Too many obstacles snag sale of MGM's Mirage

Jan 20, 2009 5:04 PM
Gaming Insider by Phil Hevener |

I wonder if Phil Ruffin swooping in to buy Treasure Island figured in Penn National Chairman Peter Carlino’s decision to put the brakes on plans for Penn’s purchase of the neighboring Mirage?

Penn officials are said to be clinging to the notion they will get a better deal if they can keep their money in the bank and show some patience. Could be, but there are other factors that have not received much public attention.

The prospect of different companies owning the TI and the neighboring Mirage could be seen as complicating the future operation of The Mirage more than Treasure Island. The two were created to be owned by one company, their appeal reaching all the way to the corner of the Strip and Spring Mountain Road, part of a developing new high rent district.

Different owners mean more than a dozen systems to be unwound or re-wired in some fashion. This can be done, of course, but the end result would be a different kind of revenue equation than the one that worked for Mirage Resorts and which MGM now enjoys.

How about the tram connecting the TI and Mirage? There is also the issue of the revenue that will be lost when MGM unplugs its player card system at the Treasure Island or Mirage and any other casino MGM decides to sell. And let’s not forget that the TI and Mirage also share parking garages.

The likely Penn solution to such obstacles at any casino on the Strip might be a marketing program to steer customers from its myriad regional casinos to whatever Penn may ultimately decide to buy. But ease of access is always a major issue.

Steve Wynn opened The Mirage in 1989 explaining that he would eventually use the land on the corner for another casino. It was about a year before he began talking about Treasure Island which debuted in October 1993.

Wynn’s thinking linked the two resorts: Treasure Island at The Mirage, is the way he saw the relationship. He made it easy to move between the two properties and for them to essentially be operated as one. It’s unlikely Ruffin intends to encourage the continuance of this coziness. Why would he want to?

But if anyone is going to own just one of them the TI is definitely the one to have.

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