MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle Says Las Vegas ‘On Fire’

Posted on: June 4, 2021, 10:47h. 

Last updated on: July 6, 2021, 06:00h.

MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle says business in Las Vegas — the casino operator’s most critical market — is back.

MGM Resorts Bill Hornbuckle Las Vegas
MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle elbow bumps a patron last year. The gaming executive says Las Vegas has returned with a vengeance. (Image: Getty)

Speaking at the Bernstein 37th Annual Strategic Decisions Conference, Hornbuckle said he’s impressed with the return of visitors to Southern Nevada. Tourism numbers during the recent Memorial Day holiday, the unofficial start to summer, were robust. 

“We are literally on fire in Las Vegas right now,” Hornbuckle said. “What’s fascinating to me is people’s propensity to gamble is higher than we’ve ever seen. In 17 of our 18 properties, we broke slot records.”

Hornbuckle revealed that MGM’s hotel rooms on the Las Vegas Strip were more than 90 percent occupied during the three-day holiday weekend.

We’re back with a vengeance,” the chief executive declared.

MGM is the largest operator of Strip casinos. While two of the company’s main competitors — Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts — make more of their revenue in Macau, Las Vegas remains MGM’s largest source of income.

iGaming Cash Cow

Speaking with Bernstein gaming analyst Vitaly Umansky, Hornbuckle said that sports betting is a marketing gold mine. But it’s online casino gambling that will prove more fiscally important to the gaming industry.

“The real value to this business [online gaming] and the economic opportunity is in iGaming,” Hornbuckle explained. “Sports is going to create, and has created, a great deal of momentum, and we know there’s long-term value in that. But I think iGaming becomes the economic secret to this business.”

BetMGM is MGM Resorts’ iGaming and mobile sports betting app. BetMGM’s sportsbook is operational in 10 states. BetMGM’s online casino is live in each of the five states that have such legal internet slots and table games — Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan. 

Brick-and-Mortar Not Threatened

Online casinos and mobile sports betting blossomed during the pandemic. But casino execs aren’t worried that the 2020 mass gambler exodus to online channels will impact brick-and-mortar business in the post-pandemic world. 

Umansky asked the MGM boss if online gaming will cannibalize land-based casino revenues.

I have zero concerns,” Hornbuckle answered. “I’ve heard this argument all the way back to riverboats. Having always been based in Las Vegas, always been an operator of these large-scale resorts, it continues to grow every single year, by and large, over the last 20 years.”

Hornbuckle’s predecessor, Jim Murren, shared a similar sentiment regarding sports betting. He made that clear after the US Supreme Court in May of 2018 tossed out the federal ban on such gambling that had previously limited it primarily to Nevada. The former MGM CEO predicted that the expansion of sports betting would be similar to casinos proliferating in nearly every state in the nation.

“People want to go to the market leader,” Murren said in 2018. “Las Vegas is the undisputed leader.”