Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A little less conversation, a little merger action, please

When KJ and I were in Las Vegas last month, the talk of the town was the impending Federal Trade Commission ruling on the proposed merger between two colossal gaming companies: MGM Mirage, which owns the MGM Grand and Mirage hotels (but of course, you had already sussed that out) as well as the Bellagio and Treasure Island (the latter is, incomprehensibly in my opinion, attempting to persuade visitors to call it simply "TI," which the last I knew was a drink with jam and bread); and Mandalay Resort Group, which owns the Mandalay Bay (no credit for guessing that one), Luxor, Excalibur, and Monte Carlo hotels, in addition to the venerable Circus Circus properties (love the one in Reno, as long as you don't make me eat there; hate the one in Vegas, which has absolutely nothing to recommend it).

Today, the FTC approved the merger.

No surprise to me, really. Las Vegas still has another couple of huge industry players — the Caesars/Harrah's conglomerate, which is still awaiting the FTC's blessing, and Station Casinos, which operates a number of Vegas resorts catering mostly to the local crowd, including Green Valley Ranch, the star of Discovery Channel's documentary series American Casino — in addition to an abundance of smaller gaming outfits. Not to mention the fact that heavy hitter Steve Wynn, who built the Bellagio, Mirage, and the erstwhile Treasure Island before selling out a few years back, is about to open a new megaresort modestly named Wynn Las Vegas.

But it's amazing to think that one company will soon control half the hotel rooms on the Vegas Strip, including three of the four largest hotels in the world (MGM Grand is #1, Luxor #3, Excalibur #4), and about 40 percent of the Strip's slot machines. Those figures give a whole new meaning to the phrase "a chunk of change."

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