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After Revenue Woes, MGM Springfield Changes Its Leadership

The leader of MGM Springfield is out, less than a week after the casino posted its worst revenue numbers since opening.

Mike Mathis worked on the MGM Springfield project through local and state approval, ballot campaigns, construction, opening and — this past year and a half — operation.

Now the company is thanking Mathis for his work, and sending him to a job back in Las Vegas. He’s been reassigned to serve as MGM Resorts’ senior vice president of business development.

Mathis began working for MGM in 2011 and was vice president of global gaming development for MGM Hospitality, a division of MGM Resorts, when he was tapped in January 2014 to lead MGM’s Springfield project. At the time, MGM said it envisioned Mathis “leading the pre-opening effort and eventual operation of the facility.”

The new president and COO in Springfield will be Chris Kelley, who’s held high-level jobs at casinos in San Diego, Detroit and most recently, Northfield Park, outside of Cleveland.

MGM Springfield’s gambling revenues have never come close to the projections made by the company when it applied for the license, and in December fell below $19 million for the first time. MGM executives had told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission they expected to generate $418 million in gross gaming revenue from the first full year of operations, but the casino actually generated $273.8 million, falling short of the initial projection by $144 million.

During a December appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub, afternoon drive co-host Michael Felger pressed Mathis about whether MGM or other casino companies “gave the state inflated numbers to get your deal.”

“Careful, careful,” Mathis admonished Felger. The casino executive explained that the initial estimates were made in a different business environment.

“One of the things is the process in Massachusetts took some time ... so you’re making projections 5, 6, 7 years before you get it open and what happens over time is the market changes, you get competition in other states, those competitors draw a little bit of business from your competitors who get more aggressive,” he said. “So there is a little bit of passage of time and those numbers can get a little bit stale.”

Mathis then argued that casino gaming has been positive for the state regardless of whether the projects have met their initial projections.

The state gaming commission heaped praise on Mathis in a statement, while saying they looked forward with working with Kelley. He’ll need to be licensed by regulators.

As president and COO of MGM Northfield Park, Kelley spearheaded the property’s transition from a Hard Rock casino into an MGM Resorts-operated property. Kelley initially joined MGM Resorts in 2017 as vice president and chief financial officer of MGM Grand Detroit. During his time there, Kelley “acted as a key player in the development of the property’s strategic plan and the implementation and management of continuous improvement efforts, in addition to ongoing enhancements to guest experience,” the company said. Before joining the MGM Resorts, Kelley held numerous positions with Viejas Casino & Resort near San Diego.

In October, Casino Player magazine gave MGM Northfield Park the top billing as the “best overall gaming” experience in Ohio and also recognized the facility for having the best VIP services and best promotions.

MGM said Kelley holds bachelor’s degrees in economics and political science from Connecticut College and received a master’s degree in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In a statement, Kelley said he grew up in New England, and looks forward to returning to the region.

Sam Hudzik contributed to this report, which includes information from State House News Service.

Outgoing MGM Springfield President and COO Mike Mathis during casino construction.
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio
Connecticut Public Radio
Outgoing MGM Springfield President and COO Mike Mathis during casino construction.
Incoming MGM Springfield President and COO Chris Kelley.
/ MGM Springfield
MGM Springfield
Incoming MGM Springfield President and COO Chris Kelley.

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