“MGM Hotels On Las Vegas Strip Open 24/7 in March - TravelAwaits” plus 1 more

“MGM Hotels On Las Vegas Strip Open 24/7 in March - TravelAwaits” plus 1 more


MGM Hotels On Las Vegas Strip Open 24/7 in March - TravelAwaits

Posted: 22 Feb 2021 04:03 AM PST

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But for the past year, who stays in Vegas has been a considerably smaller number.

It's been one year since the coronavirus pandemic caused a shutdown of the Las Vegas Strip. As the year progressed, it slowly began reopening on a limited basis, and there are now signs that a return to normal is on the horizon.

One step toward that goal was announced this week when MGM Resorts declared three of its most popular properties will return to 24/7 operations. The Mirage, Park MGM, and Mandalay Bay will begin operating its casinos and all of its rooms without interruption starting March 3.

"As we begin to see positive signs around the public's sentiment about traveling, coupled with important progress on the vaccination front and decreasing COVID-19 case numbers, bringing Mandalay Bay, Park MGM and The Mirage back to full-week operations is an important step for us," Bill Hornbuckle, MGM Resorts CEO and president, said in a statement.

The three are the last of MGM's properties in Las Vegas to return to full operations.

Most of the hotels on the Strip have returned to regular operations, although the restaurants, entertainment venues, and other amenities are either closed or limited.

Caesars Entertainment, the other major owner of resorts on the Strip, have opened the majority of its properties. Planet Hollywood, the Rio, and the Linq remain the last ones taking guests only on weekends.

"We remain optimistic about Las Vegas' recovery and our ability to bring employees back to work as business volumes allow us to do so," Hornbuckle said of the upcoming openings.

When the entertainment portion of Las Vegas will return remains a huge question mark, although MGM is taking baby steps in that process.

David Copperfield's magic show is restarting its run at the MGM Grand on March 21, and Terry Fator is launching a new show at New York-New York on March 18.

A few smaller shows and comedy venues also returned in February.

All of the shows that have restarted or have return dates in place have limited capacity and strict protocols in place to attend.

"Bringing entertainment back to the Las Vegas experience is key to our city's recovery, and we will work closely with our partners to do so, with the health and safety of our employees and guests as a priority," said George Kliavkoff, MGM Resorts' president of entertainment and sports.

As part of the state regulations, casino floors and indoor dining across the state are limited to 35 percent capacity. Outdoor dining has no limit on capacity.

The Vegas Golden Knights, the city's NHL team, has submitted plans to the state and the league to allow some fans back in their arena for games starting in March. Their proposal calls for 20 percent capacity -- or about 3,500 spectators -- at T-Mobile Arena for games.

Although the hotels are open, demand is keeping prices for rooms at exceptionally low rates. Midweek at most of the largest hotels, rooms are available for as little as $30 per night, with some last-minute deals dropping the prices even more.

For the latest on travel news in relation to the pandemic, keep our COVID-19 category handy.

MGM’s Race to Diversify Beyond Casino Resorts Shows Early Strength - Skift

Posted: 10 Feb 2021 04:42 PM PST

The coronavirus pandemic continues to be catastrophic for Las Vegas casino resort operators, but an expansion into online gaming at least gives MGM Resorts International another option in its recovery toolkit.

MGM reported Wednesday a $448 million fourth quarter loss, tied to revenue being down 66 percent at its Las Vegas resorts and down 58 percent in Macau. But there wasn't a lot of talk about hotel room performance on an investor call shortly after the financial results posted. Instead, the company's leaders touted future growth around online gaming and sports betting — a rapidly growing division of the company that doesn't require customers to fly to resorts in Las Vegas or Macau.

"We do want to diversify our revenues," MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle said on the call. "[Online gaming and sports betting] has already proven itself. We think this is where the industry is going, and we want to be a larger part of it."

MGM Resorts continues to double down on the online gaming and sports betting sector, despite its rebuffed $11 billion offer earlier this year for British gaming company Entain PLC, the owner of online gaming site Ladbrokes. MGM and Entain already work together in a joint partnership on a U.S. online betting platform, BetMGM.

BetMGM launched in seven new states over the span of 2020 and is expected to be in 20 markets by the end of this year. Hornbuckle indicated in a statement ahead of the investor call that MGM Resorts was "very pleased" with the January launches in Iowa, Michigan, and Virginia. BetMGM's gross gaming revenue from Michigan even eclipsed that of New Jersey, where MGM was more established in the sector.

"We are engaged on pandemic response while staying focused on the future," Hornbuckle said. "This includes maintaining a strong balance sheet to seize opportunities and continuing to drive BetMGM."

MGM's focus on the burgeoning sector even attracted new investors in 2020. Barry Diller's IAC/InterActive took a $1 billion, or 12 percent, stake of MGM Resorts last year with the intention of beefing up its online gaming presence.

The BetMGM platform has a 17 percent market share of the online gaming and sports betting revenues in the U.S. states it is active, according to an investor presentation.

But the online gaming division is still relatively small compared to traditional casino gambling. An IAC shareholder letter last year claimed MGM's online gaming revenue was "so small that it rounds down to zero."

Analysts have expected the American online gaming market to explode since the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a ban on sports betting, and casino companies have turned to more established European operators to advance their growth. Caesars Entertainment is in the process of a nearly $4 billion acquisition of UK-based gaming platform William Hill.

Hornbuckle wasn't saying much Wednesday about MGM's stalled takeover bid for its JV partner Entain, saying he was limited in his remarks due to UK takeover rules.

"We're in a quiet period. We'll have to see what happens," he added. "I will say this: It is MGM's intent to play in this space on a substantive and significant level on a global basis. Whether this is the avenue or route to do it on, time will tell."

What About the Rooms?

While MGM is bullish about the future of online gaming, it also has to grapple with its present reality and ownership of tens of thousands of hotel rooms that are well below their normal performance levels.

Fourth quarter occupancy rates at MGM's Las Vegas resorts averaged to 38 percent, with 52 percent averages on the weekends and 31 percent during the week. Room revenue was down 70 percent. There were even mid-week closures for part of the quarter at the company's Mandalay Bay, Mirage, and Park MGM resorts.

October was the strongest month of the year since the beginning of the pandemic, but bookings slid the remainder of the year due to the winter surge in new coronavirus cases.

Hotel operators across Las Vegas are grappling with a tanked convention business, which typically drove high rates in the middle of the week while leisure travelers came in for weekend business. Overall visitor volume to Las Vegas was down more than 55 percent last year while convention attendance was down 74 percent, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Group business typically accounts for about a third of room revenue at upscale U.S. hotels, according to McKinsey & Co. research.

But MGM isn't waving a white flag on the convention sector. The company sees strong convention bookings ahead in the third quarter, and Hornbuckle claims the fourth quarter of this year actually looks better than the fourth quarter of 2020 looked at this point last year — which was pre-pandemic. He even predicts MGM will reach 90 percent of its 2019 convention business levels by the end of 2022.

Company leaders are also optimistic they have been able to hold onto 82 percent of advanced deposits for entertainment features like Lady Gaga's residency at the Park MGM.

"I think what that says is, when available, people are going to want to come back," Hornbuckle said.

A New Face of Gaming

Hornbuckle signaled optimism around the recovery of Las Vegas and Macau as well as future resort growth in Japan. However, he didn't offer any indication of what MGM's push into online gaming and sports betting would mean for the company's hotel room performance in the long-term.

But MGM leaders made it abundantly clear the future of the gaming industry is about having as many options possible to reach customers rather than relying on them walking through the front door of a resort.

"Once engaged, we know omni-channel customers have vastly more value to our company than single-channel customers," Hornbuckle said.

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