Open, always: The MGM Springfield era officially begins

  • John Rossini, an off-duty state trooper, plays air hockey with his daughter, Julia, at MGM Springfield’s TAP Sports Bar. MGM held its opening day on Friday. GAZETTE STAFF/BERA DUNAU

  • A view inside the casino at MGM Springfield during a media preview on Monday, August 20, 2018. The complex is set to open on Friday.

  • This Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, photo shows slot machines on the main floor during a preview tour at the MGM Springfield casino in Springfield, Mass. The casino is scheduled to open to the public on Aug. 24. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

Staff Writer
Published: 8/25/2018 12:19:12 AM

SPRINGFIELD — When MGM Springfield officially opened its doors Friday morning, one thing was certain: As long as it is in business, it will never close.

The casino and resort, a $960 million project MGM began in 2011, will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Yet the ability to check out the resort’s wares at any time did not appear to deter opening day crowds.

According to MGM, about 10,000 people showed up for grand opening festivities outside, a mass that stretched all the way around the block from State Street to Main Street.

Inside the casino was also bustling, with swirling crowds playing slots and casino games and standing in a long line to sign up for the M life Rewards loyalty program.

Some came to game, others to enjoy the atmosphere, and many showed up simply to satisfy their curiosity. There was even a man who attended the opening to enjoy some family fun with his children.

Carla Gallo, a postal worker and real estate agent from North Branford Connecticut, said she came out, “For the experience of the opening of a casino.”

Gallo said that she normally gambles at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

“Winning money,” she said, on what she was looking forward to most about the day.

Joe Genest said that he traveled from St. George, Vermont, for the casino opening, which he said is 250 miles away.

“We had nothing else to do today,” said Genest, who is retired.

Fred Santana, a retired postal worker from New Salem, said that he loves the atmosphere of casinos.

“This is good, this is good so far,” said Santana, of MGM Springfield, who noted he’s been to casinos in Atlantic City, New Orleans and Las Vegas.

He also expressed happiness about the casino being in Springfield, because he will not have to travel as far to visit one.

“I put 40,000 miles of casino miles on my car,” he said, adding that he anticipated becoming a regular visitor.

While slots were the most popular game among those interviewed, Santana said he prefers roulette.

“That’s the best game in the house,” he said.

Marc Menard, of Agawam, said he came out for the casino’s grand opening “to check out the future of Springfield.”

Menard, a security guard, said that he doesn’t gamble often, but that he will return to the casino again.

Curiosity drew Eli Berrios and her daughter Genesis Gonzalez, of Springfield, to the casino.

“It’s beautiful,” said Berrios, on MGM Springfield. “Good job.”

Genesis also said that the resort was nice, but expressed disappointment at the lack of a buffet.

Berrios said that she would gamble at a later date, when she wasn’t with her daughter.

Although he said he doesn’t gamble a lot, Ralph Pelletier, of Chicopee, said he will be switching his business to MGM Springfield from the Connecticut casinos.

“You have two or three slot plays just for the gas money,” he said.

He also said that the casino was nicer than he thought it would be.

One man who didn’t show an interest in gambling was John Rossini, an off-duty state trooper who was enjoying a game of air hockey with his young daughter Julia at the resort’s TAP Sports Bar when the Gazette caught up with him.

Rossini’s wife is assisting with the opening of the casino’s salon and spa, and he brought three of the family’s kids down for the opening to check out what the casino has to offer families.

“I think it’s going to be great,” said Rossini, of Wilbraham, pointing to movies, bowling, dining and games. “I think it’s just going to be a great thing for the city and the surrounding towns.”

The movie theater did not open with the rest of the casino complex on Friday.

Rossini also said that he’s looking forward to the entertainment, dinners and shows MGM will offer.

One man interviewed sounded a note of caution.

Ken Lucas, of East Longmeadow, grew up in Springfield, and he said that he attended the opening because he didn’t have anything else to do. He said he wanted to see how many people came out.

“This place could turn into Back to the Future II,” said Lucas, who sells chemicals and solvents to the medical marijuana market. “If I feel that way I’ll probably move out of the area.”

In Back to the Future II, a casino forms the centerpiece of a dystopian version of Hill Valley, the hometown of the series’ protagonist, Marty McFly.

Lucas said that with one casino planned for Connecticut in the south and another in Boston, a casino alone will not be enough to draw people in and that other forms of entertainment, particularly those directed at families, would have to come to town as well.

“I think they’re really going to have to go all in,” Lucas said.

Still, Lucas said that he is rooting for the development to succeed, and that he enjoys going to casinos.

“I think it’s very nice,” said Lucas. “I hope it succeeds and does well.”

He also noted an activity that anyone can participate in at MGM.

“You can just come down here and people watch if you get bored,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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