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MGM Springfield grows workforce, but still well below pre-pandemic size

MGM Springfield
Flickr Creative Commons
/
Mass. Office of Travel and Tourism
The MGM Springfield casino.

The number of employees at the MGM Springfield casino has increased over the last year, but remains far below pre-pandemic levels. In a meeting Wednesday, casino officials updated the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on the employment situation during its required report for the first quarter of 2022.

MGM Springfield reported 1,203 employees, 230 more than the first quarter of 2021 — a 23% increase. The rise during the last year was fueled by the hiring of more part-time and on-call employees. MGM has just 35 more full-time workers on staff than a year ago.

The casino company had originally promised regulators it would employ 3,000, and was close to that when it opened in 2018. But the workforce soon leveled off at around 2,000.

MGM Springfield shut down with the state’s other casinos for several months in 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the hotel closed and diminished amenities available, the casino reported about 900 workers for the second half of 2020, before a gradual increase throughout 2021 and into 2022.

Springfield City Councilor Melvin Edwards, who chairs the council's planning and economic development committee, said a tight labor market has made it difficult for MGM Springfield — and other businesses in the city — to attract workers.

"I wish that it was just MGM's numbers that were down," Edwards said. "Unfortunately, business owners across the city are struggling to get people to work, so why would we think MGM would be special in this regard?"

While the labor market has tightened significantly in the past year as the economy recovered from the pandemic, Springfield's unemployment rate of about 6% remains above state and national averages.

Mayor Domenic Sarno said he’s heard from other large employers trying various strategies to attract workers, including offering hiring bonuses.

As for Springfield’s relationship with MGM, he said it’s been “beneficial,” but COVID-19 has thrown a “curve ball” at everyone.

"Once people feel that public health is good, then I think full consumer, business and public confidence continues to come back," Sarno said.

Even with far fewer employees, MGM Springfield's gambling revenues have generally returned to pre-pandemic levels, with the casino in March posting its third-highest haul since opening.

MGM continues to meet its promised workforce goals for veterans and Springfield residents, which are 2% and 35% respectively. The casino again hit its goal that 50% of employees identify as racial or ethnic minorities, after missing the target last quarter.

But like every quarter since it opened, MGM is still well below a goal that women comprise half its workforce. During the first quarter of 2022, that percentage stood at 41%.

According to quarterly reports to the gaming commission from the state's two other casinos, Encore Boston Harbor and Plainridge Park, they also are both missing the mark in hiring women.

"[W]e’re continuing to hire for a variety of careers throughout our resort,” an MGM Springfield spokesperson said in a statement.

The casino said it has been hosting weekly job fairs for culinary jobs. Arlen Carballo, MGM Springfield’s executive director of finance, told gaming commission members those hiring efforts have allowed the facility to open more food and beverage options.

Daniel Miller, MGM Springfield’s director of compliance, said the opening of two more poker tables added a half-dozen additional positions. He said the casino is looking to resume table games 24 hours a day soon. They have been closed for several hours in the early morning.

Miller also said MGM Springfield has made good on its $16 million commitment to help pay for a housing project on Elm Street near the casino. The company's involvement helps to satisfy a provision in its host community agreement with the city to provide housing downtown.