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(Compares with estimates; adds details from conference call)
Feb 10 (Reuters) - Casino operator MGM Resortsposted a bigger-than-expected loss on Wednesday, hurt byCOVID-19 travel restrictions, but signaled a pickup in demandlater this year as vaccines become more widely available.
The company said it expects demand in Las Vegas to stronglypick up later in the year, adding that gross bookings in Januarywere the strongest since the start of the pandemic.
"We are optimistic with what we see on our books in thethird and fourth quarter," Chief Operating Officer Corey Sanderssaid on a post-earnings call.
MGM also expects its sports betting unit, BetMGM, to be in20 markets by the year-end as companies move to capitalise on anexpected boom in online sports betting fuelled by pandemiclockdowns.
Last month, MGM ditched plans to buy Ladbrokes owner Entainafter the British company rejected an $11 billiontakeover approach, aimed at expanding jointly operated BetMGM.Revenue from the company's main casino business fell 40.9% to$963.8 million. Total revenue fell 53.1% to $1.49 billion,missing analyst estimates of $1.52 billion, according toRefinitiv data.
Net loss attributable to the company was $447.6 million, or92 cents per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared witha profit of $2.01 billion, or $3.91 per share, a yearearlier.
Analysts on average expected MGM to lose 90 cents per sharein the fourth quarter.
Total liquidity was $8.8 billion as of Dec. 31, 2020, atMGM.
Shares of the company were down 1.5% in extended trading.(Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru; Editing byRamakrishnan M.)