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Hotels

MGM Resorts CEO Thinks Dubai or Abu Dhabi Might OK Gaming This Year

1 year ago

Executives at MGM Resorts International are hopeful that gaming may be approved by the United Arab Emirates, possibly as soon as this year.

The Las Vegas-based casino and hotel operator announced back in 2017 its plans for an MGM Resort in Dubai that wouldn’t have gaming but would instead have 1,000 rooms and 10 villas. Yet executives sounded more hopeful about running a casino in a Gulf State someday when talking with analysts during the company’s first-quarter earnings on Monday.

“As it relates to Dubai, that property continues to evolve,” said Bill Hornbuckle, president and CEO. “We’re the managers, but the owners want to upgrade the property, I think, with gaming in mind. But it’s up to Abu Dhabi and the national government to ultimately decide. … We’re hoping ‘any day.’ But I got to believe as the summer fulfills itself, we’ll hear more news on that.”

“We have had people on the ground there basically nonstop since the first of the year, trying to understand the opportunity in Abu Dhabi and then ultimately, if it will open up,” Hornbuckle said. “If they pass on it, [the opportunity] will open up to the other Emirates. Whether the rulers of each Emirate then take it upon themselves to approve it is up to them.”

“Obviously, we’re focused on Dubai, and we think it would be ideal,” Hornbuckle said. “There happens to be 150,000 to 200,000 square feet of space that could be converted into such a thing. But time to tell there, and we’re not saying no to Abu Dhabi either.”

MGM already has competition on the non-gaming front. Wynn is spending $3.9 billion in the region, as Bloomberg reported this week, noted Alan Woinski, editor of The Gaming Industry Daily Report and Skift’s Daily Lodging Report. The Wynn property is on an island and is said to have a “gaming area” though this doesn’t seem to have been approved yet.

Here are other key points about the operator of 32 hotels and casinos in the U.S. and Macau.

Expansion Continues

In April, the company received approval of its development plan in Osaka, Japan. MGM and its partners Orix hope to start building the nearly $10 billion integrated casino resort, with an opening now expected in 2030.

MGM’s application process in New York is “progressing,” the company said.

Hotel Boom:

In the first three months of the year, the overall MGM Resorts company generated $467 million of net income on revenue of $3.9 billion.

Its Las Vegas Strip resort hotels, in particular, generated $752 million in revenue. That was thanks to a mix of strong pricing — with rates 31 percent higher than a year earlier — and an average occupancy of 92 percent.

There’s further room to grow, executives said, if Chinese and other Asian travelers come back to Las Vegas in large numbers. In the first quarter of 2019, Asian Pacific customer made up about 45 percent of its business, while now they’re currently only about 25 percent.

“So if that comes back, from that perspective, it would be pretty meaningful,” said Corey Sanders, chief operating officer.