It has been nearly four months since the first resort casino in Massachusetts opened in Springfield and industry regulators Thursday heard a progress report.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission heard nothing but positive assessments from MGM Springfield officials who presented a quarterly report that covered the first six weeks of operations at the $960 million casino, hotel, and entertainment complex.
"We're very pleased with the opening," said MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis. He said offerings were constantly being "tweaked" to adjust to customer demand.
Mathis said the number of visitors – one million during the first six weeks – is in line with annual projections. Hiring is meeting most goals for diversity and local workforce development.
He also said there was strong anecdotal evidence the downtown casino is having a desired economic spinoff effect with nearby restaurants and downtown hotels reporting an upswing in business, some by as much as 20 percent.
"What we all hoped would happen has happened which is a rising tide lifts all boats," said Mathis.
Another telling economic statistic, according to MGM officials, is Uber use. There has been an average of 2,000 trips a week to and from the casino by people using the ride-sharing service.
The casino, which was sold to Massachusetts voters as a jobs-generator, now employs just over 2,800 people, with about 80 percent employed full- time, according to Mathis. MGM, which is still hiring, committed to create 3,000 jobs.
According to the report to the gaming regulators, MGM has exceeded by three percentage points its 35 percent hiring target for residents of Springfield. Likewise, diversity employment goals for minorities and military veterans have been exceeded. But Mathis said the target of a 50 percent female workforce has come up short with women currently filling 46 percent of the jobs.
"As folks drop out of traditionally male roles we are going to work very hard to get to that number," said Mathis. " We are so close."
Commissioner Bruce Stebbins praised MGM’s local workforce development efforts.
" We are happy the relationships with local workforce development stakeholders will continue," said Stebbins. " Western Mass residents should know there is still an opportunity to pursue a career with (MGM.)"
Speaking with reporters later, Mathis dismissed any concerns about the decline in gross gaming revenue since the casino opened. MGM took in $27 million from gamblers in September. That fell to $22 million in October and to $21 million in November.
"We are pleased with where we are at," said Mathis. "We'll ramp it up over the new year and we are excited about 2019."
Although construction of the resort casino has been completed, MGM still must build at least 54 market-rate apartments in downtown Springfield under the terms of its host community agreement with the city.
A March deadline looms for MGM to decide if it will invest in a project to redevelop into apartments a long-vacant former hotel building at 31 Elm Street.
"We are hopeful that 31 Elm might come to fruition," Mathis told the commisioners.
MGM’s Mathis said the company has been in talks with city officials about a “backup plan” if the 31 Elm Street deal falls through. He declined to elaborate on the alternative plan.