x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Las Vegas' CityCenter looks to events to lift revenue

MGM Resorts International is hoping to compensate for the troubles associated with its CityCenter project with an increase in convention bookings this year.

The CityCenter is a joint venture between MGM and Dubai World. AFP
The CityCenter is a joint venture between MGM and Dubai World. AFP

MGM Resorts International, the Las Vegas casino operator, is hoping to compensate for the troubles associated with its CityCenter project with an increase in convention bookings this year.

Recovering event attendance helped the US$8.5 billion (Dh31.22bn) joint venture with Dubai World post positive cash flow for the first time in the third quarter after losses in the first half of last year.

Convention-related room bookings at MGM Resorts' wholly owned properties are up more than 30 per cent in the first quarter from a year earlier, Jim Murren, the chief executive, told Bloomberg.

MGM has booked almost 1.6 million convention room nights for this year, Mr Murren said.

The casino operator is seeking to refinance CityCenter's $1.8bn loan to extend maturities with a mix of bonds and longer-term bank debt. That process is expected to be completed by the end of the current quarter.

"The partners do not have an appetite to sell any of their equity in CityCenter at this point," Mr Murren said. "When we put a long-term, permanent capital structure in place at CityCenter, that relieves an awful lot of concern investors have had about MGM's potential liability to CityCenter."

CityCenter's jewel is the 4,004-room Aria gaming resort, which opened on December 16. The 27-hectare complex on the Las Vegas Strip also includes a Cirque du Soleil show called Viva Elvis, 2,400 condominiums and luxury non-gaming hotels including Las Vegas' first Mandarin Oriental.

The development was planned during an economic boom in Las Vegas, but as the global financial climate deteriorated, the city's fortunes changed.

Its economy was hit hard by the downturn and unemployment soared, while occupancy levels and expenditure at hotels and casinos plunged.

The revival in convention bookings has seen some confidence return to the sector.

The $300bn-a-year global exhibitions industry showed growth in the three months that ended in September last year after nine quarters of decline, according to the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, which is based in Texas.

UAE-based events organisers have also reported an increase in demand for shows.

"In overall terms, there are signs now of an upturn in sector growth for trade shows," Simon Horgan, the group chief executive of ADNEC, told The National last month.

business@thenational.ae