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MGM CEO plans for Aria reopening; new mobile check-in to stay

Updated June 4, 2020 - 2:04 pm

Dozens of guests flooded into Bellagio at 10 a.m. Thursday, cheering as they pushed through front doors that had been closed for more than two months.

As MGM Resorts International President and acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle took in the scene, he recalled the property’s original opening day in 1998.

“It’s been amazing. I can remember the day this property opened … it felt the same (today),” he said.

There were some key differences this time around, including thermal checks, face masks and social distancing reminders spread across the property.

Hornbuckle said some of the new standards — such as using QR codes and mobile devices to check in — are here to stay.

“We have 4,000 guest rooms here,” he said. “There’s no way from time to time to avoid lines. So our ability to help make that more efficient people for people who want to use (mobile check in), and I think they will … is very productive.”

Hornbuckle said he is excited MGM can welcome back employees and guests after having its Las Vegas casinos shuttered for 11 weeks.

“This has been emotional for everybody. We went through a lot (during the shutdown),” he said.

According to company regulatory filings, MGM had roughly 70,000 full-time and part-time domestic employees as of Dec. 31. The company has furloughed nearly 63,000 workers because of shutdowns.

The operator has called back “several thousand” employees, and Hornbuckle said he hopes to bring back 50 percent to 60 percent of hourly staff members by the end of summer.

“We’ll just have to see how the business ramps and go from there,” he said.

The company has started preparing for its next phase of reopenings: Excalibur is set for June 11, and Hornbuckle hopes to reopen Aria before Fourth of July weekend.

After that, Hornbuckle said, MGM will “take a deep breath” before continuing to roll out its remaining four Las Vegas properties — Park MGM, Luxor, The Mirage and Mandalay Bay — “hopefully” on a monthly or biweekly basis into the rest of the summer.

“But again, it’s one step at a time,” Hornbuckle warned. “We’re going to be patient; it is about doing this correctly and doing it safely first and foremost.”

The additional reopening announcements come as casino operators and experts have pointed to visitor demand surpassing initial expectations. At Bellagio, Thursday’s crowd featured a mix of locals, drive-in and fly-in guests.

Hornbuckle said the resort has seen “large demand” from Southern California drive-in traffic in particular.

“A great deal of our casino customers are just anxious to get back into play,” he said. “We know the first couple of weekends are going to be crowded in that context.”

While initial demand has “been good,” Hornbuckle said the city’s tourism industry still has a long way to go, with its resurgence dependent on factors such as the airlines’ success and its ability to bring back group business and large-scale events.

Until then, Hornbuckle said, he plans to take on reopenings one step at a time, with a focus on staff and guest safety.

“Coming to Las Vegas, it’s a bet to begin with, in terms of the very nature of what we do. I don’t want their safety to be a bet,” he said. “Done safely, it’s still Vegas, and I think they’ll enjoy it. … We think we can provide an amazing experience for all of our customers, and over time, we’ll bring Las Vegas back to life.”

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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