Gaming Commission hears MGM updates on hiring, MassMutual Center, construction
MGM Springfield executives on Thursday updated state gaming commissioners on construction progress, problem gambling prevention efforts and hiring.
The problem gambling prevention efforts earned particular kudos from Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen P. Crosby, who noted that while MGM at first resisted a program the company is now voluntarily adopting the program nationally.
MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis detailed an MGM Resorts national partnership with the British Columbia Lottery Corp on GameSense, the British Columbia government's problem-gambling prevention and education program. MGM learned of GameSense because the commission requires it in Massachusetts. Now MGM will use it across all its locations.
Crosby said MGM was once reluctant to adopt GameSense, but the commission persisted. He was also concerned MGM was using the program as a PR ploy. But now, MGM will adopt the whole program including an on-site GameSense advisor in Springfield.
"This is a breakthrough step by a company in the casino world," Crosby said, "We are skeptical, and as a regulators we will continue to be. But you deserve credit."
Mathis also updated the commission on MGM's takeover of operations at the MassMutual Center. The arena was the venue for Thursday's meeting.
"We want to reposition this building as part of our campus," Mathis said.
The $950 million MGM Springfield resort and casino is now under construction on a 14.5-acre site downtown.
Construction is on schedule for a September 2018 opening, Executive Vice President Brian Packer told Commissioners.
But a daycare center might open earlier and be used for employee training before the resort opens, Mathis said.
Mathis was also asked about the reuse of the old Armory building on the site. That work is behind schedule, but Mathis said it will be open for September 2018, likely featuring fine dining and a nightclub.
More than 60 percent of the precast pieces for the parking garage are in place, Packer said.
Now, Packer is busy lining up a busy construction season focused on exterior work.
"The whole goal is to get the building enclosed, get the roof on," he said. "Then they can throw whatever winter they want on us and we control our own destiny."
Packer said wages are going up for some construction trades due to demand for the skills -- for example, glass glaziers are asking for increases of as much as 100 percent. Wynn Boston Harbor is reporting more wage inflation.
Return on investment
Crosby asked about MGM's return on investment in Springfield. Fitch, the national bond rating industry, recently expressed concern that MGM would earn back its money.
"We're monitoring it," he said.
That includes looking at recent results at the Tribal casinos in Connecticut, Plainridge in Massachusetts and the newly opened Rivers Casino in Schenectady New York, about a 90 minute drive west from Springfield.
"We don't subscribe to the saturation model, where there are more casinos chasing the same market," Mathis said.
Hiring and Workforce Development
MGM has promised to create no fewer than 3,000 jobs at the casino, including at least 2,200 full-time jobs.
Those efforts include recruiting through the NAACP and Urban League, through Community Enterprises and Best Buddies for those with disabilities, veteran programs like Boots to Business and the New England Farm Workers Council.
All those new hires will get training -- either for the gaming floor or for other roles in the facility -- through Springfield Technical Community College and Holyoke Community College with their Training and Workforce Opportunities program and through the University of Massachusetts.
According to figures provided by MGM, the jobs break down as follows:
80 percent full-time
20 percent part-time
90 percent local and regional hires
35 percent Springfield residents
50 minority hires
50 percent women
2 percent veterans
The percentages don't add up to 100 because some people fall into more than one category.
The Gaming Commission has four months to review the hiring plan and it will come up for approval at an upcoming meting, said Bruce Stebbins, a gaming commissioner from Springfield.
Wynn Boston Harbor
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission also got an update on the Wynn Boston Harbor project in Everett which is expected to open in 2019.
Wynn's complex will cost $300 million more than was previously estimated due to changes in the project and the cost of labor and materials. The new cost will be $2.4 billion instead of $2.1 billion.
Wynn is adding 171 additional gaming positions to its plan, mostly electronic table games. That takes the number of gaming positions from 4,250 to 4,421, a 4 percent increase, according to its report.
Wynn is also cutting 10 stores from its retail area, citing softness in the industry and reluctance by the brands the company hoped to bring in to close current Boston locations.
The change leaves Wynn with four stores in the complex.
Wynn is also adding more food and beverage options, including an oyster bar, a craft beer bar and a casual Italian restaurant and banquet facility. Those changes add 230 more jobs at Wynn, but the increase is offset by the loss of 60 retail jobs.
The changes bring the new estimated number of jobs to 4,600 with about 3,860 full time.