Mass. commission issues 'permanent' approval for MGM Springfield

Massachusetts gaming regulators signed off on MGM Springfield on Thursday, unanimously voting to issue a “permanent operations certificate” for the 3-week-old facility.

The vote of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which met in Boston, followed a presentation by Mike Mathis, the new casino’s president and chief operating officer, who reported that traffic during the casino’s first three days of operation, Aug. 24-26, exceeded expectations.

More than 65,000 people visited the casino Friday, Aug. 24, and thousands more had to be turned away, Mathis said.

“We had 3,000 to 4,000 folks lined up on Main Street at about 2 or 2:30 a.m. (Saturday) and bumper-to-bumper traffic” still headed for the casino, he said.

Since then, the casino’s numbers have stabilized, with an average of 50,000 visitors a day on weekends and about 25,000 on weekdays, Mathis said. MGM Resorts International officials had estimated attendance would range from 15,000 to 20,000 a day.

The commission is expected to release a report on MGM Springfield’s August slot-machine revenue next week, though statistics for the casino’s first full month of operation — September — won’t be available until mid-October. Those numbers will provide the first direct comparisons with southeastern Connecticut’s casinos.

Foxwoods Resort Casino reported Wednesday that its August slots “win” — the amount of wagers it keeps after paying out prizes — was down 1.6 percent over the same month last year. Mohegan Sun has yet to release its August numbers.

The tribal casinos share 25 percent of their slots winnings with the state. For August, Foxwoods’ contribution amounted to $10.6 million.

The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, respective owners of the Connecticut casinos, are seeking to jointly develop a “satellite” casino in East Windsor to soften MGM Springfield’s impact on Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.

Earlier this week, the tribes erected a billboard on the northbound side of Interstate 91 south of Hartford reminding motorists that MGM Springfield will have an effect on the state’s finances.

“When They Roar Your Taxes Will Soar,” reads the billboard, which displays a lion's head.

Mathis provided the gaming commission with details of the business MGM Springfield’s restaurants and bars did on the casino’s opening weekend. He said that over the three days, the outlets served more than 80,000 people, dispensing more than 132,000 items, and some 9,500 gallons, or 1.2 million ounces, of soda.

More than 4,500 burgers and 1,200 pounds of lobster were served.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

Editor's Note: This article corrects the total number of people who visited the casino on Friday, Aug. 24.

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