When MGM Chairman and CEO Jim Murren and Caesars CEO Mark Frissora came to New Jersey to speak with Governor Chris Christie something unusual happened. The two large gaming companies, competitors on the Las Vegas Strip, said they’d work together to improve Atlantic City.
Nothing specific was outlined, but observers saw the synergy. But one of the conditions requested by the casino owners was more regulatory relief. They didn’t publicly outline any requests, but Christie was cooperative.
“We’re going to be working with them on additional ways we can bring Atlantic City’s regulations into the 21st century,” Christie said.
MGM fully owns the Borgata, buying out operating partner Boyd Gaming last year. Caesars owns three casinos in Atlantic City, Caesars, Bally’s, and most importantly for this discussion, Harrah’s Resort.
Between the Borgata and Harrah’s Resort are acres of undeveloped land, originally envisioned as a third casino when the property was subdivided by Mirage Resorts (later purchased by MGM) in the early 2000s. Harrah’s recently added 100,000 square feet of convention space that has been very successful. Borgata lacks that kind of meeting space, so a joint venture would make a lot of sense to fill in that land between the two properties.
“We believe very strongly in the future of Atlantic City,” said Murren. “We wouldn’t have invested billions of dollars into that market if we did not. As recently as last year, when we consolidated the ownership of Borgata, we have 6,000 men and women that rely upon Borgata for its employment, and we own a tremendous amount of land on Renaissance Point. People have asked me why did MGM doubly down in Atlantic City at this difficult time, and I’ll tell you the answer to that. We believe in the state. We believed in the Governor’s ability to make tough decisions in order to create and preserve jobs, and we believe in our ability as entertainment companies to drive business. We do not think Atlantic City is but a finite pool, but we do believe it is a important regional destination.”
Frissora, whose company is poised to exit bankruptcy, was equally positive.
“We continue to see a lot of vibrancy in fact there’s not only stability but improvement that we’ve seen in our numbers in Atlantic City, and it’s been one of the biggest reasons, actually it’s helped us improve our operating results over the last couple years,” he pointed out. “We approved them about $780 million but almost, you know, 15 percent of that was due to Atlantic City’s improvement. So we feel really good that this has been a great investment for us, and we continued to look at reinvestment.”
For Christie, who will leave office early in 2018, it’s the culmination of his plan to revive Atlantic City.
“These folks in Atlantic City have come here to say that they are ready now to make further investments in Atlantic City, so if you want a headline, that’s the headline,” he stated. “MGM Resorts and Caesars are now saying that they’re ready to make significant new investments in Atlantic City, and they’re going to have announcements about that in the weeks ahead.”