MGM/Kerzner may duplicate Borgata

Jul 3, 2007 5:18 AM

MGM’s Terry Lanni says he and Sol Kerzner will meet for discussions of their joint venture when Kerzner visits Las Vegas during the last half of July.

The project that will cost four billion or more on 40 acres at Sahara and the Strip exists for the moment as a "definitive agreement" that still needs to be formalized. It will probably be based on the Borgata model which saw MGM throwing in property and a certain amount of cash with partner Boyd Gaming building and operating the Atlantic City resort.

Sources familiar with the thinking of both Kerzner and Lanni agree Kerzner will probably expect creative control and Lanni will probably give it to him. One of Lanni’s strengths as a chief executive has been his ability to bring executives with different styles together under one roof.

But the Kerzner announcement of about two weeks ago caught some people by surprise. "I was frankly shocked," said Revel Entertainment CEO Kevin DeSanctis who formerly ran the Kerzner resorts in Connecticut and the Bahamas.

"Sol can be a great partner," DeSanctis added. "He listens carefully and has respect for the opinions of others at the table, but he (has been in) situations where he had a monopoly."

Which certainly is not the case these days in Las Vegas, but what Las Vegas does have going for it is an image as THE place to be.

People like Lanni and (former Mandalay Resorts president) Glenn Schaeffer once talked eloquently about the benefits that would accrue to Las Vegas in terms of added values if one of the pure entertainment giants were attracted to Las Vegas.

Lanni said on more than one occasion that he could see a time when it would happen. The fact is, those values are now being created in Las Vegas as creative people with access to big bucks build new or dramatically updated destinations and business combinations that offer the chance to gamble and a whole lot more.

Kerzner can be expected to continue the evolution as he brings the magical touch that has so far given us Sun City in South Africa, Atlantis in the Bahamas and the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

His decision to join the line-up of designing giants who have stepped forward to take a place on the Las Vegas Strip means the list is just about complete. It includes the biggest companies and outstanding personalities.

The new arrivals include Turnberry’s Jeffrey Soffer and Australia’s James Packer, who have combined their bankrolls for the creation of the Fontainebleau project on the other side of the Strip from where Lanni has said MGM and Kerzner will do their creating.

At this rate, Las Vegas may yet hear from the Disney people. The unexpected has a way of happening in Las Vegas.

Too many tourneys?

From the I-Don’t-Think-They’ll-Do-This-Again Department: For reasons that remain unclear, the World Poker Tour decided to go up against the 38th edition of the World Series of Poker with an event at the Bellagio that has been designated the Bellagio Cup III.

Through late last week the WPT hold’em events were averaging less than 100 entries — about 150 in a few cases and less than 50 entries in others.

All this as the World Series was continuing to post record numbers. For instance, there were 3,151 entries in a $1,500 no limit hold’em tournament this past Sunday. It broke the previous record of 2,996 set earlier this year for the most players ever seated for anything other than the main event.

The moral of this story?

Perhaps it is merely the fact that there are a lot of poker players looking for action, but they tend to look for the event where they will get the biggest bang for their bucks.

Binion turn-around?

Four Queens owner Terry Caudill and Binion’s Gambling Hall operating chief Bill Robinson were seen dining together over the weekend at one of the restaurants in the downtown landmark that Caudill wants to buy for about $32 million.

Caudill has said he is planning some upgrades at the house that the late Benny Binion turned into one of the gaming industry’s best-known casinos. Those were the days when it was known as the Horseshoe.

Now if only the owners of the Plaza and Lady Luck could be persuaded to think in similar terms.

Why did Golden Nugget Chairman Tilman Fertitta let the Horseshoe get away from him? He looked long and hard at buying it. Fertitta was reportedly discouraged by the cost associated with the ground leases on which some of the casino and its parking garages sit.