MGM Open to Casino Opportunities in Thailand, UAE, Says CEO Bill Hornbuckle

Posted on: March 15, 2024, 12:03h. 

Last updated on: March 15, 2024, 10:55h.

The United Arab Emirates is a “fascinating” jurisdiction, and Thailand could be a market that MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM) eventually pursues, according to CEO Bill Hornbuckle.

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MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle, seen here in 2020, is optimistic about New York, and open to pursuing casinos in Thailand and the UAE. (Image: Bloomberg)

He made remarks to that effect Thursday at the J.P. Morgan Gaming, Lodging, Restaurant & Leisure Management Access Forum. In a conversation with J.P. Morgan analyst Joseph Greff, Hornbuckle reiterated that MGM’s hotel in Dubai will be a nongaming venue, but noted that the company could pivot if the UAE approves casino gaming regulations.

And then we would hope either through an opportunity in Abu Dhabi, which is something we will understand and pursue, or in Dubai. We will go after one, realizing and recognizing that the ruler of each Emirate has to approve that. And so that is how that works,” Hornbuckle told Greff.

Hornbuckle noted that should the UAE approve wagering, it will likely start with a lottery. That’s before moving to digital betting in Abu Dhabi and then signing off on Wynn Resorts’ (NASDAQ: WYNN) casino plan at Wynn Al Marjan Island.

‘Ideally Positioned’ in New York

In New York, where MGM operates the Empire City racino in Yonkers, Hornbuckle believes the operator is “ideally positioned” to win one of the three downstate casino permits state regulators will eventually award.

That jibes with frequent speculation that Empire City and Resorts World New York in Queens are in prime positions to capture two of those three licenses. But when that becomes official is up in the air. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) budget doesn’t include revenue from the licensing fees the winning bidders would pay to the state, stirring speculation that it could be 2025 before bidders know their New York fates.

“We hope this summer to hear something,” noted Hornbuckle. “As you know, there was two rounds of questions. and the trigger on the second round, meaning when we get answers back to our questions, triggers a 90-day request for proposal (RFP) process. We’re waiting on that. We have decent reason to believe that sometime this spring, we’ll get those and we’ll get ourselves going.”

He added that if MGM wins a downstate license in New York, it hopes to break ground on an expanded Empire City in mid-2026.

Kicking Tires on Thailand

News emerged earlier this week that a Thai House of Representatives committee could advance a report endorsing casinos in the country, and Hornbuckle told Greff that MGM already has government relations personnel in the country.

He cautioned that the concept of casino gaming in Thailand is in its early stages, and that MGM’s potential pursuit of a license will center in part on the strength of government regulations.

“We’re like everyone. There’s a host of the usual characters poking around. Looking for sites, looking for partners,” said Hornbuckle.