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LAS VEGAS-M Resort, a $700-million resort under construction on Las Vegas Boulevard in Henderson, NV, had its gaming license recommended for approval last week by the state Gaming Control Board. The issue is now headed to the state Gaming Commission for final approval later this month or next.

Situated on a hill at Las Vegas Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway, the development is scheduled to open on March 1 with approximately 351 hotel rooms and 39 suites; 90,000 square feet of gaming space; 40,000 square feet of meeting and conference facilities; a 20,000-square-foot spa; a 2.3-acre pool and events area; a wine cellar and tasting room; a top-floor lounge and multiple restaurants. Guests will be able to use loyalty card credits at the pharmacy, convenience store and gas station operations also on the property.

The structures, including a 2,000-slip parking garage, cover about 12 of 95 contiguous acres controlled by M chief executive Anthony Marnell III that have been entitled for 6,000 hotel, condo and condo-hotel units and 1 million square feet of retail. Marnell’s father, Anthony Marnell II, handled the design and construction of M Resort through his firm Marnell Corrao Associates, which previously built Wynn Las Vegas and Bellagio.

The construction lender for the project is the Edinburgh-based Bank of Scotland Plc. MGM Mirage helped kick-start construction with a $160-million investment in the project last spring. The investment, in the form of subordinated note, was eligible for conversion into a 50% equity interest in the M Resort as of October.

Marnell III told GlobeSt.com several months ago that MGM Mirage would indeed become a 50-50 partner in the project. An MGM official last week told GlobeSt.com that the company would make a filing with the SEC if the note is converted and that no such filing has been made.

In December 2007, Marnell III struck a deal with Galaxy Theaters for a 14-screen, 63,000-square-foot theater that is slated open in late 2009 atop the development’s parking garage. In May 2008, during the International Council of Shopping Centers annual convention, Marnell and publicly held Taubman Centers revealed plans to integrate a 1.3-million-square-foot, department store-anchored shopping mall into the resort that would open in 2011 or 2012. That timeline is now up in the air given the recession.

In a conference call with analysts six months ago, Taubman CEO Robert Taubman spoke highly of the retail opportunity at M Resort but also cautioned that it is just one among several planned projects. “Unfortunately, we are not going to be able to build them all,” he said. “Some of them will fall by the wayside.”

In its most recent quarterly report, MGM Mirage reported that the value of its note had decreased 17.5% to $132 million as of the end of September, including accrued interest. No explanation was given for the decrease in value, most of which occurred in 2008. Last month, Fitch Ratings predicted that the casino industry will remain under significant pressure through 2009, with a recovery not likely until 2010. Also that month, MGM Mirage agreed to sell its Treasure Island property on the Las Vegas Strip to improve it liquidity.

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