Macau casino venture eyes VIP market

MGM Mirage, the world’s second largest casino operator, and the daughter of billionaire Stanley Ho are betting their Macau venture will grab a slice of the VIP market, which nets about two-thirds of the Chinese city’s gambling revenue.

The USD 1.25 billion, 600-room MGM Grand Macau casino, which opened December 18, would benefit from its position on the waterfront in Macau’s city centre, near established VIP venues Wynn Macau, Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd’s StarWorld and her father’s Grand Lisboa, Pansy Ho told reporters at a briefing in the southern Chinese city.

“This will be the centre of activity for high-rolling gamblers,’’ said Ho, who owns 50% of the venture. “There will be a cluster effect.’’

The venture is the last among Macau’s six licensed casino operators to launch its foothold in the former Portuguese colony, which surpassed the Las Vegas Strip as the world’s biggest gambling hub last year.

Most new casino development are located on the reclaimed area outside Macau’s city centre called the Cotai Strip, including Las Vegas Sands Ltd’s USD 1.8 billion Venetian Macao, opened in August.

“Among Asians, MGM is an even stronger brand than Wynn or the Venetian,’’ Billy Ng, a Hong Kong-based analyst at JP Morgan Chase & Co, said in an interview. “Being the last to open probably won’t affect them much. Macau is still growing at a rapid pace.’’

Macau’s gambling revenue in the first three-quarters reached USD 7.26 billion. That already surpassed the USD 713 million for all of last year as a boom in the stock and real estate markets boosted incomes for Asia’s affluent gamblers. Casinos have more than doubled to 27 since the government ended Stanley Ho’s 40-year-old monopoly of its gaming market in 2002.

Gaming revenue began surging when Las Vegas Sands opened the city’s first foreign-owned casino in 2004. That was helped by the Chinese government’s policy relaxing travel restrictions to Macau.

MGM Grand Macau, located two blocks from the Wynn Macau casino, will rely on junket operators to lure VIP gamblers, defined by the Macau government as those that gamble at least USD 126,078 per trip, in return for a percentage of the amount they gamble as commissions.