An opening date has been announced for the first Las Vegas-style resort casino in Massachusetts. The announcement comes as a relief to officials and casino supporters in Springfield.
MGM’s $960 million dollar casino will open in downtown Springfield on August 24 – a few weeks ahead of a long-projected September opening.
Casino general manager Alex Dixon credited two relatively mild consecutive winters with helping to put the construction ahead of schedule.
" We are very fortunate," said Dixon. "The weather gods have been very good to us and our own internal construction team has done a phenomenal job staying ahead of pace."
The casino complex, which includes a 125,000-square-foot gaming floor, a five-story 250-room luxury hotel, restaurants, retailers, and amenities including a bowling alley and movie theater, takes up three city blocks.
Dixon said construction is 75-80 percent complete.
" You'll start to see a lot of scaffolding come down, and now we are really focused on the interior," explained Dixon. "The slot machines have started to arrive, table games have started to arrive, and the kitchens and hospitality zones are really starting to take shape."
He also cited the completion of the reconstruction of the I-91 viaduct –also finished ahead of schedule – as a factor in the decision to push up the opening date of the casino. The highway will carry a substantial amount of casino-bound traffic.
The announcement of the earlier-than-expected opening date for the Springfield casino was made in a press release issued from Las Vegas in the early hours of Thursday. It came as speculation had swirled for two weeks that MGM was interested in purchasing the Wynn Resorts casino that is under construction near Boston. That $2.5 billion project is in limbo because of the sexual misconduct allegations against company founder Steve Wynn.
State law does not permit an operator to have more than one casino license.
Dixon would not comment on what he called “speculation or rumor.”
" This is a great day for Springfield, and we are happy to be here," Dixon said.
MGM Resorts International President Bill Hornbuckle met earlier in the week with Mayor Domenic Sarno to assure him of the company’s commitment to Springfield, according to a statement from the mayor’s office.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said MGM’s announcement of the August opening date is “great news.”
" We have been looking forward to this for. what, three years? It is a fabulous project and it is going to open sooner than expected and that is great," Crosby said.
Crosby, who toured the casino complex with other commissioners Thursday, said nothing he’s seen would suggest MGM is not fully engaged in its Springfield project.
" Quite the opposite," said Crosby. " They've made it quite clear they are committed to Springfield and to this project and we have no reason to think that it is not the case."
Springfield Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy said he never believed the talk that MGM might abandon Springfield for greener pastures to the east.
"It would have been really complicated, not to mention the licensing situation here in Massachusetts," said Kennedy, adding he hoped the announcement by MGM that the Springfield casino will open on August 24th ends the speculation.
From the city’s perspective, opening the casino in late August is better than the original plan for a mid-September launch, according to Kennedy. It avoids conflicts with the annual Basketball Hall of Fame induction events, a downtown jazz festival, the opening of the Big E, and the start to the new school year.
"There are a lot of logistical challenges for us here in Springfield to handle the crowds that are going to be here and by moving up ( the opening date) it made it a little bit better for us," Kennedy said.
To prepare for the casino opening, the city is repaving several blocks of Main Street and repairing sidewalks.
A new police substation is being constructed. It will be the home base for a new 40-member Metro Unit that will be responsible for patrolling the area between the casino, on the southern end of downtown and Union Station to the north.