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LAS VEGAS-MGM MIRAGE is investing $160 million in M Resort, an 80-acre project here by local investor-developer Anthony A. Marnell III, to whom MGM is selling its two casinos in Laughlin, NV, for $200 million. The M Resort site, located in Henderson, NV, fronts Las Vegas Boulevard about 10 miles south of the six-mile stretch commonly referred to as The Strip.

“(This) is a huge validation of the location, design and master plan,” says Marnell III, son of casino developer and builder Anthony Marnell II, whose firm Marnell Corrao Associates built Wynn Las Vegas and Bellagio and will design and build the M Resort.

MGM’s investment in the planned $1.8-billion, 1,000-room casino-resort and commercial center will be in the form of a subordinated convertible note. The note matures eight years from its effective date and contains certain optional and mandatory redemption provisions. MGM has the right to convert the note into a 50% equity interest in The M Resort after 18 months of the note’s issuance if not repaid.

M Resort will rise in multiple phases, with the $700-million first phase consisting of 400-room resort, a 100,000-sf casino, a 70,000-sf events center, a full-service spa and several restaurants on 40 acres. Planned amenities include an outdoor canyon pool and entertainment venue, oversized guest rooms, suites, a top-of-the-tower lounge and a convention center.

Site work is under way for the project, which will sport an Italian contemporary design. Actual construction is slated to begin in trhe next several weeks. First phase completion is slated for mid-2009. No updated information was provieded regarding the second phase. Previously, plans called for another 1,000 hotel rooms, an unknown amount of retail and approximately 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 fall 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.

Greg Wells, who oversees investments for the Marnell family, told GlobeSt.com last year he is confident 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 locals 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.

Last October, a Marnell III-led group agreed to acquire MGM’s Colorado Belle and Edgewater hotel-casinos on the Colorado River in Laughlin. Greg Wells, who oversees investments for the Marnell family, told GlobeSt.com at that time that an affiliate of Marnell III is acquiring the properties in partnership with an affiliate of Sher Gaming LLC, led by Ed Sher.

Combined, the Edgewater and Colorado Belle 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. In June 2006, the same Marnell-Sher partnership purchased the Saddle West Hotel and Casino in Pahrump, NV, Wells says.

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