Macau casino operator MGM China Holdings Ltd is still looking for a replacement for John Shigley as chief operating officer of gaming, the firm’s chief executive told GGRAsia on Thursday.
Mr Shigley’s imminent departure was confirmed to GGRAsia in June and estimated to be “later in the year”, but he remains in his post and was present at a company event on Thursday.
The timing of the executive’s departure is dependent on finding a replacement, said CEO Grant Bowie.
Mr Bowie added: “He’s not leaving the company until we are happy with the arrangements. This is a well-structured, easy transition out. John’s been very cooperative, and it’s great that he’s given us the time to work through this process.”
The CEO also confirmed a report that “Destiny”, one of two resident shows that had been planned for the MGM Cotai resort – a facility that opened in February – would not be going ahead imminently. He added that the show – as currently conceived – might not go ahead at all, and that whatever the content, such a resident show was unlikely to be ready in time for Chinese New Year, which in 2019 falls on February 5.
Mr Bowie said, referring to previous misses and hits in the Macau market concerning resident shows and other non-gaming events by casino operators: “We have all seen in this market that live entertainment is very difficult… we have suspended it, and we continue to go back and work through the processes.”
He added: “We don’t move forward until we are happy. It may be in a different form, in a different style.”
Asked if a revised show would be ready for Chinese New Year, he told us: “I think that’s probably a little early, but we do want to get more entertainment into the property and we are working to manage those processes…”
Market trend, junkets
GGRAsia also asked Mr Bowie about suggestions by some investment analysts that the opening of MGM Cotai in February had seen cannibalisation of the gaming business at the group’s original property MGM Macau, in downtown Macau on the city’s peninsula.
He said, referring to what can happen when opening a new casino property in the same jurisdiction: “There is always some cannibalisation. But it’s stabilised… many of the customers from the peninsula [that went to MGM Cotai] have actually gone back to the peninsula. I think that’s what’s been seen in a couple of other [Cotai property] openings, and that’s the case [here] too.”
Mr Bowie also referred to market mood. Earlier this month Francis Lui Yiu Tung, deputy chairman of market rival Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd, told GGRAsia that the United States-China trade war could be a factor in Chinese consumer confidence ahead of the U.S. mid-term elections in November.
Mr Bowie said in his Thursday remarks: “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. “
He noted: “Junkets are really important. We have two junkets opened [at MGM Cotai]. Another three will come on board between now and early in the New Year, and hopefully we will make Chinese New Year, so that’s a good move for us.”
Mr Bowie confirmed two of the three junkets still to come to MGM Cotai would be Tak Chun Group and Meg-Star Group.
The CEO was speaking on the sidelines of a launch event for the 10th edition of Oktoberfest Macau at MGM – an annual event based on the famous Munich beer festival.
MGM China’s version has had a growing following and features in each edition a guest German band – that has usually also played the Munich event – as well as offering Bavarian beer and German food. This year is the first time the event can be held at a larger space in MGM Cotai, compared to its previous home at MGM Macau.
Mr Bowie said that while in the early days the event had attracted “700 or 800” people, it was now catering for “thousands” each night.
During a speech at Thursday’s launch ceremony for Oktoberfest Macau at MGM – which this year runs until October 29 but with no event on Sunday October 21 – Pansy Ho Chiu King, co-chairperson and executive director of MGM China, mentioned the tourism market opportunity created by the launch of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau (HKZM) Bridge.
Speaking later to local public broadcaster TDM, Mr Bowie referred to how the bridge - reportedly due to open on Tuesday - was yet another “exciting” element relating to the Chinese central government’s plan for improved regional infrastructure and economic ties via the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area initiative.
“I wouldn’t underestimate the continued importance of the ferry [system]. The critical point is the opportunities,” Mr Bowie nonetheless noted. “The bridge opens, but there is a lot of issues [to be dealt with] in terms of teething problems.”
He added: “It’s a symbol, but also it’s about building confidence. I think that’s what we are all looking for.”
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”China has been strengthening the control over capital flow, and the impact of that has already been reflected [on Macau’s gaming revenue trend]. There should not be any bigger impact from the new… legislation [on the mainland] … on the gaming revenue trend here”
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President of Macau casino operator Sands China