MGM Resorts hired former Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada as its president of global gambling development on Tuesday. Gov. Sandoval finished his second term as Nevada’s governor earlier this month. He was barred from running for another stint as governor due to term limits.
As the president of global gambling development, Brian Sandoval will focus on winning a casino license in Japan.
During his time as governor, Brian Sandoval was a firm proponent of the gambling industry. The moderate Republican politician signed the MultiState Internet Gambling Association (MSIGA) with Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware, creating an interstate poker compact between the two states. New Jersey later joined the MSIGA.
Sandoval also signed into law a number of pro-gambling initiatives, including laws which legalized skill-based gambling machines and slot machines, eSports betting, and virtual sports betting. He signed a bill which allowed eSports organizers to offer pari-mutuel bets on electronic sporting events.
Gov. Sandoval’s Online Gambling Support
Brian Sandoval championed the original online poker bill which made Nevada the first US state to have legal online gambling. That initiative, along with his support of MSIGA, put Brian Sandoval on a collision course with his own attorney general — as well as casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.
When former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said he supported a 50-state ban on online gambling called Restore America’s Wire Act, Sandoval publicly chastised his AG for going against settled Nevada law. Many saw Laxalt’s position on online gambling as an attempt to win financial support from Sheldon Adelson, the Republican mega-donor who also owns Las Vegas Sands (LVS) Corp. LVS also plans to bid on a Japanese casino license.
MGM Resorts Profile
MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren is a known supporter of Democrat causes. He famously supported former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election, while Adelson was Trump’s biggest contributor.
According to allegations by the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun tribal casino authorities, that did not stop MGM Resorts from lobbying Trump’s choice as Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, for favors. The two Connecticut tribes claim Zinke spoke with lobbyists for MGM Resorts before deciding to reject alterations to the gaming compact between the state of Connecticut and the two tribes.
That decision kept Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods from going forward with their joint venture satellite casino in East Windsor, a suburb of Hartford, Connecticut. Because Hartford is 25 miles away from the MGM Springfield, the two tribes wanted to build a casino in the area to keep Hartford-area residents from playing at MGM Resorts’ brand new casino.
MGM Resorts Japan
MGM Resorts expanded its presence in Japan on November 27 when it signed a partnership deal with Major League Baseball that applies to the United States and Japan. MGM Resorts logos and advertisements will appear on all MLB broadcasts and MLB.com live streams in the USA and Japan.
Securing a license in the Japanese market is considered a key to future growth in the next 10 years by several US and Chinese casino operators. Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, Rush Street Gaming, and Caesars Entertainment have all expressed interest in a Japanese casino license.
Meanwhile, Melco Resorts and Galaxy Entertainment Group are among the Chinese casino companies which want a Japanese casino license. The only major operators in the two countries not in the running appear to be Wynn Resorts, Penn National Gaming, and SJS Holdings — the Chinese operator owned by China’s King of Gambling, Stanley Ho.
Wynn Resorts is wracked by scandal at the moment due to former CEO Steve Wynn’s troubles. Wynn Resorts might not be in the best position to win a Japanese casino license, due to its ties to Japanese casino/pachinko mogul Kazuo Okada. Penn National Gaming is currently in a major expansion in the US gaming market, with billions invested in new acquisitions over the past 12 months. SJS is also undergoing transition, as the nonagenarian Stanley Ho retired last June.
President Bill Hornbuckle in Macau
MGM Resorts also announced on Tuesday that President Bill Hornbuckle will focus more on marketing opportunities in Macau, China’s gaming destination. MGM Resorts owns two properties in the city: MGM Macau and the newer MGM Cotai.
MGM China remains the most important division of the company, because Macau is the largest casino destination city in the world. Last year, Macau generated $37.6 billion in gaming revenue, while the second-largest casino city, Las Vegas, generated an estimated $7 billion.
Bill Hornbuckle Profile
Bill Hornbuckle, who has over 30 years in the casino business, was hired as MGM Resorts’ president in 2012 to help with development and construction in all domestic and international markets. Since he took on the job, Hornbuckle helped MGM Resorts win an important casino license in Western Massachusetts, which became the $960 million MGM Springfield (opened: August 2018).
The company president also helped MGM Resorts win the license for MGM National Harbor, an integrated casino resort located 10 miles from Washington D.C. Hornbuckle also championed the licensing of MGM Cotai, which is the company’s multi-billion dollar entry on the Cotai Strip.