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'The Market Is Saturated' As MGM Springfield Changes Up Leadership

The MGM Springfield casino.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen
/
The Republican / masslive.com
The MGM Springfield casino.

MGM Springfield's Mike Mathis is out. He's been in the mix from just about the beginning, but after the casino posted its worst revenue numbers since opening in August 2018, MGM this week said it's sending him back to Las Vegas.

Chris Kelley will be the new chief.

The state gaming commission praised Mathis, who leaves a legacy of getting the place open.

What can Kelley do that Mathis couldn't to increase revenue? And for Springfield, the city itself: Does it even matter?

"Strictly speaking, as far as the city budget is concerned, no," said panelist Matt Szafranski. "Because they're locked into what they're getting under the host community agreement."

Szafranski said the bigger question is making a profit in line with early targets.

"You see some indication they're going to start emphasizing more entertainment, more on the hospitality side of things," he said. "Because it does not look like they're going to be able to really boost it up to the levels that were promised in terms of gaming revenue, at least as of right now, with so much saturation in the market."

MGM Springfield’s personnel matters — and more so, lower-than-expected revenue — could be something other casinos are paying attention to — including the Connecticut tribes, whose plan to build a casino right over the state line remains stalled for now.

"Oh, yeah, they're watching this like a hawk," said panelist Susan Bigelow. "This is very interesting to them, the two casinos in Connecticut, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. They were very, very angry about the casino being located in Springfield. They do want to build a casino in East Windsor. So far, that's just an empty lot. Nothing's happening with it yet."

Bigelow said the Connecticut casinos are also very interested that the revenue numbers are not nearly what was anticipated by casino and state officials.

"I actually suspect that means the push to get a casino in East Windsor is going to slow down quite a bit," she said. "Because it's really clear now the market is saturated. There's just not enough people gambling."

At the end of next week, if nothing changes, TD Bank will shut down its Mason Square branch in Springfield, leaving the neighborhood with no physical bank, though an ATM will be available.

Szafranski wrote about how some members of the City Council are worried about poor and older residents, because they'll lose access to safe banking services with human beings. Even Massachusetts senators are getting involved, sending a letter to federal regulators

On Beacon Hill, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in his annual address this week unveiled a lofty climate goal. He said yesterday's solutions are no longer sufficient, and bold actions are needed. But the target of net-zero emissions by 2050 is a long way off.

Related, there's a multi-state compact in the works called the Transportation and Climate Initiative that could lead to higher gas prices. The governors of Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut have some big concerns — but Baker is still on board. 

Last up, a new report from the Yankee Institute for Public Policy, a conservative think tank, suggests a list of improvements and efficiencies for the Connecticut legislature. Bigelow wrote about the suggestions in her most recent column at CTNewsJunkie.com

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Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."
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