Perhaps the hottest domestic location for the gaming industry in 2015 will be the state of Massachusetts, not for the casinos they will be opening, but for the rules and regulations that will be developed as MGM and Wynn introduce the industry to the state. For MGM Springfield, ultimate success and operational efficiency is in the hands of its President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Mathis.
“It is very special to get in on the ground floor of this opportunity,” says Mathis, who has been involved with MGM Springfield since its inception. “It has been an honor to help educate western Massachusetts about our industry and its many benefits to the community.”
Mathis’ 2015 will be jam-packed dealing with casino design, hiring employees and using his legal background to deal with the regulatory process and new guidelines. Prior to serving as MGM’s senior vice president of global gaming operations, Mathis served as vice president of legal affairs and assistant general counsel for Boyd Gaming Corporation. He has also served as corporate counsel for Las Vegas Sands Corporation.
The $800 million being spent on MGM Springfield provides a much-needed economic boost to the region, as well as 3,000 jobs, one-third of which are already committed to Springfield residents.
“Training 1,000 people is a lofty goal, and we want to make sure the benefit is spread throughout the entire western Massachusetts region,” says Mathis.
To encourage working professionals to invest in the area, MGM Springfield will have 54 apartments on property. Along with 250 hotel rooms, an additional $50 million per year in property maintenance and development has already been pledged by MGM Springfield.
“One of the really important aspects of the development is that we are creating a truly integrated casino complex that matches the architectural lines of the surrounding buildings,” says Mathis. “We want to promote downtown Springfield’s resources like the theaters and convention center to our customers, as well. I was the person to make the promise to the city of Springfield, and now I am in a position to deliver on these promises.”
MGM Springfield’s current promise is to open by mid-2016, giving them 18 months to re-energize the downtown Springfield area, which was devastated by a tornado in June 2011, and has faced a rash of economic problems and limited workforce opportunities in the past four decades.
“There is a long-time large minority population in Springfield, and as an African American executive I take my role seriously, and the feedback from the community has been impactful,” says Mathis.
Mathis’ words are met with actions, as he is in the process of moving his family to Springfield. It was important to him that he was not an executive who flew in and out of the city without laying down any roots.
As the partnership between MGM and Springfield continues to strengthen in 2015, Mathis will gain further influence in the region and across the industry.
“During the development we were clear with what we can and cannot do, and we made sure we did not say we can fix every problem,” says Mathis. “But we can help and become a catalyst for positive change in Springfield, and that has already happened. We are definitely looking forward to 2015.”