MGM Secures Regulatory OK for Buyout of CityCenter Stake

Casino and hospitality powerhouse MGM Resorts International last week cleared the first of two regulatory hurdles related to the recently announced buyout of a 50% stake in CityCenter in Las Vegas from Dubai World.

After a 15-minute hearing, members of the Nevada Gaming Control Board last Wednesday unanimously voted in favor of the transaction.

CityCenter is a sprawling 16.8-million-square-foot complex that includes Aria Resort & Casino, Vdara Hotel & Spa, the Veer Towers condominium complex, Waldorf Astoria, and the Crystals retail mall, among other venues. It was launched in late 2009.

Following the recent Nevada Gaming Control Board approval, MGM now needs the transaction to be given the nod by the Silver State Gaming Commission. That regulator is expected to consider the deal at a September 23 meeting.

If commission members vote in favor of the transaction, MGM expects to close it by the end of September.

The company announced that it would buy out the remaining 50% stake in its CityCenter joint venture from a unit of its partner, Dubai World, in July. The casino giant is set to pay $2.12 billion to assume full control over the luxury complex located in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip.

Blackstone to Purchase Vdara and Aria

During last week’s hearing, MGM informed Nevada gaming regulators that it would establish two separate property companies for Aria and Vdara as part of the previously announced sale of the casino resort and the non-gaming hotel to New York-based buyout firm Blackstone Group.

Blackstone has agreed to pay $3.89 billion for the two properties. The private equity firm will then lease them back to MGM for an initial annual rent of $215 million. The sale of the two resorts is expected to close by the end of this quarter.

The deal is part of MGM’s asset-light strategy which the company started around five years ago as it looks to maximize revenue and explore other investment opportunities, including sports betting and expansion in Japan’s nascent casino market.

When the sale of Vdara and Aria is completed, all of MGM’s Las Vegas resorts will be owned either by Blackstone or by MGM Growth Properties, a real estate investment trust that spun off from MGM in 2016.

MGM Springfield, one of Massachusetts’ two commercial casino complexes, will remain the sole US property currently owned by MGM after the above transaction is finalized. The company’s CFO, Jonathan Halkyard, told Nevada Gaming Control Board members last week that they plan to sell that property to a REIT by the end of 2021, subject to approval from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

Source: Control Board recommends approval of MGM’s buyout of CityCenter, Las Vegas Review-Journal, September 8, 2021

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