Thursday was a day for goodbyes at the meeting of the Nevada Gaming Commission.
The Commission signed off on the exit of Dubai World, an investment arm of Dubai within the United Arab Emirates, after a 14-year 50-50 partnership with MGM Resorts International in the development of CityCenter in Las Vegas.
The Commission also bid a fond farewell to Chairman John Moran, who is leaving after serving for nearly 17 years. First appointed in 2004, Moran has been re-appointed since then by both Democrats and Republicans. He has been acting chairman since 2020 and leaves as the longest tenured member in Commission history. His departure creates a second vacancy on the Commission to be filled by Gov. Steve Sisolak.
“The last two years in gaming for me have been very challenging,” Moran said. “We always hear Nevada is the gold standard and we are the gold standard for all jurisdictions. They look to Nevada and what we’re doing. They looked to us during COVID and looked to us for new concepts and games and other things. We’ve been here the longest and do the right things in gaming, and they recognize that.”
Moran said with the leadership of Gov. Sisolak and Gaming Control Board Chairman J. Brin Gibson, Nevada has survived and prospered during the pandemic. He said difficult decisions were made that protected gaming, saved lives, and helped the community.
“It (the pandemic) isn’t gone, but we have our doors open here, and that wasn’t easy to do,” Moran said. “If you look at July, that was one of the biggest Julys that gaming ever had in the history of the state. That is attributed to us keeping our doors open and to leadership and hard work of gaming employees. They protect the tourists, licensees, employees, and our community. We’re open in Nevada, because of the rapid implementation of protocols, procedures, and emergency orders that all of us don’t like, but recognize as necessary to save lives and necessary to move a direction that’s positive for gaming — our biggest industry.”
As for the other goodbye, the Commission approved MGM buying out Dubai World and the 50% stake it took in the $9 billion CityCenter project in November 2007.
The project consisted of the Aria Resort & Casino, the then-named Mandarin Oriental hotel and condo tower, Veer Towers condos, the Shops at Crystals, and the Vdara condo-hotel. The casino opened in December 2009; Aria and Vdara are what remains of the joint venture.
The departure ended a one-time contentious relationship, which involved a lawsuit against MGM to protect its interests after the Great Recession devastated real estate and the economy and nearly landed the project in bankruptcy. It re-established its firm footing after lenders provided emergency financing to finish the project.
MGM, by acquiring the remaining portion of CityCenter, will sell the assets to Blackstone Real Estate Investment Trust for $3.89 billion, lease it back, and continue to operate the properties for $215 million a year in rent payments. That will be the last ownership stake MGM will have in properties it operates on the Strip.
In Dubai World’s presentation, its counsel, Jeff Silver with Dickinson Wright, thanked the board for its flexibility in finding new ways to regulate the industry. When Dubai World came forward in 2007, the Commission had never approved a country as a licensee.
“The flexibility the Commission chose in handling this particular investment speaks volume as to what Nevada gaming is all about,” Silver said. “It allowed Dubai World to make a substantial investment of $5 billion or more in 2007 right before the Great Recession. That project kept tens of thousands of workers employed for the construction of this facility and gave Las Vegas a shot in the arm at the time it needed it most.”
Commissioner Rosa Solis-Rainey said she appreciated what Dubai World did for the Las Vegas economy. “If you ever want to invest in Nevada, we’re happy to have you,” Solis-Rainey said.
Commissioner Ogonna Brown said Dubai World has been a stellar community partner and, based on their performance, is always welcome back.
Vice Chairman Steve Cohen said he would also welcome Dubai World to revisit Nevada at any time. “You have done a great service and made history,” Cohen said. “We’re cognizant of that.”
Dubai World continues to have hotel holdings in the U.S., but no gaming investments.
This content was originally published here.