Travel and Casinos in China
When ever I think of Macu, I think of churches, Portugese architecture, casinos and Triad gansters (Hong Kong Mafia). If you’ve had too many late nights watching Andy Lao and Chow Yun Fat movies you’ll be an expert gambling in Hong Kong and Macau and know that casinos and triad are inseperable and go hand in hand. Like it or not, casinos are an integral part of tourism in Macau, Macau’s economy and even Macau’s society. One reason for the importance of casinos in Macau is that gambling is outlawed in both China and Hong Kong so Macau is the only place Chinese can (legally) gamble. This situation creates the world’s largest gambling market and a flourishing tourism cum gambling industry.
I’ve just finished reading a news article about the lastest addition to Macau’s gambling/tourism scene is a $2 billion casino that was opened yesterday. I’ve included that article below for you to read. I’m not into gambling myself (can’t see the point) but I’d love to spend a few hours in that casino rubber necking and soaking up the scene the next time i’m in Macau. That would mean leaving the back pack at the hostel and exchanging sandals, shorts and a tank top for something a little more formal.
Flanked by long-legged models adorned in peacock feathers, Hong Kong property and construction tycoon Lui Che Woo was all smiles as he opened the doors to his new $US2 billion ($A1.9 billion) casino in Macau on Sunday.
Lui, chairman of Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment , around 20 per cent owned by private equity group Permira, is the only operator to open a casino this year in Macau, the world’s largest gaming market, where revenues surpass Las Vegas four fold.
Designed as an Asian-style palace, the 550,000 square metre property is the third casino to open on the developing Cotai strip, Macau’s version of the Vegas strip and which authorities hope will transform Macau from a pure gaming destination into a renowned tourist and leisure destination.
“It doesn’t feel like a casino, it’s so beautiful” said Wer, a 30 year old male visitor from Zhuhai. “People can come here to relax, bring their families. It feels comfortable.”
Like gilded ice cream cones, Galaxy Macau’s gold embossed turrets glow against the Macau skyline, magnifying the glitz of billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Venetian property and Melco Crown Entertainment’s City of Dreams, all situated within walking distance of each other.
Macau, formerly a hotbed for piracy and smuggling, has been trying to upgrade its image with Michelin starred dining options and vast luxury retail outlets, all in a bid to woo China’s rising middle class.”
While around 70 percent of gaming revenue is still accrued from the high-rolling VIP sector, Galaxy Macau is allocating two-thirds of its 450 gaming tables to the mass market, confident of delivering returns in the mid to high teens to investors, Chief Financial Officer Robert Drake said.
Galaxy’s new 2200 room property, which incorporates international hotel brands Banyan Tree and Japan’s Okura, is hoping to creating a “super industry” of gaming and tourism in the former Portuguese colony, said Galaxy Vice Chairman Francis Lui.
“If you merge Phuket in Thailand together with Macau it would create a new dimensional kind of market. The example of Galaxy Macau is to bring this tropical mood to Macau,” said Lui, also a committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
With its 350 ton white sand beach, simulated wave pool and southeast Asian resort-style spa facilities, Galaxy is hoping to create a niche market in the former Portuguese colony, emphasizing the health and well being of its visitors.
But it remains to be seen whether the chain-smoking hard-core gamblers that flood from into Macau from the mainland will have significant interest outside the heaving baccarat tables.
“The casino is great, I am going to come regularly,” said 27 year old Edwin. Dressed in a tight white t-shirt and fitted trousers, he shrugged: “I haven’t seen the pool yet, maybe later.”
Galaxy Macau is following in the footsteps of rivals Melco Crown and Sands China in targeting China’s mass market, betting that improving infrastructure and rising consumption will help propel demand.
“Galaxy’s opening is also good for us, more people will come here,” said a waiter at Adelson’s Venetian. “It is exciting. We have been waiting three years for the open. It is not a threat, just friendly competition.”
Galaxy shares have surged more than 300 percent over the past 12 months, compared with the Hang Seng Index’s roughly 17 per cent gain. Analysts remain bullish on the firm’s prospects. “We think the property has potential to exceed revenue and cashflow expectations,” said Union Gaming in a note.
Galaxy’s new project only covers around a third of its available land space on the Cotai strip. It plans to develop the rest of its land bank over the next seven to eight years.
Wynn Macau, casino mogul Steve Wynn’s Macau unit of Wynn Resorts, MGM Resorts International, and SJM Holdings are the three other licensed operators yet to start construction on the strip.
“We could build three more of these if we wanted to,” Drake, Galaxy’s CFO, said.