Business

MGM chief makes case for Springfield casino

James Murren, chief executive  of MGM Resorts International, spoke at Boston College Chief Executives’ Club  on Thursday. The Las Vegas-based MGM plans to hire 3,000 people at a resort in Springfield, he said.
Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
James Murren, chief executive of MGM Resorts International, spoke at Boston College Chief Executives’ Club on Thursday. The Las Vegas-based MGM plans to hire 3,000 people at a resort in Springfield, he said.

The chief of MGM Resorts International made a lengthy pitch for his proposed Springfield casino to Boston’s business elite Thursday, pledging to create thousands of jobs and to help revive the long-struggling Western Massachusetts city.

James Murren’s remarks at the Boston College Chief Executives’ Club lunch came just days ahead of his scheduled appearance before the state Gaming Commission next Monday for a suitability hearing. He said Las Vegas-based MGM plans to hire 3,000 people in Springfield, and another 2,000 to build an $800 million gambling and entertainment facility there.

“I have every reason to expect that we will be found suitable,’’ Murren told reporters after the luncheon.

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno listened to a speech about MGM’s plans for a Western Massachusetts facility.
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A similar suitability assessment recently sidelined Caesars Entertainment in its bid to develop a casino at Suffolk Downs, after investigators raised questions about Caesars’ business ties. MGM faced scrutiny in 2009 from New Jersey gaming officials about its operation in Macau, a peninsula off mainland China, over business partner Pansy Ho’s father, who allegedly had links to organized crime.

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MGM agreed to a settlement in New Jersey, in which it divested of its stake in an Atlantic City casino “rather than fighting,’’ Murren said. Since then, the company has gone public and Ho has reduced her holdings, he said.

“She has been a tremendous shareholder and partner of mine. She sits on the board,’’ Murren said.

Murren, who grew up in Connecticut and whose mother hails from Lowell, came to Boston with an entourage of city officials from Springfield. In a speech thick with promises about corporate responsibility, he professed concern for workers and the environment. He said he has spent hours studying local history at the Springfield library.

“I hope that I can help you in the journey to rebuild your great city,’’ he said to Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno.

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Murren has something most other casino developers in this state have lacked: the backing of local residents. Springfield voted last July to approve a casino project there. Last month, voters in Palmer and Milford defeated casino proposals.

MGM has nearly $10 billion in revenue and owns such resorts as the Bellagio and Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Beth Healy can be reached at Beth.Healy@globe.com