MGM’s Macau casino opening ups ante for rivals
MACAU – MGM Mirage, the world’s No.2 casino operator, opens a 600-room, Las Vegas-style resort in Macau on Tuesday, raising the stakes in a Chinese gambling haven increasingly crowded by global players.
The $1.25 billion MGM Grand Macau, a joint venture between MGM and Pansy Ho, daughter of Macau gambling mogul and one-time monopoly holder Stanley Ho, is a relative latecomer to the once sleepy former Portuguese enclave, following Las Vegas Sands Corp and Wynn Resorts Ltd
MGM was in talks with Dubai World, holder of close to a 5 percent stake in the company, to extend their relationship in Macau and into China, though nothing had been finalized, said Gordon Absher, vice president of public affairs.
“The stage that we’re at in the development of gaming resorts in Macau is very close to going back 40, 50 years, to when Bugsy Siegel opened the Flamingo in Las Vegas,” said Gabe Hunterton, vice president for casino operations.
Siegel was the legendary mobster credited with having a hand in Vegas’ initial development.
Now, MGM Mirage and MGM Grand Paradise — the joint venture with Pansy Ho — are pondering ways, and holding talks, to expand in the region, Absher said.
“In Macau, the MGM Grand Paradise partnership is in the process of negotiating with the government on a second site in Cotai. Separately, DW (Dubai World) owns land in Macau…, which may present a location of a third development site,” he said.
He also said that MGM Mirage was considering projects in China not related to gambling together with the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, and that Dubai World may join some or all of those projects.
Foreign casino operators jumped at the opportunity when Stanley Ho’s gaming monopoly expired in 2002, setting up giant Vegas-like facilities, replete with shopping arcades, entertainment complexes and vast casino floors.
BIG QUESTION MARK
Macau’s economy has jumped, too, and annual visitor numbers have doubled since 2003 when the Chinese government began to loosen restrictions on individual travel for its population, with its legendary appetite for gambling.
Some 22 million people visited Macau last year, pumping its gambling revenues past those of the world-famous Las Vegas Strip.
The new resort targets high-margin high rollers — the revenue dynamo of the gambling industry in the only place casinos are legal in China.
But questions hang over Macau’s casino boom.
For one, the tiny territory, with a population of around 500,000, will have to import huge numbers of workers.