Las Vegas Sun

September 24, 2018

Currently: 86° — Complete forecast

Q+A: Jim Murren — ‘We came through the worst recession that ever hit Las Vegas’



Jim Murren, CEO and chairman of MGM Resorts International, and Frank Furlan, president of Swatch Group U.S., cut the ribbon at the Tourbillon grand opening on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, at Crystals in CityCenter.

Jim Murren at G2E 2011

Jim Murren, Chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, speaks at this year's G2E at The Venetian Wed Oct. 4, 2011. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

Jim Murren, Cindy Ortega and Guy Laliberte with MGM Resorts International's $1 million donation to One Drop.

Click to enlarge photo

Jim Murren attends the premiere of Cirque du Solei's "Zarkana" in Aria on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012.

Click to enlarge photo

AEG and MGM Resorts International released renderings of their $350 million arena off the Las Vegas Strip.

Click to enlarge photo

AEG and MGM Resorts International released renderings of their $350 million arena off the Las Vegas Strip.

MGM chief Jim Murren is convinced that the worst of bad Las Vegas economic news is now well behind us, and he’s celebrating the comeback. “We came through the worst recession that ever hit Las Vegas,” Jim told me at the opening of the Tourbillon boutique in Crystals at CityCenter.

“We’re finally making money again, so you can call it a celebration of our comeback. We were never down for the count — close, but we’ve now bounced right back up again. This new store and the other high-end successes at Crystals prove it. That’s a very good feeling to have after several dark years.”

But the head honcho of MGM Resorts International says the Las Vegas landscape has changed as a result of the economic downturn that began in 2007. “Gaming revenues will never be the same again,” he admitted.

“The move is far more toward tourism than gaming. The age of visitors has dropped from an average of 51 to 45, and that means more tourist attractions and other nongaming-related options.

“People want experiences. They’re far more spontaneous. People want more social activities, so we are breaking down our exterior walls, and our hotels are becoming more porous. I cannot wait to show the new facades of our Monte Carlo and New York-New York hotels. That’s the next excitement we’ll be unveiling even ahead of the new arena there.

“The outside is coming inside, and the inside is going outside. Visitors don’t want the walls. They want everything melding together. There will be no more closed doors. We will be reimagining all of our resorts because this is what consumers want to experience in the future.”

Jim presided over the opening of Swatch’s new, high-end mega-boutique of timepieces as part of a fundraiser for Cirque du Soleil creator Guy Laliberte’s One Drop clean-water charity.

He told me an emotional story as to why he doesn’t wear a watch. In memory of his brother who he lost to cancer, he instead wears a cancer bracelet in his memory. He said that he’d keep to that but let his wife Heather buy a watch as part of the celebrations of the corporate comeback.

He revealed that his 2014 convention calendar is already 88 percent booked and predicts by the end of January that everything will be sold and booked solid. Jim says companies who have been absent from the Strip the past few years are returning, and there are new conventions. He’s confident that Las Vegas could top a record 41 million visitors in 2014.

In addition to a new $3 billion resort MGM Resorts will open on the Cotai Strip in Macau in 2016, he’s already enjoying regular revenue increases monthly in the casino the company operates there now.

Jim says he’s a big fan of his rival Caesars Entertainment’s new Linq project and the High Roller observation wheel. “That’s going to be a very big draw for the Strip, and, even though it’s operated by our competitor, it will be a great business boost for everybody on the Strip.”

“And the momentum will continue with our new arena and plaza behind New York-New York and Monte Carlo. It only adds to what we already have at our MGM Grand Garden Arena and Mandalay Events Center. It certainly doesn’t take anything away from them. We’ll stop turning away shows because they are filled.

“We’ll be able to offer an additional 100 shows a year right from the start for the Strip‘s music and entertainment components. We’ll also have more sports and more festival events, all of which become updated entertainment attractions for tourists.

“It’s easy to see now that the emphasis will be on tourism and attractions. Las Vegas matures again and still remains on top as the best destination in America — No. 1.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy