On March 1, M Resort Chief Executive Anthony Marnell will throw open the doors to his $1 billion hotel-casino and watch what happens.
To say that the timing for opening a new resort is not ideal is a vast understatement, as a recession unlike anything experienced since the Great Depression holds the nation in its grips. Marnell is realistic about the short-term prospects for the Las Vegas property but optimistic that M Resort will get its fair share of the market.
The property, located on the far south end of Las Vegas Boulevard, benefits from a higher elevation, affording spectacular Strip skyline views. It offers 390 guest rooms and suites, 1,800 slots and 60 tables, a sports book, nine restaurants, a wine cellar, a live-action buffet, spa and conference space. M Resort also is offering a gas station and an pharmacy. Casino Journal caught up with Marnell about six weeks before the property’s opening.
M Resort is opening at a difficult time. How will it compete?
Marnell: We’re building a model that is just very service- and value-oriented and trying to offer that in a fantastic physical plant. And that’s really all we can do. I’m confident that we will get more than our fair share of the market and that we will be able to contribute in some way to growing the market on the south Strip. At the end of the day, all we can do is put our best foot forward and our best product forward and try to put it forward at a price that’s very value-oriented but still allows us to make a profit.
Will being the newest property give you a big boost?
I think that we get a boost for sure. How long that boost lasts, I don’t know. I think the momentum of new properties is fairly short-lived. And I have no doubt that there are a lot of people who will come see the M. The question is will we be able to do our job and bring them back. So we’ll be into immediate retention mode the minute that we open.
One silver lining has to be a large applicant pool to draw from.
The hiring has been fantastic. I believe we have all of our offer letters out, and we’re fully hired. I think we had 38,000 applications when we shut off the Web site in October. We probably would have gotten up to 50,000 if we had left it on. But the hiring has gone very well; we have a very, very good team.
Have you scaled back projections for the short and long term?
We have scaled back projections, and we’ve cut them back actually quite dramatically. As far as projections going forward, we’ve also scaled those back as well. It’s going to be a very long recession. It’s going to get deeper and tougher. And I think sometime in 2010, we’ll probably start to see some recovery or at least some flattening out.
How did you come up with M’s differentiating features?
We just looked at the competitive set and what we wanted to be. We’ve really just tried to change that whole experience, to make it feel like it’s just this desert oasis with this very clean warm architecture. I think when people walk in, they’ll feel open and warm and relaxed. We have some cool stuff as far as entertainment and food and beverage awareness. Really branding the M as a really cool place to be with great food and beverage programs. We have a fantastic slot floor. We have a great club with a lot of flexibility, more so than anything that I’ve seen in the market, by offering all the different little goodies that we’ve got as far as[using loyalty points at] the gas station and the pharmacy. I think we’re putting a really good foot forward.
And you’ve added other signature features as well?
We’ve got the wine cellar offering the consumer more choices. It’s broken down to by-the-glass, even by-the-ounce offerings. You don’t have to buy the bottle. You don’t even have to buy the full glass. I did it to offer the consumer just a ton of choices and options. I thought it was cool and hip. And it’s priced right and I think people are just going to love it.
We’ve also put a restaurant on top of the tower. Not a high-end, fancy, very expensive restaurant. It’s a very cool, clean atmosphere, with lots of fun food, built for the local clientele.