The recent dismissal of Scott Sibella from Resorts World Las Vegas may bring complications for MGM Resorts International, his previous employer’s, plans to acquire a casino license in New York City.
Resorts World Las Vegas, operated by Genting, relieved Sibella of his duties last week due to alleged policy violations. While yet to be confirmed by the Malaysian gaming giant, it is speculated that the circumstances surrounding Sibella’s exit relate to his supposed involvement in an unlawful sports betting ring during his ten-year tenure as the president of MGM Grand on Las Vegas Strip. Sibella held this role until 2019 before joining Resorts World.
Unidentified sources disclosed to the New York Post that the alleged Sibella scandal could impede MGM’s attempts to secure one of three casino licenses in the New York City region.
In an unforeseen revelation last month, federal authorities began investigations into an illegal sports wagering ring in Nevada, allegedly previously run by ex-minor league baseball player, Wayne Nix. Having pled guilty to a range of charges in April 2022, Nix could face up to eight years in prison for his involvement in the betting cartel said to have operated for two decades. His sentencing is anticipated in March 2024.
In 2022, amid the financially devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York lawmakers approved three downstate casinos, with licenses due for awarding in the following year. Gaming companies are assumed to be competing for a single license, as MGM’s Empire City Casino in Yonkers, and Resorts World New York in Queens, are presumed to be automatically granted two of the licenses.
Ethical conduct is a major factor in the New York casino bidding process. Therefore, Sibella’s alleged transgressions could potentially undercut MGM’s objectives in the city, as his supposed illicit activities occurred during his employment at the gaming company as reported by an anonymous source to the Post.
However, the swift action taken by Resorts World in removing Sibella could serve to assure New York regulators of the Asian company’s prioritisation of ethical practices and integrity. Consequently, the Sibella affair may have more ramifications for MGM in New York than for Resorts World.
Not securing a New York casino license would represent a significant setback for MGM. In January 2019, the gaming company finalised its $850 million purchase of Empire City from the Rooney family, longtime owners of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers. Since then, the casino and racetrack operator has committed substantial capital to prepare for New York’s legalization of sports wagering and, more critically, to strategise for a transition to a conventional casino.
Assuming that the forecasts mentioned in the Post are accurate, a wealth of competitors is ready and waiting to fill the potential void left by MGM. Rival giants such as Bally’s, Caesars Entertainment, Las Vegas Sands, and Wynn Resorts are among those vying for the New York casino licenses. Recent conjecture, presuming Empire City and Resorts World New York would secure two of the licenses, suggests that Sands and Wynn are the top contenders for the remaining license.