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Gaming Guru

Richard N. Velotta

Bellagio Executive Details Power Outage

26 May 2004

LAS VEGAS -- Glenn Bonner and his staff handle 220,000 computer help calls a year, but none were as challenging as the one he received on Easter Sunday.

Bonner, chief information officer of MGM MIRAGE, and his staff endured a three-day stress test April 11-14 when 22,000 feet of high-voltage cable was destroyed at the Bellagio hotel-casino, blacking out the corporation's most profitable resort.

"We were down from about 6:50 in the morning Easter Sunday to about 4:15 in the afternoon on April 14," Bonner told about 250 technology professionals attending the Gaming Technology Summit. "It was hell."

Bonner, a keynote speaker for the event that ends today, said the cause of the incident still hasn't been determined. County officials said material used to connect power cables that run alongside the resort had somehow degraded, resulting in the massive power outage.

The hotel's backup system engaged, giving hotel officials extra time to shut down critical systems.

MGM MIRAGE has estimated that it lost between $2.5 million and $3 million a day in revenue and between $750,000 and $1 million a day in net income as a result of the closure of the 3,005-room Bellagio. That could affect second-quarter earnings by 1 cent a share.

But Bonner said the company didn't lose any important data because his team was able to shut down critical systems before all power failed.

"We were able to gracefully take down the critical systems when we were still on backup (power)," Bonner said.

Bonner, whose department monitors 222 computer applications operating on 17 hardware platforms and 21 operating systems, said the disaster occurred just as the Bellagio's payroll processing group was beginning work on paying employees.

"They needed a place to process the payroll, so we found them a location, set them up in a conference room and never had to load any software," Bonner said.

The reason: MGM MIRAGE operates a series of redundant and networked systems that allow one location to back up another in the event of an equipment failure. Bonner said not only are MGM MIRAGE's hotel systems in Las Vegas networked together, but they're also linked to the company's Detroit casino and its Beau Rivage resort in Biloxi, Miss.

Bonner said the company has more than 10,000 desktop computers and 2,000 point-of-sale terminals as well as 1,800 printers. Possibly the company's most unusual computerized system is the one that tracks the movement of dolphins in a habitat at The Mirage.

He said the most difficult part of dealing with the Bellagio outage was the continual stress faced by his team.

"We met every two hours every day to implement strategies," Bonner said. "It was stressful for everybody involved."