MGM Springfield casino in 2018

Local officials are reacting to a report that MGM Resorts is looking into a possible sale of its casino in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Citing unnamed sources, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday that MGM Resorts might part ways with two of its casinos.

The report says MGM has been “working with financial advisers” and exploring a sale of its Springfield casino and one in Ohio.

MGM Springfield has since told WAMC that it does not comment on rumors, while adding February 2024 featured some of its highest revenue numbers to date.

In a statement, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno says he’ll be meeting with MGM’s president and CEO “in the very near future.”

Opening in 2018, MGM Springfield is one of the state’s three full-service casinos, but since its launch, meeting goals and metrics with the city and its own parent-company have been a struggle.

Visiting the city in 2023, President and CEO Bill Hornbuckle acknowledged its valuation of the market “simply was off – full stop.”

In that same visit, Hornbuckle said initial employment goals of hiring 3,000 people should be paired down to 2,000 – despite that being a pitch to voters during a 2013 referendum on a community agreement between both the city and MGM.

Still, when it comes to news of a potential sale, a number of local officials tell WAMC it’s too early to put any chips down.

City Council Vice President Melvin Edwards says he’s still looking into the reports.

“I'm not shocked or surprised, but it's premature to say that they are, in fact, leaving,” he said Thursday. “I guess I'd like to wait and hear and see what the market decides."

He says even if MGM departs, the city has some safeguards in place.

“If they are anticipating, or in negotiations for a possible sale, whoever's buying it will come in with the same conditions,” he added.

Edwards says negotiations with the casino before its opening included requiring any future buyer meet the same conditions.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has similar rules on the books – stating a buyer would have to petition the MGC about modifying the deal.

Edwards adds they’d have to sit down with the city of Springfield and negotiate.

Back in Jan. 2023, MGM reported it had, up until that point, paid some $107 million to the city in taxes since its opening. That comes as MGM continues to make annual payments to the city totaling around $17 million.

Also looking to learn more is City Councilor Victor Davila, who says he was sad to learn of the report. He adds that post-pandemic, he hopes ownership considers waiting to see what kind of rebound might be in the mix.

“I will urge the powers that be at MGM to take a closer look and to give us some time to see if they're able to fully-rebound, because you know, COVID has just kind of ended and we need to give it time for numbers to come back,” Davila told WAMC.

Other councilors, like Lavar Click-Bruce, say that as they figure out what's what, they're hoping to learn more from ownership.

“There's a lot of questions that we actually need answered - I did reach out to MGM yesterday, once the news broke, and I’ve yet to hear back from the higher ups over there,” he said.

Councilor Malo Brown, on the other hand, says he believes a potential move may be more advanced than Bloomberg indicated.

He adds that whether it’s falling short of hiring goals or the fact that MGM scrapped a proposed 25-story hotel tower from its site plan in 2016 – the casino’s been something of a letdown for him.

“You look at MGM right now, it's not even impressive to me,” he said. “Like, you can literally drive right by it. We were supposed to have a tower - it was supposed to just bring people in.”

The tower was also a point of focus of former city councilor, now-Springfield State Representative Orlando Ramos.

“That was very problematic to me, from the very beginning,” Ramos said. “So, you know, it depends what perspective you're looking at it from - I think that they've done some good things for the city, but I also believe that they haven't done what they could to meet their promises to the city.”

Ramos added that he was also part of a meeting with MGM Springfield officials a few weeks ago that featured no discussion of a possible sale.

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