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LAS VEGAS-MGM is selling its Colorado Belle and Edgewater hotel-casinos in Laughlin for $200 million. The locally based casino operator says the buyer is a group led by Anthony Marnell III, who recently received preliminary approvals to build M Resort, a $1.8-billion mixed-use casino, resort and commercial center several miles south of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard. Marnell is the son of casino developer and builder Anthony Marnell II, whose firm Marnell Corrao Associates will design and build the M Resort.

Marnell III, who founded a software company called Tririga, is chairman and CEO of M Resorts. Greg Wells, who oversees investments for the Marnell family, tells GlobeSt.com that the Laughlin resorts were acquired by an affiliate of Marnell III in partnership with an affiliate of Sher Gaming LLC, led by Ed Sher. In June, the same Marnell-Sher partnership purchased the Saddle West Hotel and Casino in Pahrump, Wells says.

The properties Marnell III and Sher are acquiring in Laughlin are both located on the Colorado River. Combined, the properties sit on 57 acres and hold 2,535 guest rooms and 138,000 sf of casino space. MGM acquired the properties in April 2005 as part of its acquisition of Mandalay Resort Group. Upon completion of the transaction, slated for the second quarter of 2007, MGM says it expects to report “a substantial gain.”

The Marnell III’s M Resort project in Las Vegas is slated for 82 acres at the southeast corner of St. Rose Parkway and Las Vegas Boulevard, within the city limits of Henderson. The property received preliminary approvals from Clark County and will go before the Henderson City Council next month.

Marnell II’s firm built Wynn Las Vegas and Bellagio. Marnell II also built and operated the Rio before selling it to Harrah’s for $888 million in 1999. Phase One plans for M Resort include about 1,000 hotel rooms, 135,000 sf of casino space, 100,000 sf of convention space. A second phase would add another 1,000 hotel rooms, an unknown amount of retail and about 1,950 condominiums in multiple mid-rise towers.

Catty corner from the M Resort site, Olympia Gaming is planning to develop Southern Highlands Resort. Olympia received approval for the 100-acre, $2-billion mixed-use project last week from the Clark County Commission. The $750-million first phase is slated to include 600 hotel rooms and an undisclosed amount of retail, entertainment and convention space.

Both resort sites are located south of McCarran International Airport, the opposite direction from the Strip. Wells says the area eventually will grow into one of the most densely populated residential areas of the Las Vegas Valley, which will help it on the local front. The area will also be convenient to the drive-in market thanks to a new freeway interchange at St. Rose Parkway and I-15 that is slated to open next year.

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