1 Apr

MGM bringing Las Vegas Casino to Calgary, Alberta?

Is Las Vegas coming to Canada? Proposal submitted to build $5.1 billion MGM Resort Casino in Calgary, AB.

Las Vegas Coming to Canada? Proposal for MGM Resort Casino in Calgary, AB
Artist rendering of MGM Grand Calgary for proposal depiction; not the final design. (MGM)

The grand city of Calgary, Alberta is in need of cash, and MGM Resorts International has it to spare. The Las Vegas corporation is willing to hand over hundreds of millions in exchange for the city’s and province’s approval on a plan to host a Vegas-style gambling resort.

MGM submitted plans for a massive, fully-integrated Las Vegas casino in Calgary, Alberta. The project, start to finish, including contributions to the city, will cost MGM $5.1 billion. That’s a fine price to pay, but one the Vegas company is readily willing to pay for the contract.

$5.1bn MGM Resort Casino in Calgary, AB

According to the submission by MGM, the new resort would be as grand as any Las Vegas casino. MGM is looking to build a massive entertainment and accommodation package on 22 acres at 1075 Street SE; in the Rivers District just south of Fort Calgary. Its location includes the current site of Calgary Transit’s Victoria Park Garage.

The proposal calls for a grand, international-scale complex that will include:

  • A hotel with 1,450 guest rooms, spanning 3.2 million sq.ft.
  • 60,000 sq.ft. of hotel guest amenities (indoor pool, spa, fitness room, etc.)
  • 120,000 sq.ft. casino floor with 2,000 slot machines and 300 table games.
  • Live event theatre with 1,500 seats.
  • Comedy club theatre with 300 seats.
  • 150,000 sq.ft. of meeting and convention space.
  • 400,000 sq.ft. indoor shopping mall with mid-to-high end shops.
  • 22 restaurants, including a Vegas-style buffet with 500 seats.
  • Underground garage with 4,500 parking stalls.

MGM’s Vision for a Las Vegas Casino in Canada

MGM says the redevelopment of the property will see the resort, casino, restaurants, mall and commercial aspect take shape on the easternmost parcel of the property. It is to be housed within the 40-story, 564-ft tall tower and 8-story podium. Along the river’s edge will be a new public boardwalk, complete with access to restaurants and retail shops. It will also become home to Calgary’s largest outdoor patio, featuring 2,000 seasonal seats outside a 40,000 sq.ft. brewpub.

MGM Golden Lion outside MGM Grand Hotel Las Vegas

And what MGM resort casino would be complete without a massive gold lion? A 40-ft high replica of the famous MGM lion will stand tall along the boardwalk.

On the western side of the plot will stand a trio of towers up to 60 stories in height. The lower three levels will become home to additional restaurant and retail space; the upper levels being reserved for high-end housing units.

MGM Resorts International Chairman Christooh Kerker shares the company’s vision in this morning’s statement:

Our vision for MGM Grand Calgary is to create a world-class entertainment destination that is unique to not only Calgary but Canada. Today’s announcement is the largest step we’ve taken with our development to date, and we are excited for the opportunity to become a member of this community.”

MGM believes the casino resort will become “a new reason to visit Calgary”; a shining “beacon for economic and tourism activity”. Not only that, it will inject $270 million in essential funding into the city’s coffers.

$270 Million PBP for City of Calgary

If the proposal passes all necessary phases of passage, MGM will hand over $270 million to the city. It’s what they call a “public benefits package” (PBP). That money includes $200 million towards sports, events and cultural infrastructure (new NHL arena for the Calgary Flames); $49 million to pay for road infrastructure and utility improvement in and around the property; $10 million to the community’s public art program; a one-time donation of $11 million to Alberta’s gambling addiction programs.

If anything, I see that last bit being an issue of contention. The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLCC) may not be content with a “one time” payment to these programs. In many countries, facilitators of gambling are the largest funders of anti-addiction programs. Odds are, Alberta won’t look kindly on MGM’s proposal to wash their hands of any future obligations.

On the other hand, Alberta is in serious need of MGM’s deep pockets. The casino would guarantee to provide Calgary with at least $90 million in annual revenue. The city’s commercial property values are plummeting, down $14 billion already; a figure that cost the government $250 million last year. Similarly, the AGLCC is reporting gambling revenue on the decline.

If the MGM resort casino in Calgary does get all the necessary approvals, construction could begin early as 2023. That would put the eastern complex on schedule to open in late 2026 to early 2027. As for the western side’s retail and high-end housing, construction would likely take place 2029, dependent on the condition of the housing market.

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