Table hunts, additional rooms and anti-corruption campaign to influence casino openings in Asia in 2015
Two new Macau casino resorts, Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd’s Galaxy Macau Phase 2 and Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd’s majority-owned Studio City are scheduled to open in 2015, both on Cotai. Also scheduled for a 2015 opening is a casino resort in the Philippines and one in Russia.
$5 billion capital are being invested for the two the initial-phase openings. Although the exact dates of the launches are being kept a secret, speculations are that the openings are to take place within a couple of months.
Galaxy Entertainment may open in mid-May 2015 and Melco Crown in mid-2015, according to early reports, last year, from the 2 gambling operators. However the exact dates cannot be foreseen due to several local factors, for example in recent happenings in Macau that may influence the openings.
Govt’s bid to curb gambling-based economy in Macau
Anti-corruption campaigns and the Central government’s desire to somehow bypass Macanese gambling laws, and diversify Macanese’s economy, have somehow stumped the gaming industry’s growth in Macau. True, mainland China has been lobbying to reduce live table action. However, contrary to what was expected, increase price points for minimum bets, led to aggressive CGR growth.
There is little to show that the Chinese are happy or remotely supportive of the Chinese government’s determination to rein in the Macau casino industry. However more aggressive perusal from the mainland government continues. But a recent drop in casino revenues that may influence casinos opening in Macau in 2015 is just part of the problem.
Allocations cause for concern
Industry sources have indicated that allocations for table quota on Cotai are being studied carefully by land-based and online casino operators. Table allocation could also be a factor in the timing of an announcement for most casinos.
Macau casino operators who wish to go ahead with Cotai projects may have an excess table count than what is permitted under the table cap. In keeping with legislative policy “table growth is capped at 3 percent annual compound expansion for 10 years until end-2022, from a base of 5,497 tables recorded in end-2012”.
Melco Crown co-chairman, Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, emphasized the importance of table allocation for Studio City. Ho Yau Lung told analysts 3 months ago that “In terms of number of tables, the truth is that honestly we don’t know because the government is in a kind of in transition”. In December though, the change was confirmed.
• Greater mainland scrutiny in Macau
• Russian seaside town to host casino
• Manila casino grand opening in February
Mr Ho had mentioned before that Melco, which has a 60% stake in Studio City, was hoping to obtain at least 400 gaming tables for Studio City. With a fifth hotel on the way at its City of Dreams casino resort in Cotai, scheduled to open in the first half of 2017, no mention of extra table allocation with the new tower has been made.
Three years ago Galaxy Entertainment were optimistic and hoped to get 500 gaming tables for the Phase 2 project in Cotai. Certain analysts have gone out on limb and bet that Galaxy Phase 2 may open first its shopping mall and hotel portions before the casino area sees the light of day.
Needless to say, the norm would be for the major casino schemes to open up their gambling area first to boost earnings. This would then be invested in “marble floors, swanky lobbies and other expensive fixtures and fittings”.
More rooms may mean more gambling earnings
Macau-based operator Sands China Ltd Las Vegas, parent company of Sands Corp, emphasized the importance of the amount of bedrooms in a casino property, which in turn influences gambling operations. So, in Macau it may then make sense to open more hotel rooms before more gaming tables.
This would inadvertently make use of table inventory the operators already have. Records show that from January to November 2014, Macau had 29 million visitors, but with less than 28,000 hotel rooms, they still managed a formidable occupancy rate of 86.6% by the end of November 2015.
The Macau concept heads to the Far East
Macau’s VIP junkets, who are being commanded by mainland government to help with its anti-corruption campaign, are scouting new places in Philippines and Far East Russia. Secondary Asian casino markets may therefore be on the rise in Asia.
This may see the blooming of casino investors launching same name properties from Macau. The first Asian opening of 2015 was achieved by Melco Crown-operated City of Dreams Manila which launch phase one on December 14 in the Philippines, with a grand opening set to take place in February, to coincide with the Lunar festival.
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), the local regulator, issued the casino license in a bid to form an international-standard strip of gaming resorts in the Manila Bay area. The multi-phase City of Dreams Manila has been described as a US$1.26 billion project, and is expected to have 380 gaming tables, 1,700 slot machines and 1,700 electronic table games.
Much further to the north, in the Russian Far East, another planned 2015 opening is expected. The casino scheme led by Hong Kong-listed Summit Ascent Holdings Ltd, for the Primorsky Integrated Entertainment Zone (IEZ) will be built, not far from the seaside city of Vladivostok.
Mr. Ho promised to invest US$700 million in the gaming resort when he cinched a deal with the Russian state government. The Russian casino resort complex is expected to open in Q2, 2015. It should boast 119 hotel rooms, 800 slot machines, 25 VIP gaming tables, 15 mass market baccarat tables and 25 mass market tables providing other table games.