MGM sell-off likely

Dec 7, 2004 5:25 AM

It now appears likely that MGM Mirage or the Mandalay Resort Group (MRG) will unload one or more properties in anticipation of their pending merger.

That’s the word from sources outside both companies who insist they know what they’re talking about.

"My source is the best," confides an industry veteran who adds, "We’re going to be seeing some deals."

Don’t even bother calling MGM or Mandalay officials. You could write out their response before posing the question. They’ll announce a deal when they have one.

Properties most likely to be available in Las Vegas are Circus Circus and The Mirage-Treasure Island complex. That’s based largely on the idea no one expects MGM to break up a potential two continuous miles of Strip frontage from Russell to Flamingo roads.

Speculation is nothing new, so why might there be a deal now?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been examining the merger for months. We’re close to a time when the agency might be expected to have shared whatever concerns it has with the MGM and MRG principals.

Mandalay President Glenn Schaeffer refused to discuss merger details during last week’s conference call with investors. MGM execs have previously taken the same position.

It all comes down to whether the FTC sees an unfair concentration of assets under the control of one company.

MGM Chairman Terry Lanni has previously refused to publicly concede anything, saying he hopes the MRG acquisition can be completed as originally proposed with no sales necessary.

But just in case, MGM and Mandalay have been fielding discrete inquires for months from companies interested in acquiring assets.

Those queries may soon bear fruit.

How handy is Andy?

I wonder if Dallas banker Andy Beal is looking for a back door into the casino business?

Beal is known in Las Vegas as a poker player willing to challenge the best in the world at the highest limits. He’s played Texas Hold ”˜em for as much as $200,000.

Nobody plays higher. But he’s also a successful businessman known for pouncing on interesting deals when they arise.

Which brings us to the fact Beal has become a lender in Atlantic City. His privately owned Beal Bank has agreed to loan Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc., $100 million to help with costs related to the company’s recent Chapter 11 filing. The loan is secured by a number of Trump assets.

In Las Vegas, Beal has recently been busy with negotiations of another kind with high stakes poker pros — people such as Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Jennifer Harman and Barry Greenstein —for a series of head-to-head games with limits of . . . well, that’s one of the sticking points.

Beal likes the $100,000 and $200,000 limits. His idea was that a number of Las Vegas poker players would put their money into a fund with Beal taking them on, one player at a time.

The pros don’t have a problem with that. But the limits have reportedly been an issue, even though there have previously been $100,000 and $200,000 games.

Greenstein says current thinking is that limits of $30,000 and $60,000 — or in that ballpark — would be more acceptable.

"Andy has more money than all of us combined," Greenstein says, "and he has become a good player."

The consensus is that Beal definitely has enough skill and a bankroll big enough to break the bank, so to speak, if the game is not negotiated thoughtfully.

Another of the reported sticking points in the negotiations between Beal and the local poker pros — the location for the games.

All of the past games have so far been held at the Bellagio .

But Beal knows all too well that Trump’s Taj Mahal has one of the biggest and busiest poker rooms on the East Coast.

Beal should be in Las Vegas this week for a $25,000 heads-up tournament at the Bellagio. The event was put together as part of a World Poker Tour event with him in mind. Maybe he’ll come to his senses about the Bellagio’s poker room.

Here-n-There ”¦ Mirage Resorts President Bobby Baldwin is off to Tokyo for a fact-finding tour that may provide him with information useful in the development of the CityCenter complex planned between Bellagio and Monte Carlo.

Opponents of expanded gambling in Florida are not walking meekly away from the Nov. 2 vote that saw the approval of slots at racetracks and jai alai frontons in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The trial of a lawsuit that alleges fraud by slot proponents is expected to begin the end of January. Opponents are also considering getting the Legislature to tinker with the definition of slots.