| G. Michael Dobbs
On Aug. 24, MGM Springfield celebrated its first anniversary and many people have been evaluating the impact made on the city of Springfield and on the region during this time.
Slow down that bandwagon, as I want to jump on.
As regular readers know, I was skeptical in this column about MGM and the claims it made during the long process that led to Aug. 24, 2018. I was never against the casino or casino gaming. I just couldn’t buy the Kool-Aid like many other people did. The casino companies interested in Springfield made many statements that just seemed to be too good to be true.
MGM did have the best plan for the city and produced, in my humble opinion, a fantastic facility. I’ve showed it off to many out-of-town friends and family. I believe they have set a new standard for an urban casino.
I’m proud it’s here.
Although naysayers like to point out that MGM’s predictions about gaming income have not met the reality, I also keep in mind that one of the Gaming Commissioners told me it takes three years for a casino to find its way and tweak itself to meet the demands of the marketplace. We will be in a better position two more years from now about the overall success of the business.
I think any business goes through an initial period of assessment and evaluation to make sure its goods and services meet the need of the marketplace. A casino is no different.
There have been businesses that have seen an upswing because of the casino. Red Rose is expanding, for instance. My friend Dave Glantz at Buckeye Smoke Shop sees additional customers. City Jake at City Jake’s Café has noted an increase in his breakfast and lunch trade and Joe Hendrix of Smokey Joe’s Cigar Lounge has also welcomed out-of-town folks visiting MGM who are looking for a cigar shop and lounge.
I’m concerned about the many empty storefronts across from the casino, but that is not MGM’s fault. Building owners have reportedly been asking too much for leasing rates for storefronts. In my view, it would be better to get some solid businesses that complement MGM in those locations, rather than hold out for top dollar.
The Loop Bus that transports people at no charge has not been very successful. One often sees it empty as it goes around to downtown attractions. I’ve wondered if visitors to the casino understand what else there is to see in the city.
There are things that MGM has done correctly in its first year. Management has been fine-tuning the gaming side by increasing or decreasing certain games as well as introducing new games. The casino can boast of hosting the best movie theater in the region: comfortable with a great concessions area and offerings.
MGM has certainly attracted attention with its free and paid entertainment. The more shows they can put on, the better it will be for them.
The Library Bar is one of the best locations in the city to meet and greet people. I love it there.
What should MGM consider for year two? A wider range of food options is one. The summer Sunday buffet has been great and we could use that all year-round.
There should be a greater effort to attract millennials with entertainment options. I wish there had been a dance club built as a part of the facility – not for me, but for the young people.
Forget about Wahlburgers. We don’t need another burger joint as there are plenty of good burgers available. Give us something we don’t have.
Other than that, keep moving forward.