MGM Springfield is preparing to observe the one-year anniversary of the opening of the first resort casino in Massachusetts.
One year ago this Saturday, the $960 million MGM casino in downtown Springfield opened its doors to the public with great fanfare and high hopes that it would be a catalyst to revitalize the city.
During its first year, the resort complex, which includes a gambling floor, a 250-room hotel, several restaurants and bars, a movie theater, bowling alley, and comedy club attracted 6 million visitors, according to MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis, who declared during a press conference Monday that the casino has provided a lift to the local economy.
"We are proud of the economic boom the city is undergoing," said Mathis.
Mathis pointed to higher tax revenue collected by the city from restaurants and hotels as evidence of the casino’s impact on tourism and pointed to new projects recently launched downtown such as the $40 million redevelopment of the Paramount Theater.
Meanwhile, he said consequences predicted by casino detractors have not materialized.
"A lot of the fears about congestion downtown and crime, they just haven't come to fruition," said Mathis.
The MGM casino will come up well short of the $418 million in gross gaming revenue it projected in its license application would be taken in from the slot machines and gaming tables in the first year. In the first 11 months, MGM’s gross gaming revenue totaled just under $253 million, according to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Now facing more competition from the newly-opened Encore Boston Harbor casino, Mathis brushed aside concerns that an over-saturated gambling market in the Northeast might prevent MGM from hitting its revenue goal.
" It's just a matter of when we are able to get there ( to the projected gaming revenue). It is going to take some time. There is always a ramp up," said Mathis.
MGM is opening a new VIP lounge in the Springfield casino to cater to high rollers and making some other changes to boost its gambling business.
Massachusetts collects a 25 percent tax on the casino’s gross gaming revenue.
Casinos were pitched to Massachusetts voters in 2014 as job-generators. MGM officials repeatedly touted 3,000 jobs would be produced at the Springfield casino. Current employment is 2,300, according to Mathis.
" These are 2,300 great jobs--well-paying with benefits, and we are launching careers," said Mathis. " Sure, we would love the number to be higher because it would be a reflection the business is higher, and that will come with time."
Mathis said he is proud that Springfield residents make up 40 percent of the workforce – exceeding a local employment goal of 35 percent.
Asked earlier this year about MGM falling short of its job-creation promises, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said he expects the company to satisfy its obligations.
"There are still ramping up with the jobs there, but we have an agreement and will make sure they live up to the agreement," said Sarno.
To mark the one-year anniversary this Saturday, MGM is planning a public celebration on the outdoor plaza with the New England Patriots’ Cheerleaders, food trucks, and a five-tier birthday cake.