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October 22, 2018

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MGM sets August opening date for Massachusetts casino

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Patrick Johnson/The Republican / AP

This April 24, 2018, aerial photo shows construction progress on the MGM Casino complex in downtown Springfield, Mass.

Updated Thursday, April 26, 2018 | 1:35 p.m.

BOSTON — The fate of Wynn's glitzy Boston-area casino may still be up in the air, but rival MGM says it is on track to open the first Las Vegas-style casino resort in Massachusetts sooner than expected.

MGM Resorts International is now targeting Aug. 24 as the new opening date for the $960 million hotel and casino complex it has been building in downtown Springfield, President Bill Hornbuckle told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The company previously envisioned the casino opening sometime in September, but relatively mild winters and steady progress on a nearby highway project impacting the casino have allowed construction to move slightly faster than anticipated, he said.

Hornbuckle declined to address reports that the company has been quietly negotiating with Wynn Resorts to take over its more than $2.5 billion project on the Everett waterfront, which is slated to open sometime next year.

"We're not going to speak on rumors," he said. "Whatever happens in Boston is up to the gaming commission, and that story is yet to be told."

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has been investigating allegations of sexual misconduct by Wynn Resorts founder Steve Wynn and what the company's board might have known about them. The results of the investigation might impact the company's license to operate in Massachusetts.

MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren said Thursday it would have to be an "extremely unique situation" for the company to consider another major project after opening new casinos in China and the U.S.

"I just don't see it," he said when asked about the possibility during the company's quarterly earnings call.

New Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox also has tamped down on the speculation, saying in a CNBC interview Wednesday that "Boston is not up for sale."

A day earlier, however, he told investors the company would to take a "hard look" at the Boston-area project if there were indications that "contagion" from the Massachusetts controversy was affecting the rest of its business.

Taking over Wynn's development in the more desirable Boston market would require MGM to find a new owner for its casino in the western part of the state. Massachusetts law prevents casino operators from holding more than one state gambling license.

Gambling analysts have suggested the Indian tribes that operate Connecticut's Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods resorts would be the most obvious suitors if the Springfield property became available, though a spokesman for the tribes shot down the idea on Wednesday.

"Speculation about us buying Springfield is rumor mill trash," said Andrew Doba.

The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes broke ground in March on a 200,000 square foot casino in East Windsor, Connecticut, that is meant to directly compete with MGM just a few miles across the state line. But the tribe's project has been delayed because the U. S. Department of Interior has not signed off on a revised revenue sharing agreement between the federally recognized tribes and the state.

Massachusetts gambling regulators also discussed the project with MGM and Springfield officials Thursday.

MGM already has hired about 400 of the 3,000 people expected to work at the 15-acre complex when it opens, Hornbuckle told the AP.

Slot machines are being placed on the 125,000 square foot gambling floor and the 250-room hotel is being fitted and furnished, he said.

Rehabilitation of the city's historic Armory, which the company envisions turning into an events space at the center of a vibrant open air marketplace, is among the next major projects, as is completion of an eight-screen movie theater and other entertainment amenities, Hornbuckle added.