MGM poised to reap Kansas casino harvest

Mar 11, 2008 6:00 PM

Gaming Insider by Phil Hevener | MGM Mirage appears to have pushed its way back into the spirited wrestling match for a casino license in Sumner County, Kansas.

MGM and its joint venture partner, Connecticut’s Pequot tribe, have benefited from the town of Mulvane’s willingness to reach five miles beyond its city limits to annex land on which MGM wants to build one of four state-owned casinos that will be operated by winning bidders for about 15 years.

The Sumner County competition has been fun to watch, featuring, as it has, allegations of dirty tricks and thought-provoking strategy by backers of the four companies competing for the one Sumner County license to be awarded later this year by the Kansas Lottery.

Las Vegas-based Marvel Gaming, a creation of the Binion Family Trust, was previously recommended by the Sumner County town of Wellington, as was Penn National. The county commission subsequently added its endorsement to the two.

With these two companies looking like the sole competitors from Sumner County, Harrah’s and MGM went looking for support and found it in Mulvane, population about 5,000. About half the town is in neighboring Sedgewick County.

Mulvane backers of the annexation proposal got out their maps and eventually annexed a 100-foot-wide strip that connects the proposed Harrah’s and MGM sites at the  Kansas Turnpike’s Mulvane exit.

The Mulvane endorsement enabled Harrah’s and MGM to send their plans on to Kansas Lottery officials.

Sumner County officials have sued Mulvane saying, in so many words, that as annexations go, this is ridiculous.

MGM officials were unavailable for comment last week.

Revel to stay AC course

Revel Entertainment Chief Executive Kevin DeSanctis says there is no reason for anyone to assume he and his Morgan Stanley partners are anything but fully committed to the resort they have under development near the upper end of the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

DeSanctis was working to put an accurate perspective on the estimated $2 billion project following  the comments of Pinnacle CEO Dan Lee that chaos in the credit markets has slowed Pinnacle’s schedule for building on the mid-Boardwalk side of the Sands.

"We’re working on interim financing with the help of our banks," DeSanctis said of the Revel game plan, the idea being that interim financing of some unspecified amount will keep the project moving forward until credit markets stabilize to the point an acceptable plan for permanent financing is within reach.

DeSanctis put stress on the fact capital markets are like a continually moving line, a bouncing ball. Whatever the present situation, the picture will probably have changed six months or a year from now.

DeSanctis said he and his team will continue to plan and time the development to keep it moving forward, "because this is the only thing we’re doing right now."

It’s not like he has a plate full of priorities to shuffle – a possible reference to Pinnacle’s building plans in other markets – so the Revel will continue to move forward even if there are occasional adjustments to the pace of work.

Another Strip victim?

The multibillion-dollar re-creation of New York’s City’s Plaza planned for the site of the Frontier Hotel may be one of the projects that has (temporarily perhaps) fallen victim to turmoil in the capital markets.

This opinion comes from a well-positioned gaming professional who concludes that for the foreseeable future – a measure of time meaning different things to different people – only planners with the best track records will be able to find financing that makes sense for developments with price tags running well north of two or three billion dollars, a category that includes the proposed Plaza.

He says, "Potential investors are looking at the real estate prices along the Strip. Prices have hit $35 million an acre, which means whatever you build has to chase the highest end of the market, and they’re wondering if there are just too many people trying to do that."

Loveman loves Mass.

The likely outcome of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s hopes for getting three casinos built is "very hard to call," says Harrah’s CEO Gary Loveman, one of several major company executives to speak in support of the plan.

Loveman notes that a couple of prominent lawmakers are opposed to the casino plan. House Speaker Salvtore DiMasi is one of them, but if this opposition is overcome during the current session, Loveman believes the proposal has a roughly 50-50 chance of surviving.

Loveman said the necessary period of development means nothing would open before 2011. He adds, "But this is a market we are very interested in."

Where’s Pansy probe?

Has the probe by New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement into the suitability of Pansy Ho as a Macau partner for MGM Mirage fallen off the table? Probably not, but it is definitely gone from some of the radar screens that have been tracking it.

Where, oh where did it go?

Nevada approved the Macau partnership close to a year ago. Action in New Jersey was expected last summer. Another few changes at the top of the DGE and we may arrive at a time when no one remembers there ever was an investigation, a situation that will suit those who want to keep the doors open to future partnerships that are a bit non-traditional.

What else can anyone say about Arab emirates embracing big gaming resort deals with the likes of MGM, Sol Kerzner and probably others?

Wasn’t Pinnacle’s Dan Lee, who’s looking for capital, saying several weeks ago that, yes, he knows how to find Dubai?