The following is a look at 5 key promises MGM Resorts International made as it cemented its host community agreeement with the City of Springfield. As the company works to open its estimated $800 million resort casino in Western Mass., these are some things Pioneer Valley residents should have an eye on.
A 33-month construction deadline with a financial penalty for delays
Every day MGM Springfield is not open is a day MGM Resorts International is not making money on the property. So while it is in the company’s best interests to expidite the construction process as much as New England weather allows, there are also penalties for falling too far behind.
Although the company is aiming to break ground in early 2015 for a 2017 grand opening, if construction of the massive $800 million resort takes longer than 33 months, the city is entitled to “liquidated damages,” according to the host community agreement.
While the document doesn’t specify what that amount would be, if MGM misses the deadline, they will have to pony up a payment for City Hall.
Creation of a Casino Advisory Committee to represent the interests of the citizens
How do you prevent a massive development like MGM Springfield from completely clouding lawmaker responsibilities to represent the interests of the average resident? The host community agreement says part of it is to create an advisory board.
Once the resort casino opens 11 members will be appointed to address issues stemming from the business by making non-binding reccommendations to the City Council. The city’s mayor appoints 3 members; the council president, 3 members; MGM Springfield, 3 members, and the presidents of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and the Mass. Latino Chamber of Commerce each appoint 1 person.
Locals should watch these appointments, because their voices will be among the most important when it comes to addressing potentially negative and anticipated issues stemming from the MGM Springfield casino.
Full-time jobs to uplift the Pioneer Valley
Perhaps one of the most appealing promises of the host community agreement is MGM’s pledge to chip away at the greater Springfield area’s higher-than-average unemployment rate by providing full-time jobs with benefits.
The MGM project has been promised to create a minimum of 2,000 construction jobs and abide by an affirmative action program to meet hiring goals of 15.3 percent minorities, 6.9 percent women and 8 percent veterans. Documents filed with the Mass. Gaming Commission show MGM intends to meet or surpass these goals.
Once the casino opens its doors, MGM has pledged to hire at least 3,000 workers, of which at least 2,200 will be employed on a full-time equivalent basis with benefits. The average salary range of full-time positions varies from $40,000-$55,000 including the cost of benefits. The company says 80 percent of these jobs will be unionized positions.
Part of the long-term employment pledge calls for MGM to “use its best efforts” to ensure at least 35 percent of employees are Springfield residents, with no more than 10 percent of the workforce coming from outside the city limits to achieve labor participation goals regarding women, minorities and veterans.
The city of Holyoke is the only surrounding community that worked a jobs guarantee for its citizens into an agreement with MGM, thanks to the efforts of Mayor Alex Morse. The wording stipulates Holyoke residents will benefit from “hundreds” of jobs.
Community Development Grants to boost education
Part of the nuanced 2011 Expanded Gaming Act which legalized up to 3 casinos and a slots parlor in Massachusetts requires that a casino developer demonstrates a plan to address community development issues. To achieve this goal, MGM Springfield is establishing a Community Development Grant to give the city’s education efforts a boost.
MGM already wrote a check for $1 million to establish the grant, and annually it will make payments to this account, managed by the city, in the amount of $2.5 million, plus annual increases chained to the Consumer Price Index.
These grants are to be used to support early childhood education; higher education; libraries; health initiatives; project compliance and the betterment of the city and its residents.
City residents should pay close attention to just how the city decides to use this money.
MGM’s support of entertainment in the City of Springfield
Aside from all the money and infrastructure improvements the MGM Springfield casino is set to bring, perhaps the coolest part of the overall plan is the company’s entertainment promises for the city.
For a variety of reasons, Springfield’s entertainment scene has been in decline for some time, with existing venues struggling to draw top-notch talent thanks in part to competion in the region from the Connecticut casinos and other venues. But as MGM enters the city, it has promised to leverage its standing with promoters and booking companies to bring that talent to the MassMutual Center, Springfield Symphony Hall and City Stage.
The entertainment promise in the host community agreement states that MGM will underwrite, co-promote, book and schedule 12 events each year following the opening of the casino at the aforementioned venues. So while they are open to spread those bookings among the venues, MGM officials have previously said it is likely to come down to an even four-show split.
The host community agreement calls for MGM to continue this effort, even if at a financial loss, for at least 8 years at the MassMutual Center and at least 5 years at Symphony Hall and City Stage. After that, it will be up to each venue’s respective managment teams to pick up the ball and maintain a star-studded schedule or potentially fall into obscurity in the shadows of MGM’s entertainment complex.