Casino entrepreneur Lawrence Ho Yau Lung has been honoured by the Macau government for his contribution to the city’s tourism sector.
Mr Ho (pictured) is chairman of Hong Kong-listed Melco International Development Ltd, the parent of Macau and Philippines casino operator Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd.
Tuesday’s announcement – on the eve of the 18th anniversary of the handover of Macau from Portuguese administration to that of China – said that the businessman was among 42 individuals or organisations recognised by Macau for “achievements, outstanding contributions and distinguished services”.
The award of the “Medal of Merit – Tourism” followed a recommendation from a Macau government committee.
Melco Resorts’ majority-owned Cotai gaming resort Studio City opened in October 2015 with a range of non-gaming facilities and without VIP gambling – the latter a move Mr Ho said at the time was a “business decision” and not a political one.
It is the stated policy of the Macau government and China’s central government to broaden the base of Macau’s whole economy beyond its traditional focus on high-stakes – credit-based gambling by VIPs – and to have more non-gaming attractions in the city’s tourism sector.
“We really understood what the government wanted in terms of more diversification in the market,” said Mr Ho in a press conference at the time of Studio City’s opening.
After some market criticism of a slow ramp up of gaming revenue at Studio City, the operator applied for and was given permission to introduce high-roller business with effect from November 2016.
In the first half next year, Melco Resorts’ first and flagship Cotai resort, City of Dreams Macau, is to open a new hotel tower called Morpheus, designed by award-winning architect the late Dame Zaha Hadid.
Mr Ho’s father, Stanley Ho Hung Sun, had a business monopoly in the Macau casino market between 1962 and 2002.
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”Ramp ups [of new Macau casinos] are taking a little bit longer. The market is somewhat volatile at the moment, but we continue to look at all the opportunities and are still very comfortable that things are starting to move ahead”
Chief executive of MGM China Holdings