Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. has announced plans to open a new $3.2 billion casino in Macau on October 27, despite a downturn in visitors — especially high rollers — to the Asian gaming mecca.
The casino operators are hoping that the government in Macau will grant its request to allow 400 gaming tables on the casino floors, and Melco Chairman Lawrence Ho admits he would be "very concerned if the request isn't granted.
"We hope the government will reward us more for the hard work we have put in over the last 10 years," Ho stated at a press conference.
The downturn in Macau is a big concern to casino operators, and it's getting worse by the day as the gaming capital is in its record 14th straight month of decline following five straight years of growth. Many in the industry feel that the decline will continue as the government in China — where the vast majority of Macau visitors travel from — continues its political crackdown. Additionally, the Chinese government is considering a smoking ban inside casinos, including VIP lounges.
However, this may be mitigated by looser travel rules instituted on July 1 that allow Chinese residents to stay in Macau for longer periods of time.
Ho briefly addressed these concerns, but said he hopes that the Hollywood-themed Studio City, which should open up in the near future, will attract a new wave of visitors. According to Bloomberg, the planned 40,000 square-foot resort will feature Asia’s tallest Ferris wheel, 1,600 hotel rooms, a theater for magic shows, a 5,000-seat entertainment center, a TV production studio, and plenty of other family entertainment planned by both Melco and its partner in the project, Time Warner Inc.
Melco believes the resort, which will be its fourth in Macau, will be a huge splash, so much so that they've invested $70 million to produce a promotional film starring Hollywood superstars Robert De Niro, Brad Pitt, and Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese, which you can view here.
"Macau is going through a transitional phase from a very VIP gaming centric market to more mass focused," said Ho in a Macau interview. "It’s probably going to be a rough second half. Hopefully with Studio City opening it would be a new catalyst for the market."
Melco isn't the only casino operator banking on conditions improving in an ever-increasing competitive market in Macau with developers planning an estimated $27 billion in investments in the near future. For instance, Sands China Ltd. Chairman Sheldon Adelson is still going full speed ahead with his plans to open a new $2.7 billion Parisian resort, while Steve Wynn announced last week that the Wynn Palace should open its doors on March 25, 2016.
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