Gaming regulators recommend Cosmopolitan for license approval


The $3.9 billion Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas won't be looking to compete for high-end gamblers with Wynn Las Vegas, The Venetian or MGM Grand when it opens to the public on Dec. 15.

But state gaming regulators were told Thursday the once troubled property, which will finally be unveiled after more than five years of construction, would fill an important segment on the Strip when it opens with two-thirds of its hotel rooms.

"We believe there is an opportunity for the Cosmopolitan to operate in the upper tier of the premium luxury segment of the hotel-casinos in Las Vegas," Cosmopolitan Chief Executive Officer John Unwin told the Gaming Control Board in Carson City during a presentation and question-and-answer session that lasted more than 90 minutes.

Unwin said the Cosmopolitan's casino would offer customers some credit play "comparable" to other casinos on the Strip. However, the property won't market to the high-end customers sought by others.

The three-member control board granted Cosmopolitan operators initial approval to open its 150,000-square-foot casino. The Nevada Gaming Commission will act on the recommendation Oct. 21.

Gaming Control Board members said the Cosmopolitan was opening in a tough economy, but commended Germany-based Deutsche Bank for completing the project after acquiring it out of foreclosure in 2008.

Deutsche Bank representatives said the investment firm spent some $2 billion to finish construction of the resort, which sits between CityCenter and Bellagio, keeping some 3,000 construction workers employed. Many analysts have said the Cosmopolitan, once it opens, may be the last new hotel-casino on the Strip for many years.

Control board members said the property's recent deal with Marriott International, which will list the Cosmopolitan as part of the hotel chain's luxury resort Autograph Collection, will benefit the resort.

The move gives the Cosmopolitan access to Marriott's rewards program, considered one of the lodging industry's largest customer databases with more than 32 million members. Marriott will market the Cosmopolitan on its website and on the website of the Ritz-Carlton, a Marriott brand. The relationship allows Marriott customers to use their rewards points at the Cosmopolitan or earn points for their stay.

"The applicants have done their best to prepare to operate in this tough market," Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said.

The Cosmopolitan, which is wholly owned by Deutsche Bank, has 2,995 hotel rooms in two towers. Deutsche Bank is operating the Cosmopolitan through a wholly owned subsidiary.

Cosmopolitan representatives said the project, which includes nearly a dozen restaurants, will open about 2,000 rooms to the public on Dec. 15 and will celebrate its grand opening on New Year's Eve.

Thomas Fiato, a managing director with Deutsche Bank's Americas division, said the financial institution is determined to see the Cosmopolitan become a success since it has funded all of the development.

"We have invested about $4 billion into the Cosmopolitan," Fiato said. "The best decision brought to us was build it and operate it in a world-class way. We're committed to the investment."

The bank took over the half-finished property for $1 billion when New York builder Bruce Eichner, the original developer, defaulted.

Originally, the Cosmopolitan was to include condominiums, but Deutsche Bank canceled sales activities.

Jeff Baer, who oversees global logistics services for Deutsche Bank, said 1,800 condominiums were under contract when the bank took over the project. In April, a settlement was reached with buyers who filed a class action lawsuit in which about 60 percent of their deposits were returned.

Baer told the control board that 216 condominiums remain under contract "and will be delivered to those buyers." The settlement that was reached in April is now "off the table" to those still holding sales contracts."

Unwin told the control board that about 2,200 of the Cosmopolitan's nearly 3,000 hotel rooms have terraces overlooking the Strip. The resort will also have three rooftop pool venues, including one managed by a nightclub operator.

"We put a lot in eight-and-a-half acres," Unwin said of the Stripfront property.

The Cosmopolitan is expected to employ 5,000 workers, which caught Neilander's attention.

"I'm impressed with the application and the property, but you had me when you said 5,000 jobs," Neilander said.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871.

 

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