Just one day after the successful opening of Massachusetts’s first casino in Plainridge, the state’s newly legalized casino industry has made headlines once again. On Thursday, Las Vegas casino giant MGM submitted a revised schedule for its planned resort casino in the western portion of the state that called for a one year delay on the project.
The reason for the delay, according to project officials, is the ongoing construction of a major highway project in the area. If approved, the new schedule has the MGM resort casino in Springfield opening on September 5, 2018, which follows the completion of the highway work. Previously, the state’s first Vega’s-style casino had been expected to open in the fall of 2017, but executives with MGM insist that the delay is the right move for business.
“At this point, we want to make sure we open the best way we can,” Michael Mathis, president of MGM Springfield, stated in a news release. “The industry is littered with many examples of companies that made the wrong decisions for opening. Those are long-lasting decisions that take a long time to recover from. In a very competitive environment, we may lose some of these customers, frankly, forever.”
In March, MGM held a groundbreaking ceremony to commemorate the official start of construction on the 14.5 acre site, but the potential impact of the resort on nearby historic properties has limited the company’s overall progress thus far. Continued construction on the main connector highway to nearby Hartford, Connecticut represents a second major hurdle for the casino giant.
“There are going to be a lot of unhappy folks when that construction starts,” Stephen Crosby, state gaming commission chairman, stated regarding the highway project. “You don’t want people driving up and down [the highway] thinking it’s the casino causing them to have those 20 minute delays.”
Because of the financial impact of the revised schedule, MGM has proposed paying Springfield $4 million by fall of 2017 in addition to its other financial commitments in order to account for the resulting loss in gambling-related revenue. This payment is in addition to a one-time ‘community impact fee’ of $2.5 million, as well as $2.5 million annual payments, which will begin on July 1, 2018. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, along with members of the gaming commission, have publicly supported the revision.
Massachusetts’s entry into the ranks of states with legalized casino has started with a bang. Yesterday, the state’s first casino was opened to capacity-level crowds and fanfare. Building on this momentum, the $1.7 billion Wynn Resorts in the Boston suburb of Everett is planned to open by late 2017.
Despite the delay, the coming years hold plenty of promise for the Bay State’s young casino industry. Moving forward, the launch of two Vegas-style resorts will provide the state with millions in tax revenue that has previously landed in neighboring states. Even with a slight roadwork delay, there’s one thing that’s for sure: the selection of gambling options in Massachusetts is undoubtedly on the rise!