Jeff Simpson: A Deal with MGM Mirage and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Might be Coming to a Casino Near You
Initial discussion about the new partnership between Strip titan MGM Mirage and the tribe that owns and operates the world's biggest casino has focused on the deal to build a $700 million MGM Grand-branded casino next to the tribe's Foxwoods resort. While the plans to use an MGM Mirage brand on a casino owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation are big news, expect bigger developments closer to home.
MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni told me he thinks one likely spot for a joint venture is right here in Las Vegas, on the Strip, where MGM Mirage has a wealth of undeveloped and under-used land.
And a project could start sooner rather than later, he said.
The cash-rich tribe has been looking for ways to diversify its business off its Connecticut reservation. The tribe has already applied for a license to run a Pennsylvania slot parlor and announced plans to build a casino in Biloxi, Miss.
Lanni says the company's deal with the tribe should please investors, demonstrating MGM Mirage's intention to aggressively pursue prudent growth opportunities. After buying Mirage Resorts in 2000 and Mandalay Resort Group last year, along with its $7 billion CityCenter development south of Bellagio, its $1 billion-plus MGM Grand Macau and bid to build a multibillion-dollar resort in Singapore, no one should question MGM Mirage's commitment to growth.
Focus group guru Frank Luntz, in town to deliver the results of the survey he and pollster Peter Hart annually do for the American Gaming Association, says the sky is the limit for the city's resort business.
Luntz says research he does for the major casino resort operators - and he's worked for all of them - indicates that, as good as times are now for operators, they can get much better.
"There are no limitations; I see no danger signs," Luntz told me. "I see opportunities, particularly at the highest of the high end. I tell these guys (resort operators) to be aggressive. The potential of this place hasn't come close to being realized. It's about the feeling, the emotion, the experience - you can have a once-in-a-lifetime time here."
The new shows, the great restaurants and world-class hotels mean that visitors have to come here three times to see what they need to, he said.
"Las Vegas can legitimately say - and this is what separates it from anywhere else - 'Come see what you haven't seen before.' "
MGM Mirage President Jim Murren is rightfully proud of his company's record of spending big money to keep its Strip resorts fresh. Major renovations of the MGM Grand, Treasure Island and the Mirage are some of the best examples, with new showrooms, restaurants and attractions luring bigger-spending guests.
Hotel rooms are redone every five years and carpeting is regularly replaced. "If we're not moving forward we're falling behind," Murren told me last week.
Expect major work to begin soon at the former Mandalay Resort properties, including Mandalay Bay, Monte Carlo, Luxor, Excalibur and Circus Circus, Murren said.
Strip developer Steve Wynn and wife, Elaine, used the occasion of Friday's Encore ground-breaking ceremony to praise Wynn Las Vegas' 9,500 employees and promise them major professional opportunities as the company grows. Wynn said that resort construction would probably be taking place on the old Desert Inn site "as long as I live."
Wynn's big announcement about the $1.7 billion Encore, slated to open in December 2008, was that he plans a retractable glass roof that would cover the resort's pool and poolside nightclub and restaurant. Wynn's not worried about copycats. "They're always one hotel behind me," he said.