2011 hasn't exactly been kind to MGM Resorts (NYSE: MGM). The company's stock is down almost 40% year to date, Las Vegas hasn't recovered as some have hoped, and even an online gaming bill that would be a boon for the company appears to be stalled.

But in less than two weeks we flip the calendar to 2012, a year that may hold some positives for MGM.

Las Vegas comeback
Gaming hasn't come back to anywhere near 2007 levels, which has been a drag on every casino on the Strip. But travelers are coming back to Las Vegas in nearly record volumes, with over 39 million people expected by the end of the year, just short of 2007's record. Convention business has been strong and nongaming revenue is up at most resorts.

As the economy slowly recovers, I expect this trend to continue benefiting MGM, Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS), and Wynn Resorts (Nasdaq: WYNN). Gaming won't likely jump forward next year, but resorts have always found new ways to help patrons part with their dollars, even if it means more nongaming growth. And any growth is good for Las Vegas right now.

Dreaming of Cotai
MGM's development on Cotai has been a dream for investors for a long time, but in 2012 not only should we get to see what it looks like, but construction will likely begin in earnest. The development sandwiched between Melco Crown's (Nasdaq: MPEL) City of Dreams, Las Vegas Sands' Cotai Central, and Wynn's new resort has one of the best locations in Macau, and once it's finished should drive the company's growth in Macau.

It will be years until the resort is finished, but after the year MGM has had in 2011, any progress is good news.

The best hope for MGM
Many of us who follow gaming and play cards are hoping that 2012 is the year that Congress finally passes legislation on online gaming. There is bipartisan support but it's been stalled in Congress for months.

If something does pass, it would possibly be the best thing for MGM since getting a gaming concession in Macau.

Foolish bottom line
I haven't been high on MGM's stock for a long time, and unless the online gaming law changes, that won't likely change in 2012. But progress on Cotai and in Las Vegas could go a long way to swaying my opinion.

Interested in reading more about MGM Resorts? Click here to add it to My Watchlist, which will find all of our Foolish analysis on this stock.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.