BY MELISSA JOHNSON ’20
Just 20 minutes down the road from Mount Holyoke, the MGM Springfield Casino has officially opened its doors to the public after years of construction. Despite controversy over the $960 million project, the casino now sits in the heart of Springfield, Massachusetts.
With the casino, however, comes heightened concern over crime and high traffic in the area. Traffic may be worse on weekends, when people are more likely to visit the casino. MGM has made efforts to offset these effects by offering free parking in their 3,400-parking space garage, according to the MGM website.
Crime-wise, on Sunday, Sept. 9, a man was assaulted in an unprovoked attack in the casino by another man, who is currently being investigated for three other attacks earlier in the day at different locations. According to CBS Boston, security has been heightened in the casino since the attack.
On the other hand, the casino has supplied thousands of employment opportunities. The casino would like to employ close to 3,000 and has already hired 2,000 people at opening, according to Mass Live. Currently, there is a list of job openings on their main website.
“One of the good things about the casino is that it has definitely created more job opportunities in Springfield from the construction positions to various positions inside the casino,” said Ari Sarmiento-Fielding ’19, who is a Mount Holyoke student and Springfield native.
But Anna MacDonnell ’21, a native of Longmeadow (nearby Springfield), noted that the casino’s opening “probably added a lot of jobs, but most of them are likely minimum wage.”
The casino offers thousands of slot machines and hundreds of gambling tables in the main gaming room. There is also a bowling alley, Regal Cinema movie theatres and Topgolf indoor golf simulators, according to the MGM Springfield Casino website. In addition, there is an outdoor plaza, which will serve as a multi-purpose space depending on the season. For example, this fall, the plaza will host various events including a farmer’s market and yoga sessions. In the winter, between the months of December and February, the space will be turned into an ice rink. The casino will be hosting various entertainers, such as George Lopez and Cher, at local venues in the area of the casino.
Sarmiento-Fielding commented that she plans to go check out the casino and looks forward to having big name music artists come so close to home.
“My parents already got to see Stevie Wonder perform at the MassMutual Center as part of the grand opening,” she said.
Although the opening of the MGM Springfield Casino comes with many questions and concerns, the ultimate hope is that the casino will have a positive effect on the surrounding community.
“It is still a little weird to drive by the area and see a parking garage where my elementary school used to be, and MGM has changed the way that neighborhood looks,” said Sarmiento-Fielding. “But it might be nice to bring some more life back into downtown [Springfield].”