On Friday, MGM Resorts will open a long-planned casino in Springfield, Massachusetts, putting a gambling resort about an hour-long drive from Brattleboro, Vermont.
Massachusetts legalized casino gambling nearly seven years ago, but MGM Springfield will be the first full-fledged casino in the state.
VPR’s Henry Epp spoke to Springfield-based reporter Adam Frenier of New England Public Radio. Listen to their conversation above.
The casino is in the middle of downtown Springfield, a city that's struggled economically for years. MGM marketed the project to residents as a way to bring jobs and boost the local economy. New England Public Radio reporter Adam Frenier said the company has mostly delivered on the overall number of promised jobs.
“There’s been some question about where those people that they’re hiring are from. There were a certain amount of jobs guaranteed to Springfield residents, and the casino folks have been a little hard to pin down on exactly where the hometowns of some of the people they’re hiring are,” Frenier said.
From NEPR: MGM May Meet Hiring Goals, But Details Fuzzy
Frenier added MGM has also been not entirely forthcoming on what types of jobs residents are getting — like whether they are full- or part-time jobs — and on whether the company is reaching its diversity goals.
MGM is also stepping into a fairly crowded casino market, competing with Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, and new casinos in New York state.
“There’s a lot of observers in the gambling field that are curious to see just how much more people can take as far as casinos go in this rather concentrated area,” Frenier said.
As for concerns about addictive gambling, Frenier said gaming regulators in Massachusetts have developed a program to help people identify addictive behavior. And he said city officials and social services in Springfield are keeping an eye on customers' gambling behavior at the new casino.
“There’s also ... a little bit of an unknown about how this will hit Springfield," Frenier said, "and I think it’s a bit of a wait-and-see approach."
The casino opens Friday morning. MGM has planned a parade through the city’s downtown to celebrate, and the company has booked its first major music headliner: Stevie Wonder is scheduled to perform in Springfield on Sept. 1.