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MGM selling Tunica property to Cherokee Nation Entertainment

Updated June 9, 2022 - 4:42 pm

MGM Resorts International is selling its Tunica, Mississippi, property to Cherokee Nation Entertainment Gaming Holdings for $450 million.

The 32-story Gold Strike Tunica, which MGM has operated since the company purchased it in 2005, is one of two resorts the Las Vegas company owns in Mississippi. The company indicated Thursday it would continue to operate Beau Rivage, its resort on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Biloxi.

Based in Catoosa, Oklahoma, Cherokee Nation Entertainment, a subsidiary of Cherokee Nation Businesses, operates 10 casinos across northeast Oklahoma, including Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Tulsa.

‘Bright future ahead’

The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2023 and is subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.

“Gold Strike is a wonderful property with a bright future ahead,” MGM President and CEO Bill Hornbuckle said in a release announcing the sale. “Strategically, though, we decided to narrow our focus in Mississippi to a single resort — Beau Rivage — and dedicate more of our time and resources towards continuing to drive success at that leading, world-class resort and casino.”

Gold Strike technically is owned by real estate investment trust Vici Properties Inc. and operated by MGM. Vici has been asked to amend the lease agreement with Cherokee Nation Entertainment which will include reducing the rent by $40 million a year. MGM expects net cash proceeds after taxes and estimated fees to be about $350 million.

“This is a great outcome for the company as we are able to reprioritize future capital expenditures toward opportunities that will enhance the customer experience at our other locations,” said Jonathan Halkyard, MGM’s chief financial officer and treasurer. “We appreciate Vici, as the real estate owner of Gold Strike, working constructively with CNE to facilitate a new lease agreement.”

MGM said for the 12 months that ended Dec. 31, Gold Strike reported net income of $81.1 million and adjusted property cash flow of $115 million, reflecting benefits from market-specific factors in the last year. Pre-pandemic, Gold Strike reported adjusted property cash flow of $67 million in 2019.

Circus Circus Enterprises opened the Gold Strike in August 1994 as Circus Circus Tunica. Like the Circus Circus property in Las Vegas, the Mississippi property, located about 20 minutes south of Memphis, Tennessee, was themed as a giant circus tent.

Once Mississippi’s tallest building

In 1997, Circus Circus invested $125 million in the property, adding a hotel tower and rebranding the casino as the Gold Strike.

When MGM, then known as MGM Mirage, acquired the property, it invested more money in it, building out 1,133 rooms and 125 suites, a conference and convention center, a high-limit gaming area and several restaurants.

When built, the hotel, known as the “gold tower,” was the tallest building in Mississippi.

Today, the property houses a spa and salon; the 800-seat Millennium Theater; and 50,000 square feet of gaming space with 52 table games and more than 1,400 slot machines.

Cherokee Nation Entertainment is the gaming and hospitality company of the Cherokee Indian tribe. The company owns and operates Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa and nine tribal casinos, including a horse-racing track, three resort hotels, three golf courses and other retail operations.

Cherokee Nation Businesses is the tribally owned holding company of the largest Indian nation in the United States. The Cherokee Nation and its businesses employ 11,000 people. CNB owns companies in the consulting, health sciences, hospitality, real estate, technology, distribution and logistics, engineering, manufacturing, construction and environmental services industries.

MGM making moves

MGM is in the midst of several property transactions.

It recently acquired The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas from the Blackstone Group for $1.625 billion in a deal that closed on May 17.

MGM is selling The Mirage to Hard Rock International, operated by Florida’s Seminole Indian Tribe. MGM announced in December that Hard Rock would buy The Mirage for $1.075 billion and convert it to a Hard Rock property, complete with a guitar-shaped hotel tower replacing the resort’s signature volcano.

Carlo Santarelli, a gaming industry analyst in the New York office of Deutsche Bank, said he views the Gold Strike Tunica transaction as “largely equity value neutral.

“Relative to 2021 results, the sale will extract roughly $115 million of cash flow, $40 million of annual rent, and $320 million of capitalized lease debt,” Santarelli said in a report to investors.

When the transaction is looked at in its entirety, in exchange for the $115 million of cash flow, Santarelli said, MGM is getting $450 million of gross cash proceeds ($350 million net cash proceeds) and debt (capitalized rent) relief of $320 million, or, total gross proceeds of $770 million.

“Thus, in its entirety, based on 2021 results, which were inflated, MGM is exiting the asset at a multiple of 6.7 times 2021 cash flow, or 8.5 times the average cash flow from 2019 and 2021,” Santarelli said.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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