MGM Springfield Opens in a Month
As the August 24 opening of the $960 million MGM Springfield looms, MGM told state gaming regulators last week that it will hire 3,000 employees before the casino opens, and that it is approaching its diversity and local hiring goals.
However, it’s not there yet. Last week the casino resort had 762 workers on staff.
MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis said the company had not achieved its 50 percent hiring goal for women because of the executives that were brought on early.
“We had to on-board what is typically a more male-dominated department, such as security,” he said.
That didn’t mollify Gay Cameron of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. “We have to change that, though,” she said. A former deputy superintendent with the New Jersey State Police, she added that women make great security officers. “Women are great at diffusing the situations.” Cameron is a former deputy superintendent with the New Jersey State Police.
Mathis said the percentage of women hires will increase the closer they come to opening, especially in customer service and marketing.
The casino is ahead of its goals of hiring 35 percent of its workforce from Springfield, and ahead of hiring veterans.
Mathis said the company will employ 2,229 employees fulltime, 506 part-time and 266 on-call.
MGM’s construction workforce hiring goals have exceeded expectations, with about 20% of the work done by racial or ethnic minorities, ahead of the 15.3 percent goal.
Jill Griffin, the MGC’s director of workforce, supplier and diversity development, pronounced herself “very impressed” by MGM’s hiring efforts.
Marikate Murren, MGM Springfield’s vice president of human resources, said, “Overall, MGM Springfield is on track to meet its overall hiring goals of approximately 3,000 employees, 35% city residents, no more than 10% from outside the region, as well as the goals for minorities, women and veterans.”
Also during the MGC meeting the panel approved of MGM’s final design plan. Left unapproved was one area where MGM is behind in meeting a commitment: that of providing 54 units of market rate housing in the downtown. MGM is negotiating with the city and developers to acquire land for this purpose.
The commission also approved MGM’s regional tourism plan. MGM has formed partnerships with various organizations, such as the Greater Springfield Convention Visitors Bureau, and the Mass. Office of Travel and Tourism. MGM is committed to promoting both its casino and regional attractions.
The plan’s goal says MGM is “to drive visitation and incremental revenue to the property, city and region through a multitude of channels including advertising, database, cross-marketing and partnerships, entertainment and employee marketing” and “”to position MGM Springfield, Pioneer Valley and Western Massachusetts as a world class, full-service destination for the region.”
For example, the gaming company is teaming up with the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority to provide a free downtown shuttle that links the casino with other tourist attractions.
It is also supporting existing entertainment venues in the city and region. In one instance it will book MGM entertainment events at the nearby CityStage and Symphony Hall.
It will employ its existing database of 30 million guests to provide offerings at local golf course, ski resorts and other attractions.
It will also partner with Amtrak and CTrail to offer ticket discounts to its customers.
It has multi-year promotional agreements with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Six Flags New England.
Many businesses are cropping up in the vicinity of the casino, taking advantage of the proximity to the MGM money machine. Even those who originally opposed it.
WAMC reported last week that the church group Epiphany Development Corporation, which campaigned against the casino, has opened a boutique hotel that will benefit from being near the casino. The hotel development plans, which repurposed a blighted building that had been unused for years. were announced 12 years ago, so the church’s good fortune isn’t hypocritical. Archbishop Paul Baymon, who heads the development corporation, observed. “Timing is good. I am grateful to God and we are here.”
A Holiday Inn Express, it has almost 100 rooms and operates within walking distance of the casino.
MGM is unveiling a new marketing campaign aimed at attracting guests from the region. The theme is “This is a First” emphasizing MGM’s claim that it will be providing the first casino entertainment destination of its kind in the region. In one ad the announcer proclaims: “The best of Las Vegas is coming to the heart of New England. This is a first.” The casino will have 2,550 slots, 120 tables, a poker room and high limit VIP space.
MGM is targeting Springfield, Boston, Albany, Providence and Worcester, cities within 150 mile radius. It will include TV, print, digital, billboards and social media.
For a year the casino has been announcing “We’re ready to roar!” referencing MGM’s signature icon Leo the Lion.
MGM’s Michael Mathis announced last week, “With this campaign, we are marking the grand arrival of an unparalleled experience from dining and entertainment to nightlife and gaming.” He added, “Each component is meant to capture the energy of the resort and showcase the ‘wow’ moments guests will encounter throughout the destination.”
Its toughest competition will be the two Indian casinos of Connecticut, Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun, and casinos in Rhode Island and New York. MGM has been successful in its efforts to postpone one competitor; the satellite casino being built by the Mohegan and Pequot tribes in East Windsor.
Meanwhile, employees that are already on the property are completing work on dining and retail venue, while others are being trained in the MGM way of doing things.
Saverino Mancini, the casino’s director of communications, told the Republican, “We also have hundreds of employees here on the property who are in the middle of their on-site training. We have chefs and cooks practicing on various menu items, and employees are testing the food and the procedures around the service. We are still walking around with hard hats, but it’s a very exciting time.”
Besides the casino, there will be a 250-room hotel, food and drink, retail shopping, a luxury cinema where movie-goers can dine while they are entertained, all served by a free 3,400 unit parking structure.
Dining options will include Cal Marie, combining seafood and Italian cuisine, the Chandler Steakhouse, the TAP Sports Bar, which will have a 10-lane bowling alley and arcade; Wicked Noodles, a pan-Asian eatery, Jack’s Lobster Shack, Bill’s Diner, the Hearth Grill, offering healthier food, and the South End Market, offering wine and cheese bar, gelato and espresso.
Vice President of Food & Beverage Anthony Caratozzolo told the Republican,
“When our doors open, guests will find a resort that blurs the line between food and entertainment, and we can’t wait for everyone to see what we’ve been working on.”
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, who worked to bring the casino to his city, beginning in 2011 when the state approved the Expanded Gaming Act, is reveling in what is considered to be the largest commercial development in the region’s history. He hopes this is just the beginning.
He said, “Like many urban centers in America, there’s been a ‘chip on our shoulders.’ My administration has worked tirelessly to reinvent/redefine our city – to move away from, ‘what do you expect, its Springfield?’ to now, ‘why not Springfield!’ We continue to accomplish this goal.”
He added, “It’s an exciting time for our city.”
The grand opening parade will be led by the Budweiser Clydesdale horses.
Encore Boston Harbor
Investigators for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission say they will complete their probe into Wynn Resorts by the end of August.
Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby told the Boston Herald, “We’re still targeting this summer, but we’re going to be as specific as we can in the next week or two to try to give you a more definitive schedule. Some of our people are in Vegas now for what will hopefully will be one of the last rounds.”
The commission’s gumshoes are looking into allegations that Wynn executives knew that the company’s founder and former CEO and president Steve Wynn was the target of multiple allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior and paid a multi-million settlement to a massage therapist who claimed he attempted rape. Wynn resigned and divested himself of all Wynn stock earlier the year.
The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether corporate executives kept these allegations secret while they were applying for a license to operate a casino in the Boston metro area.
Several weeks ago, Wynn Resorts announced that the company’s general counsel, Kim Sinatra, who was allegedly aware of the settlement, will be leaving the company.
Crosby said this was not done at the behest of the commission.
Currently the investigators are at Wynn’s corporate headquarters in Las Vegas, possibly speaking to witnesses.
Wynn is also conducting its own internal investigation, according to spokesman Michael Weaver, who announced this week: “The Wynn Resorts Board of Directors received an update from the Special Committee of the Board yesterday afternoon.” He added, “The Special Committee is committed to its previously announced timeline and anticipates completing the process in the third quarter of this year.”