The Hos may have been a dealt a bad hand when they lost their casino empire, but, like the veteran gamblers they are, these folks know how to make a comeback.
MGM Mirage opened its MGM Grand Macau on Tuesday bringing out high rollers from around the globe. The USD 1.3 billion hotel and casino is a joint venture between the Las Vegas-based casino operator and Pansy Ho, daughter of former Macau casino mogul Stanley Ho.
Stanley Ho monopolized the Macau casino market for 40 years. In 2001, just two years after the Portuguese colony was returned to Chinese rule, officials in Beijing broke up Ho’s monopoly and gave gaming concessions to foreign operators.
Sheldon Adelson, chairman of Las Vegas Sands, was the first American casino tycoon to enter Macau. The Sands Macau opened its doors in 2004, and in the summer of 2007 the company offered its latest hotspot, Venetian, an Italian inspired resort-casino compound.
According to Adelson, developing in Macau was smooth sailing. „Over here, there was only one company. It’s much easier taking on a former monopoly than taking on 100 competitors in Las Vegas which have been there for 75 years.“
Soon after Las Vegas Sands, casino mogul Stephen Wynn brought his chain to the Chinese province, too. While Wynn has had several stellar consecutive quarters, David Katz of CIBC World Markets recently expressed concern for the company’s near-term future. With rising competition in Macau from MGM Grand, the strain „could cause the flow of customers to be erratic and the infrastructure could be pressured,“ wrote Katz. The analyst noted that the labor force in Macau could pose a problem for some operators, „although most have been gathering talent over the past several months and bearing the expense.“
Now, Pansy Ho hopes the new 35-story, 600-room hotel will attract the world’s wealthiest gambling crowd and restore her family to gambling glory. The Grand Macau offers 400 gambling tables, 800 slot machines and 16 private gaming rooms. As in Las Vegas, the goal is to bring in visitors for the gaming, and amuse them with luxury shopping and entertainment as well. The MGM Grand Macau will connect to a shopping center, luxury apartment complex, convention center, theater and circus, which are still under construction.
While some analysts have expressed concern for the rising competition in Macau’s casino market, Pansy Ho said the variety of gaming companies will boost the region, rather than push out any one business. „These few casinos will actually work in conjunction to present a really formidable proposition to all VIP customers that this should be the center of the high-rolling gaming experience,“ said Ho at a preview tour of the new resort.
According to Jefferies analyst Lawrence Klatzkin, the new MGM should fair well against its Macau competitors. Despite fears that the Macau gaming market has become over-saturated, Klatzkin predicts that the total market size should top USD 15 billion by the end of 2010. He also noted that the average stay at Macau’s five star hotels in 2006 was only 1.45 days, while the October 2007 length of stay was almost double at 2.45 days. Thus, the same people are stay longer, gambling more and boosting sales in the region.
Investors seemed slightly less certain of MGM‘s Macau success, sending shares sliding USD 1.41, or 1.7%, to USD 82.08, in Tuesday trading.