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MGM Springfield Sees Staffing Levels Tick Upward

MGM Springfield on Main Street in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen
The Republican / masslive.com/photos
GM Springfield on Main Street in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The MGM Springfield casino's workforce grew by 8.5% in the first quarter of this year, with pandemic-related capacity restrictions still in place.

MGM employed 973 workers in Springfield in this year's first quarter, which is less than half of its pre-pandemic staffing levels.

The casino laid off 1,000 workers last year who had been furloughed because of a lengthy shutdown and a subsequent state-imposed cap on patrons.

The casino's Daniel Miller told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission during its meeting Thursday that another restriction hampered MGM's ability to bring more workers back.

"We have to remember that this particular quarter still included January, which we were still under curfew for for most of that time period," Miller said.

The casino laid off or cut hours for 273 workers when Governor Charlie Baker imposed a curfew on many businesses late last year. 

Miller later hinted to gambling regulators that the workforce could continue to rebound.

"What I'm very much looking forward to is what we'll be able to provide to you for the Q2 report, in bringing members back," he said. 

MGM continues to hit its diversity hiring goals, but remains under its target for employing women.

Allowing poker, reopening also topics

The calls for poker to return to Massachusetts casinos are growing louder now that Baker has outlined a timeline for a complete economic reopening and as the Gaming Commission undertakes its own effort to prepare for fewer COVID-19 restrictions. The state's slots parlor and casinos have been operating since July under Gaming Commission rules that cap occupancy (currently at no more than 40%), require masks, limit which games are offered and more.

Though Baker has announced a plan to lift all remaining business restrictions by Aug. 1, the Gaming Commission will have to act on its own to effectuate changes for its licensees.

While the commission will have to officially alter many of the restrictions that have shaped the gaming landscape for much of the last year, the restaurants inside the gambling centers can ease their restrictions based on the governor's directives and guidance for restaurants, Investigations and Enforcement Bureau Director Loretta Lillios said.

"The three licensees are continuing to abide by and dedicate substantial staff and resources to the health and safety measures put into place by the commission, and this also holds true so those areas of the gaming establishments, in particular the restaurants, that are governed by the specifications put into place by the governor's office," she said.

Gaming Commission Executive Director Karen Wells is planning to convene the commission's restart working group next week, Lillios said, to begin preparing possible recommendations that commissioners could consider and vote on over the coming months.

Though neither Encore Boston Harbor nor MGM Springfield has yet made a formal request to the commission, players have been chomping at the bit for the return of poker in Massachusetts.

"Since the governor's announcement, our questions about when poker is opening up in this state has increased probably by 30%," Bruce Band, assistant director of the IEB, said. "Everybody's asking us when we're opening up."

The Gaming Commission has relaxed its guidelines and allowed additional games to be offered at a few points in the last year. Roulette was reauthorized in October and craps was given the green light to return in early March. Later that month, Band told commissioners that poker players were getting antsy, but that the casinos felt they could not make a profit by offering poker under the commission's restrictions.

Reporting included from Colin A. Young of State House News Service. 

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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