MGM’s casino plan for Massachusetts earns high marks

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — MGM’s more than $800 million downtown casino received largely positive reviews from state gambling regulators Tuesday as they released their monthslong assessments of the proposal’s finances, design and impacts to local traffic and other services during a full-day hearing at the MassMutual convention center.

The gambling giant’s revenue assumptions were “reasonable,” given the casino would draw largely from residents of western and central Massachusetts, as well as nearby Connecticut, said Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Enrique Zuniga, who was charged with examining the project’s finances.

MGM Resorts International projected annual gambling revenues of roughly $412 million, $485 million, $500 million, $512 million, and $525 million through the first five years of operation, according to a report by the commission’s independent financial advisory firm, HLT Advisory, of Toronto.

Zuniga said the casino’s likely market area represents $416 million to $485 million in potential annual revenue.

He also concluded that Las Vegas-based MGM, which reported more than $2.6 billion in domestic gambling revenues in 2013, should be able to see a return on its investment within the 15-year term of the casino license, based on the projects’s scope.

MGM Springfield would have a casino floor with about 3,000 slot machines and 100 gambling tables as well as a 250-room hotel and shopping and entertainment space on 14.5 acres, or roughly three city blocks.

Commissioner James McHugh, meanwhile, gave the casino plan high marks for its building and site design.

In his review, McHugh praised the casino’s plan to revitalize parts of the downtown and South End neighborhoods badly damaged during a 2011 tornado.

He also noted MGM’s plans to preserve downtown Main Street’s traditional storefront appearance, to save all or part of some historic buildings and to introduce new amenities to the economically struggling city, including a public plaza and ice skating rink, cinema, bowling alley and a trolley stopping at the Basketball Hall of Fame and other city attractions.

The five-member commission’s review of MGM’s more than 200-page casino license application continues Wednesday morning at the convention center with a look at the project’s economic development potential.

Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said the panel should begin formal deliberations Wednesday afternoon, with the goal of reaching an agreement, at least in principle, on possible terms and conditions of the license.

The commission intends to finalize the award Friday.

MGM, which owns The Mirage, Bellagio and other casinos, is the lone operator still seeking the gambling license reserved for the state’s western region.

Lawmakers in 2011 authorized licensing of at least three regional casinos: one in the Boston-area, one around Springfield and one in the Fall River/New Bedford area.


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