MGM doubles down in Jersey

Jul 30, 2002 8:42 AM

Tourists looking for Atlantic City’s biggest hotel and casino won’t find it at MGM Mirage’s upcoming skyscraper. But company executives promise that their new resort will be the best.

The projected pricetag of $1.5 billion certainly sets a record for the New Jersey gambling mecca. Indeed, MGM Grand Resorts CEO John Redmond is already calling the Marina district property "incredible."

Redmond expects that plans for the yet-to-be-named hotel-casino will be filed by November or December and that construction could be under way by the third quarter next year.

That’s about the time Borgata, MGM Mirage’s joint venture with Boyd Gaming, is scheduled to open.

The burst of activity signals bullish times for Atlantic City. Bouncing back from the 9-11 East Coast terror attack, the city’s gamers were further encouraged when Gov. James McGreevey dropped his call for a 6 percent tax on comps. MGM’s subsequent threat to halt work on its new resort may have had something to do with that decision, analysts say.

Coming off record second quarter earnings, MGM Mirage now appears to have the capital to sink into the pricey project that’s ticketed to offer 1,500 to 2,000 rooms.

MGM Mirage Vice President Alan Feldman said the latest MGM Mirage creation will be "complementary" to Borgata, a $1 billion resort split 50-50 with Boyd. Though MGM is keeping its card close to the vest, Feldman says there will be a heavy emphasis on high-end restaurants and innovative entertainment ”” rare commodities along the boardwalk and environs.

"Atlantic City suffers from the same mindset that Las Vegas did in the 1980s,’’ he said, suggesting that the newest venture will provide a fresh, Mirage-style kickstart to tourism. "We’re going to focus on non-casino activity.’’

"A lot of people have spent money needlessly in Atlantic City. This isn’t about being the biggest. This is about being the best, with the highest rated restaurants and amenities,’’ Feldman said.