MGM Mirage Exec Blasts NBA All-Star Game For Hurting Earnings

Thursday, May 3rd 2007, 8:27 pm
By: News On 6

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ MGM Mirage Inc.'s chief executive said Thursday that the NBA All-Star game potentially hurt its earnings and soured the company on a franchise coming to Las Vegas.

Terry Lanni made the comment after the company, which owns the most casinos of any operator on the Las Vegas Strip, reported first-quarter earnings that fell below analyst forecasts, sending MGM Mirage shares down more than 4 percent. They rebounded 2.4 percent in after-hours trading.

The company said the earnings shortfall was partially due to the rowdy crowd that surrounded the NBA All-Star game in February, which fell on the same weekend as Chinese New Year, a crucial period for bringing in high-rollers from Asia.

``The gang-bangers and others who came for purposes other than attending the game, they weren't very good for Las Vegas,'' Lanni told The Associated Press.

Lanni said there was little action on the gambling tables the day of the game.

``In talking to our casino hosts, a number of people stayed in their villas and suites. They felt uncomfortable,'' he said.

Excluding Beau Rivage, which opened in Mississippi in August, quarterly casino revenues slipped 6 percent from a year ago, and table game revenue, including the baccarat game that Asian players favor, fell 7 percent.

There was a spike in arrests and complaints about rowdy behavior during All-Star weekend. Five people were shot, including three outside a strip club. Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam ``Pacman'' Jones and two friends are being investigated for their roles in an earlier brawl at the club. The NFL suspended Jones for the season, but he has appealed.

Las Vegas is interested in landing an NBA franchise, and commissioner David Stern recently said a committee of owners will review the proposal Mayor Oscar Goodman submitted to the league.

``Mr. Stern can keep his basketball franchises out of Las Vegas as far as I'm concerned,'' Lanni said.

Lanni later backed away from those comments, with MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman saying his complaints ``only meant to refer to the All-Star game.''

Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid, who worked with Goodman on the proposal, said Lanni made his concerns abundantly clear even before the pitch was sent to Stern last month.

``Frankly, it's a concern if a company like that has concerns on that scale,'' Reid said. ``It's obviously something that we'll have to address if we're going to move forward.''

He also said he and the mayor tried to reassure Lanni that having a team based in Las Vegas might not cause the same trouble as a single, high-profile event.

``That was one game on one weekend,'' Reid said. ``If there were 41 games here, it may be different, but I don't know.''

Goodman said having a team cheered on by local fans would be vastly different from the rowdy tourist spectacle that the All-Star weekend became.

``There's a big difference between out-of-towners coming to Las Vegas to party and locals going to a ball game,'' he said. ``The crowd that was disruptive is different from loyal Las Vegas fans who back their home team.''