MGM Springfield delay preservation agreement

A new preservation agreement will help protect historic buildings near the MGM Springfield site, including the Union House/Chander Hotel building. (Image: Mark M. Murray/The Republican)

Massachusetts is eagerly awaiting the opening of their first Las Vegas-style resort casino, and they can rest assured that such a venue really is coming to the state.

It just isn’t going to get here quite as soon as many there had hoped.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission gave their approval to move the grand opening of the MGM Springfield back by one year, with the launch of the resort now scheduled to come in September 2018.

The move was a costly one for the state: according to some estimates, Massachusetts could have received about $125 million in gambling revenues in the year of the delay.

Road Construction Cited in Delay Request

The major problem is work taking place on Interstate 91, a road that was first built in the 1960s. The state is currently working to renovate the viaduct, which comes very close to the casino site; some of the work is even closing down exit ramps right next to where the MGM Springfield will be built.

That work could have led to severe traffic issues around the resort, which could have dissuaded some visitors and ruined the experience for others. All told, casino officials believed that the project would be better served by a short delay than an underwhelming (but earlier) opening.

“We didn’t make this decision easily to push out the date, but it’s the best decision for us and the commonwealth,” said MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis. 

Ultimately, MGM had little trouble convincing the state gaming commission to approve the delay. The vote from the five-member panel was unanimously in their favor.

“If this is what it takes to get things going, to give you that certainty, I would be willing to go along with that date,” Commissioner Enrique Zuniga said.

Preservation Agreement Approved

Thursday also saw the gaming commission approve a historic preservation agreement between MGM Springfield, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, and the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

The agreement is meant to ensure that historic landmarks in Springfield will be preserved during the construction and operation of the resort.

The agreement outlines exactly how several historic buildings will be cared for to minimize the impact of the casino. For instance, the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company Building will be renovated, while buildings like the State Armory and the Chandler Hotel will be partially preserved.

The agreement also establishes a Springfield Historic Preservation Trust Fund, which will be used to preserve and restore historic locations near the casino site.

Administered by a six-person board of trustees, the fund will be backed by MGM Springfield and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, with each of them providing $350,000 to finance it.

“I think it’s a good resolution,” said Bruce Stebbins, a gaming commissioner and former city councilor in Springfield.

As with the delay, the gaming commission approved the preservation agreement by a unanimous vote.

These two small victories come against the backdrop of a lawsuit filed by MGM Resorts against the state of Connecticut over the Nutmeg State’s decision to allow two Native American tribes to jointly build a casino near the Massachusetts border.

MGM isn’t claiming the location of the casino is illegal, but instead targets the fact that only the two tribes are allowed to pursue the opportunity, calling the law that allowed the new casino discriminatory.