MGM targets Mississippi for first US casino reopening, raises $700m via MGP sale


Casino operator MGM Resorts has targeted Mississippi as the first US state in which to relaunch operations that were forced to close by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, MGM announced plans to reopen its Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica, Mississippi on Monday, May 25, with Biloxi’s Beau Rivage Resort & Casino throwing open its doors the following Monday, June 1. Both properties plan to hold invitation-only weekends ahead of their respective openings.

Under the reopening plan announced last week by the Mississippi Gaming Commission, all reopened casinos will be limited to 50% of their normal capacity. The MGM casinos will also be subject to the company’s ‘seven-point safety plan,’ which will require customers to observe physical distancing and, in some cases – such as gaming tables at which physical barriers aren’t in place – wear masks provided by MGM at no cost.

Each property will also offer a selection of their normal food & beverage offerings, with guests receiving text messages when their tables are ready to avoid congregating at the entranceways. Both properties are also accepting room reservations for stays starting according to their respective openings.

MGM acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle emphasized that “the health and safety of our guests and employees guides all of our decision-making” and MGM staff “can’t wait” to get back to doing their jobs and welcoming customers back to their facilities.

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

On Wednesday, Boyd will also open three Louisiana properties – Delta Downs Racetrack Casino Hotel, Evangeline Downs Racetrack Casino Hotel and Treasure Chest Casino – pending regulatory approval. All the casinos will be subject to the company’s ‘Boyd Clean’ protocols for ensuring the health and safety of its guests and staff.

US casino operators have been ensuring their short-term survival in part through major new debt issues. Earlier this month, Boyd shored up its financial balance sheet by offering $500m of senior notes. A few weeks prior, MGM raised $750m via a similar debt offering.

On Monday, MGM announced it had raised a further $700m through the sale of its operating partnership units to its real estate investment trust MGM Growth Properties. The sale represents 50% of the MGM units that MGP is allowed to purchase through February 2022 under its previous agreement with the casino operator.

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