n his first interview since the shooting happened, MGM's CEO Jim Murren addressed the Las Vegas shooting occurred on October 1st: "The first order of business of course was to work with the victims, their families, my employees, the community. It would have been completely inappropriate to talk about bringing that team here or to commercialize any of our venues, theaters, arenas, restaurants."
Later in the interview, Murren spoke his views on the impact that sports and public spaces have on Las Vegas and its businesses. Despite the skepticism of shareholders, Murren says: "Investing in these areas also means investing in Las Vegas, in addition to improving its business prospects. And that is the reason why MGM has just acquired the WNBA's worst performing team from San Antonio, renamed Las Vegas Aces, and is gearing up for an inaugural season in 2018, where the team will play at an arena in Mandalay Bay." The announcement was scheduled to happen at the beginning of October. But it was postponed after a gunman opened fire Oct. 1 on thousands of concertgoers from the Mandalay Bay.
As an example of his views, Vegas witnesses as on any given night when the Knights play at home, the restaurants and bars surrounding the arena fill with locals and visitors, hockey fans and those sampling the sport for the first time. It's a boost to business and the global gaming companies heavily invested in bringing major league sports to town, hoping for a sustained boom for Las Vegas. The Park, a new outdoor dining and entertainment destination near the arena, was conjured as a community gathering spot and created with a more than $100 million investment by MGM.
"We want to make sure that we drive traffic to the whole valley because that benefits MGM. We want to bring incremental traffic," he said. "The goal if you are the home team, as MGM is here, is to drive incremental visitors, not to grab visitors from our competitors, but to bring new visitors to town, because we recognize if we can do that, we're going to get a fair share of their pocketbook when they come."
Historically, sports in Las Vegas meant one-offs, specialized, highly-promoted events. Golf and tennis tournaments, rodeo and bull-riding championships, NASCAR, and especially boxing's prize fights would draw spectators to town and pack them in. But, for generations, the major sports leagues and some gaming authorities resisted locating teams in Las Vegas, worried about the overlap between sports and sports gambling. That has changed as the nation has moved toward wide acceptance of gambling.
"We have 150-thousand rooms to fill every day. So we need to keep finding new markets," said Rossi Ralenkotter, the CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Sports fills the bill.
Visitors spend on average $800 on each trip to Las Vegas, according to Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis. Tourists who come for specific events, he said, tend to spend more, and it all adds up. One NASCAR race alone injects $150 million into the local economy. The NFL stadium being built to host the Raiders is projected to have a $650 million annual impact.
MGM plans on adding their significant entertainment expertise to the game-day programming and creating a family-friendly environment that draws both tourists and locals. "We have an embedded fan base. We have more kids in the Clark County School District than any company," Murren said. "We've got girls that are playing basketball right now in grade school and in high school and in college. These are young ladies that work, that have parents that work for us. It's about community engagement. It's about leadership." he said. "It's about investing and it's about being passionate about sports and for MGM, passionate about women in the workforce, passionate about women succeeding. It's a core value. I think it fits nicely with us."
"We evolve our procedures all the time," he said. "We continue to work very strongly with law enforcement and in the private sector, and we believe that as long as we continue to make that a priority, the focus should be on bringing people together, [creating] a sense of community, not [letting] evil win and [working] on building the shared experience."