SPRINGFIELD — Gambling revenues are coming in far below projections, and employment has fallen sharply. But almost one year after MGM Springfield first welcomed gamblers, its president said Monday that the casino is headed in the right direction.
“I feel good about the trajectory,” Michael Mathis told reporters.
The state’s first full-fledged casino, MGM Springfield brought in $253 million in gross gaming revenue in its first 49 weeks, according to the latest state figures. When it applied for its license, MGM projected it would pull in more than $400 million in its first year.
“This market has some really strong competitors that have been in the market for twenty-plus years,” Mathis said from MGM Springfield, which is about a 70-mile drive from the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos in Connecticut. “We may have underestimated that level of loyalty, and what it would take for those customers to give us a shot.”
MGM Springfield employs hundreds fewer people than it did when it opened last August, according to Mathis, who emphasized the jobs pay well and provide benefits. “I like to focus on the 2,300 jobs or so that we are providing,” he said.
During a question-and-answer session held amid the electronic warbles of slot machines, Mathis underscored that there are several ways to measure how the $960 million property — part of MGM Resorts International, a Fortune 500 company — is doing.
He expressed pride in the number of visitors to the casino, especially given Springfield’s less-than-stellar reputation.
The casino is on the verge of “having brought six million people to this downtown since we’ve opened. I mean that’s an incredible feat for a city . . . that really needs a little bit more attention and needs customers to give it another shot.”
Approximately 40 percent of the employees live in Springfield, he said.
The casino has lined up big-name entertainers, including Stevie Wonder and Aerosmith, and boasts “one of the most successful hotels in the region, [and] our restaurants are some of the most successful, profitable restaurants in the region,” he said.
The $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor opened in Everett in late June, but early reports show that MGM Springfield is holding its own, Mathis said. Revenue at the casino was about the same in June and July, he said.
“We’ve proven that MGM can grow the market. Encore can grow the market. And that we can do unique things in our respective fields,” he said.
But MGM’s table game revenue in July dropped to its lowest monthly level since the opening, as Encore drew big crowds to try their luck at blackjack, craps, and roulette.
In May, before Encore opened, MGM brought in $6.2 million in gross revenue from table games. That number fell to $4.9 million in July.
It appears Encore is affecting casinos around the region. Twin River Casino Hotel in Lincoln, R.I., recently announced plans to lay off up to 95 employees, amid the squeeze from Encore.
Mathis said MGM has been a boon for economic development in Springfield, a city that has struggled to energize its downtown.
He cited a forthcoming Wahlburgers restaurant and spoke in glowing terms about a CVS pharmacy that is set to open across the street from the casino, framing it as part of a virtuous cycle that will help bring the city to a new level.
“In Boston, that would not be a newsmaker,” he said. “But for those of you that live in Springfield, you know that’s a huge accomplishment: having a national company like that invest in Main Street Springfield. What that does in terms of providing amenities to new residents that will then justify new market-rate housing. That’s the cycle . . . that we’ve helped to kickstart.”