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Why MGM Resorts Is Selling a Las Vegas Icon

By Travis Hoium – Dec 22, 2021 at 8:30AM

Key Points

  • MGM Resorts is selling The Mirage to Hard Rock International for $1.1 billion in cash.
  • This puts MGM's square focus on the south side of the Las Vegas Strip, where it controls most of the area's resorts.
  • Long-term, the goal is to generate synergies between a critical mass of resorts and the company's digital offerings.

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The Mirage defined more than a generation of resorts on the Las Vegas Strip and now it's finding a new owner.

The Mirage is arguably the most influential resort and casino in the history of Las Vegas. When Steve Wynn built the resort, people thought he was crazy given the property's sheer size and its need to generate $1 million per day in revenue just to stay afloat. But it became an icon and a template for building a mega-resort in Las Vegas. 

Last week, MGM Resorts (MGM 2.06%) announced that it is selling The Mirage to Hard Rock International for $1.1 billion in cash. Details about future developments aren't final, but the property could get a guitar-shaped hotel as Hard Rock puts its spin on the property. The sale is a bit of a surprise, and it's what the deal says about MGM Resorts' long-term strategy that's most interesting. 

Las Vegas Strip at night.

Image source: Getty Images.

MGM sells out of the north side

The center of gravity for MGM Resorts has always been the south side of the Las Vegas Strip. Until recently, however, the company had competitors in-between some of its properties. It didn't own the Cosmopolitan and only owned half of CityCenter. In 2021, it acquired all of those properties and now controls almost all of the land from the Bellagio to Mandalay Bay, plus MGM Grand's enormous complex across the street. 

While betting on the south side of the Las Vegas Strip, MGM has been selling out of the north side for more than a decade. It sold Treasure Island when the recession hit in 2008 and sold Circus Circus for $825 million in 2019. That left just The Mirage as a major asset on the north side, and it is now being sold. 

Consolidating to one side of the Las Vegas Strip makes sense. There should be synergies between the critical mass of properties for this entertainment stock, which should help it keep customers in its properties for longer periods. 

How MGM Resorts unlocks its value

There are two primary customer segments on the Las Vegas Strip. The first is vacationers, who primarily visit on weekends. Having properties near each other that share a rewards system and can cross-sell experiences could help the company keep revenue in the MGM ecosystem. MGM is also part-owner of the T-Mobile Arena, which sits behind New York-New York in the heart of the company's properties and hosts hundreds of events every year. On weekends, MGM is well-positioned to be a go-to location for consumers. 

During the week, conventions are the money makers. MGM doesn't have the biggest spaces, which are on the north side at the Las Vegas Convention Center and Sands Expo with 3.2 million and 2.25 million square feet, respectively. But MGM owns Mandalay Bay Events Center at 1.8 million square feet and fairly large spaces in CityCenter and MGM Grand at 500,000 and 380,000 square feet, respectively. These spaces can bundle hotel, restaurant, and entertainment offerings for guests, keeping properties busy all week. 

The digital tie for MGM Resorts

Let's not forget that MGM Resorts' online betting business, called BetMGM, is gaining market share in the U.S. and could be another driver to the company's properties. M life Rewards, MGM's rewards program, has partnered with BetMGM to allow wagers online to earn real-world benefits. 

Tying a critical mass of properties with a popular online gambling platform could be a key to long-term growth for MGM Resorts. On top of that potential, MGM is already performing better than you may think financially. The pandemic was rough, but looking at quarterly revenue and earnings numbers below, you can see that MGM has recovered most of what it lost -- EBITDA and net income below includes a one-time $1.56 billion gain on consolidating CityCenter in the third quarter of 2021. Operations appear to be leaner than they were before the pandemic. 

MGM Net Income (Quarterly) Chart

MGM Net Income (Quarterly) data by YCharts.

I think MGM is well-positioned to win in both the digital and real-world gambling markets, and a focus on the critical mass of casinos on the south side of the Las Vegas Strip looks like a wise move long-term. 

Travis Hoium owns MGM Resorts International. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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