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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

Q and A with M Resort President Anthony Marnell III

1 April 2013

LAS VEGAS -- In baseball, it’s often said that catchers make the best managers.

Catchers control the game on the field and are involved in many key decisions.

M Resort President Anthony Marnell III understands the concept.

A standout high school catcher at Bishop Gorman, Marnell went on to play collegiate baseball at the University of Arizona. He was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 1995 and played three years of minor league baseball before injuries ended his brief career.

The son of casino building pioneer Tony Marnell II, the younger Marnell found success off the baseball diamond in business.

He helped open the Rio, which was built by his father, before the casino was acquired by Harrah’s Entertainment. Marnell was involved in technology companies before returning to gaming.

In 2009, he opened M Resort, a nearly $1 billion hotel-casino development he helped design.

The economic downturn and bank-directed reorganization, however, led to regional casino giant Penn National Gaming taking control of M Resort in October 2011.

Marnell struck a deal with Penn to remain in charge of the property as president.

Baseball, he said, helped him weather the challenging negotiations with the banks.

Did your athletic endeavors help you in business?

Baseball is a game of failure. In baseball, with every single pitch, someone fails. You have to learn to deal with that adversity. As a catcher, you’re in charge of what’s going on, so you can’t quit. That experience helped me in dealing with the banks. I never gave up until it was over, even though I probably realized I wasn’t going to win. In the end, we’ve turned it into a positive experience. The M is doing very well financially.

You are one of the few gaming executives who is publicly opposed to online poker legalization. Why?

I’m clearly in the minority. I understand that. I also know the horse is already out of the barn. This is also Anthony Marnell’s opinion and not the opinion of Penn National. My No. 1 concern is that we keep this out of the hands of kids. My concern is the access and how gaming can regulate that access. I just want to know we’re doing everything we can to properly regulate it. Gaming is a great form of entertainment, but we all know it can lead to problems. Gaming was always something that you had to make a conscious decision to leave your home or city to go do. That pause to transport yourself may have saved a lot of people some problems.

Developer Chris Milam wanted to build a stadium complex on land next to M Resort. What did you think of the project?

We talked with Chris Milam. We weren’t a big backer, but we were engaged. It certainly would have benefited M Resort. I think he bit off more than he could chew. I told him that we didn’t need a four-stadium vision; I think we need a good one-stadium vision. Money was always the issue. I think Chris wanted to do it, but the guy has a track record of more proposed and not built projects than anybody who has ever come to Las Vegas. I dare to say this will probably be the last time you hear of Chris Milam as it pertains to a Las Vegas development.