New MGM Grand casino planned for Atlantic City

Ken Rosevear's next project, the MGM Grand Atlantic City Casino, could be his most ambitious yet


Jan. 6--LAS VEGAS -- Ken Rosevear has spanned the globe in his many searches for the next casino hot spot.

And when he finds such a spot, MGM Mirage's president of development likes to go over the top. Way over the top.

"It's not just about building them and they will come," Rosevear said. "You have to build them beyond expectation."

He has developed 29 casinos worldwide. Among his credits: New York New York in Las Vegas, Monte Casino in Johannesburg, South Africa, and MGM Grand Macao in South China.

His next project, on a 72-acre parcel in Atlantic City's Marina District -- the $5 billion MGM Grand Atlantic City Casino -- could be his most ambitious.

"It must be a postcard," Rosevear said during a recent interview inside an executive conference room at the MGM-owned Bellagio that was papered with renderings of his new Atlantic City extravaganza.

His goal: "To make an iconic building that will be recognized as the new skyline of Atlantic City," he said.

For the first time publicly, Rosevear went into detail about what $5 billion affords.

He said the Atlantic City casino is on a similar scale with MGM's $7.8 billion CityCenter complex, which is under construction on the Las Vegas Strip, not too far from Rosevear's Bellagio office.

MGM Grand Atlantic City will be Y-shaped -- like the Mirage, Mandalay Bay and Monte Carlo casinos in Las Vegas -- a shape most noticeable in an aerial view.

It will incorporate design features of other Rosevear-developed casinos. For instance, the casino will have a circular floor plan -- like his New York New York casino -- to keep foot traffic moving.

The golden hues of the three towers will be graduated, the bands of color narrowing as they go up, "as if disappearing into the sky," Rosevear said. Just like the MGM Grand Macao.

But unique to MGM Grand Atlantic City will be a spa rising 450 feet above the ground that links all three towers. Rosevear said such a design "will allow people to walk to the spa directly from the towers." The spa will be two levels with a 360-degree view.

"The idea is to make MGM Grand Atlantic City three times bigger and make it taller, with a combination of permanent and moving shows . . . so that it's an ever-changing, must-see spectacle," he said. "To take it to a new level."

The opulence of MGM Grand Atlantic City and CityCenter speaks to the continuing strength of the casino industry and the unabated national and international spending sprees among some major U.S. gaming companies despite a gloomy economy.

Casino companies that were not acquired by private-equity firms in leveraged buyouts and had their balance sheets burdened with large amounts of debt "have a lot of capacity to develop in good markets where they find opportunity," said Andrew Zarnett of Deutsche Bank AG. "They are able to do $5-billion-type developments at the same time the economy is contracting or getting weaker."

Much of the cash for this came from foreign capital, which flooded into the United States because of the dollar's weakness, noted Adam Steinberg, a gaming analyst with Morgan Joseph & Co. Inc., of New York. The Bloomberg Gaming Industry Index, which measures the performance of casino company stocks, showed they gained nearly 7 percent in 2007, despite a steep November swoon. The S&P 500 index gained 3.5 percent for the year.

MGM Mirage is a major recipient of foreign investment. Dubai World -- a holding company for the Persian Gulf state of Dubai that last year acquired department store Barneys New York Inc. from Jones Apparel Group Inc., of Bristol, Bucks County, for $825 million -- is investing more than $5 billion in MGM Mirage.

In October, Dubai World acquired about $1.2 billion of MGM stock; in November, it paid $2.7 billion for a 50 percent stake in the CityCenter project; and in December, it acquired an additional five million shares of MGM stock for $424 million. And it plans to buy more.

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