MGM Resorts Chooses Mississippi For First US Reopening

Casino operator MGM Resorts has chosen Mississippi as the first US state to relaunch operations in which the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure.

MGM revealed on Tuesday that on Monday May 25, it plans to re-open its Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica, Mississippi, with Biloxi’s Beau Rivage Resort & Casino opening its doors on the following Monday , June 1. Ahead of their respective openings, both properties intend to hold invitation-only weekends.

Under the Mississippi Gaming Commission’s reopening plan released last week, all reopened casinos will be limited to 50 percent of their usual size. The MGM casinos will now be subject to the company’s ‘seven-point safety plan,’ which would allow customers to maintain physical distance and wear MGM masks at no expense in some situations – such as gaming tables where physical barriers are not in place.

Each property will also provide a variety of the usual food & drink options, with visitors getting text messaging when their tables are ready to stop waiting at the entrances. All properties do accept room bookings for stays starting from their respective openings.

Bill Hornbuckle, acting CEO of MGM, emphasised that “the health and safety of our guests and employees guides all our decision-making” and MGM personnel “can’t wait” to return to their jobs and welcome customers back to their facilities.

MGM isn’t alone in making a revival. Regional operator Boyd Gaming announced on Monday that it would open its two Mississippi properties on Thursday (21)-IP Casino Resort Spa in Biloxi and Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall in Tunica. Also planning to reopen the local venues this week are Caesars Entertainment, Eldorado Resorts and Penn National Gaming.

Boyd will also open three properties in Louisiana on Wednesday-Delta Downs Racetrack Casino Hotel, Evangeline Downs Racetrack Casino Hotel and Treasure Chest Casino-pending regulatory approval. Both casinos must be subject to ‘Boyd Safe’ guidelines from the corporation to ensure the health and safety of its visitors and employees.

US casino owners have partly ensured their short-term existence through big new debt problems. Boyd shored up his financial balance sheet earlier this month by selling senior notes worth $500 m. MGM raised $750 m a few weeks before via a similar debt offering.

MGM announced on Monday that it has raised another $700 m through the sale of its operating partnership units to MGM Growth Properties, its real estate investment trust. The sale represents 50 per cent of the MGM units that MGP is allowed to purchase under its previous agreement with the casino operator until February 2022.

The $700 m top-up brings cash and equivalents to $5.3b for MGM, which CEO Hornbuckle said will preserve “financial flexibility” for the company in these uncertain times. MGM plans to use the $700 m to repay outstanding amounts from its revolving credit facility.