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MGM wants to extend 'hospitality' abroad

Jul 1, 2008 7:03 PM

Gaming Insider by Phil Hevener | MGM continues going global in a big way as it considers the world of opportunity beyond U.S. shores for its new Hospitality Division.

India may be the next frontier. It’s a possibility the company is studying even as plans are finalized for the first MGM Grand hotel on the Chinese mainland.

India’s booming economy and the lack of up-scale hotel facilities are all anyone needs to know about the reasons for MGM’s interest in India. There are only about a hundred thousand hotel rooms in the entire country and many of those have a Holiday Inn look and feel to them, according to MGM Chairman Terry Lanni who acknowledges, "We have people there (in India)."

As for other sites that may land one of the upscale MGM brands, cities catering to upscale travelers are all getting close looks, everything from London to, yes, even Las Vegas.

MGM officials have said they can envision a time when its hospitality unit may be spun off from the corporate parent as a separate publicly traded company. But first things first.

The big challenge of the moment is to develop the kinds of revenue streams that will make this possible."

The first of the Hospitality Division projects to open its doors is the new MGM Grand hotel tower at the Foxwoods casino complex in Connecticut.

The recently announced Chinese project will be a 350-key "luxury hotel" to be known as the MGM Grand Tianjin.

Tianjin is a northern port city, a gateway to Beijing, with a population of some 10 million. Non-gaming luxury projects in the Middle East are already in the works.

In each of these deals, MGM is giving its brands and management expertise without the necessity of a lot of capital investment; which underscores the importance of restaurant and hotel products that earn all the best awards that Michelin, Mobil and AAA have to offer.

World Series has
international flavor

The World Series of Poker has never looked more, uh, well, worldly.

Does anyone doubt the influence of Internet poker on display in this year’s World Series of Poker at the Rio?

There were players from 87 countries represented as of a few days ago and the number could increase as the big numbers and big action associated with the $10,000 buy-in main event nears. The total number of countries represented at last year’s World Series was in the 55-60 range.

Why the increase?

"Coming to Las Vegas for the World Series is like a half-price sale." This from David, a Las Vegas poker dealer and player, who has marveled at the arrival of so many passionate poker buffs from distant shores.

He continued, "Look at what’s happening to the dollar against other currencies and it’s clear Las Vegas has never been such a bargain."

Those high profile living legends of the game have been flexing their considerable skills as they always do but it was an unknown Russian, Nikolay Evdakov, who this past weekend did what no World Series participant had ever done before in the nearly 30-year history of the WSOP – win prize money in his ninth event. His nine cashes earned him $203,458.

The previous mark of eight was shared by five players including Phil Hellmuth and Chad Brown.

When 24-year-old poker professional Sebastian Ruthenberg of Hamburg, Germany, won the $10,000 buy-in seven-card stud high-low event, there were five nations represented at the final table – Germany, Canada, the U.S., Holland and Italy. There were also five countries represented at another final table several days later.

Nine different countries had produced championship gold bracelet winners through this past weekend. They are Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the U.S., France, Germany, Holland, Italy and Russia.

And can anyone question the power of Internet gaming to create wealthy poker players?

TV poker show producer Eric Drache noted, "Some people like to focus on the losses, but for every loss there’s someone else who is winning."

A passionate student of the game can quickly play many more Internet hands in a matter of months than he or she could hope to get in many years of live game action. It’s the kind of situation that makes for winning poker.

One of the consequences has been more poker players with money eventually coming in search of live card room action. Some of these young wanna-be champs are not even old enough to sit down in a Las Vegas card room.

Last year’s main event at the World Series Europe in London was won by an 18-year-old Swedish girl, Annette Obrestad, who outplayed many of the legends of American poker, people who had spent years mastering poker the old fashioned way.

But as she would later tell an interviewer, "Being 18 sucks."