The Galaxy Macau, a -multibillion-dollar casino resort complex, opened yesterday as Macau aims to draw a broader mix of visitors than the high-rolling Chinese that have helped the territory become the world’s most lucrative gambling market.
The Galaxy Entertainment Group’s US$1.9 billion casino is the only one scheduled to open in Macau this year. It has 450 gambling tables and 1,500 slot machines.
Three hotels, including one run by Singapore’s Banyan Tree and another by Japan’s Okura, have 2,200 rooms. One of the biggest resort-style attractions is a 4,000m2 wave pool that generates waves as high as 1.5m splashing onto an artificial beach built with 350 tonnes of white sand.
Tropical and Japanese gardens, a Japanese tea pavilion, a Scottish whiskey bar, 50 restaurants, a private members’ club and a shopping street are other draws. A nine-screen 3D movie theater is set to open later this year.
The launch of Macau’s 34th casino comes as the territory seeks to diversify its economy away from gambling after years of searing growth that helped it overtake Las Vegas as the world’s top casino market. It now aims to draw visitors with cultural and entertainment attractions as well as gambling.
Macau’s economy has boomed since a four-decade casino monopoly was broken up in 2002, opening the way for US and Australian operators to enter the market with local partners. Monthly casino revenues so far this year have grown by at least 33 percent, after surging by more than half last year to US$23.5 billion.
The Las Vegas strip, in contrast, raked in US$5.8 billion in revenue last year.
Macau’s casino profits have been boosted by high-spending gamblers visiting from China, many of whom travel there on short junkets run by companies that lend them money to gamble and then collect debts once they return.
“We are happy to follow the Macau government’s development strategy and build new momentum not driven by gaming culture,” said Galaxy chairman Lui Che-woo (呂志和), a Hong Kong-based billionaire who built his fortune on property and construction.
The company expects a third of visitors to be high-rollers, while the rest will be mass market, said Galaxy vice chairman Francis Lui (呂耀東), who is Lui Che-woo’s son.
Galaxy is hoping to attract visitors from other Asian countries, such as Japan, who will stay at least two days, half a day longer than the average visit to Macau, Francis Lui said. The average length of stay for Las Vegas visitors, meanwhile, is 3.6 days.
Francis Lui added that the casino has capacity to add another 150 gaming tables, depending on demand.
Galaxy Entertainment operates five other casinos in Macau, a special administrative region of China and the only place in the country where gambling is legal. It competes with market leader SJM Holdings Ltd (澳門博彩控股), as well as Las Vegas Sands Corp, Wynn Resorts, MGM Resorts and Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd.
Macau’s leaders have taken steps to prevent unrestrained -casino expansion and encourage the territory’s development as a cultural destination. The government last year announced it would withhold approval of new projects until 2013 and cap the number of gambling tables over the next few years.
Last year, more than 80 percent of the 25 million visitors to the former Portuguese colony were from Hong Kong and China.
Analysts were skeptical about how big a role Galaxy would play in helping Macau diversify its economy.
“I don’t know that this is going to move the needle for the market in a big way to change that visitor base dramatically,” said Michael Paladino, a gaming analyst at Fitch Ratings. “I think it’s largely going to remain a daytrip market.”
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