Ambrose So Shu Fai, chief executive of Macau casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd, has admitted to the possibility of the firm working with the promoters of the under-construction Lisboeta Macau project, in such a way it might be feasible to set up a casino there. But any such facility would be promoted by a third party rather than SJM Holdings itself, noted Mr So.
Such venues are also known in the Macau context as ‘satellite’ casinos, because they rely on the gaming licence of one of the city’s six licensed operators, but are not directly promoted by them.
Lisboeta Macau was publicly announced in October last year by Arnaldo Ho Yau Heng, a son of SJM Holdings’ founder Stanley Ho Hung Sun. The project, with four-star accommodation, has a price tag of HKD5 billion (US$639 million), and is located on land near Grand Lisboa Palace.
“It needs to have government approvals and so on,” Mr So (pictured in a file photo) told local Portuguese-language newspaper Hoje Macau, when questioned on Monday about whether Lisboeta could have a satellite casino.
He added, when asked if SJM Holdings could supply some of its gaming tables to a potential casino at the Lisboeta Macau project: “That is something we can talk about. We are not moving our tables – those [directly] operated by [SJM Holdings] – into Lisboeta. But we will consider moving some of the tables that we get back from satellite casinos, to them, depending on the agreements we can reach.”
The management of SJM Holdings had previously said it would look into creating what were termed synergies between its under-construction gaming resort Grand Lisboa Palace and the adjacent Lisboeta Macau.
Construction of Grand Lisboa Palace, SJM Holdings’ first property on Cotai, is scheduled to be completed this year, confirmed on Tuesday Daisy Ho Chiu Fung, chairman of SJM Holdings. The whole resort is to cost approximately HKD36 billion. No opening date has yet been mentioned.
Lisboeta Macau is being developed by Macau Theme Park and Resort Ltd. Work is already well under way, and its promoters have flagged a possible 2020 opening for the site.
Mr Arnaldo Ho and his mother Angela Leong On Kei have been identified as directors of the company promoting Lisboeta. Mr Arnaldo Ho is also a director and assistant chief operating officer of Sociedade de Jogos de Macau SA, the Macau-registered operating unit of SJM Holdings. Ms Leong aggregates her post at Macau Theme Park and Resort with the positions of co-chairman and executive director at SJM Holdings. She is also a Macau legislator and fourth consort of Mr Stanley Ho.
Several Macau casino operators have agreements with third parties for satellite casinos. SJM Holdings has the majority of such deals. As of the first quarter, there were 16 satellite casinos in Macau operating under SJM Holdings’ gaming licence, according to company information.
In his comments to Hoje Macau, Mr So also discussed the potential size of the gaming table grant by the Macau government for the launch of Grand Lisboa Palace. The SJM Holdings executive stated that – based on recent casino resort openings – he expected the property to get about 100 new-to-market live gaming tables for its launch.
The latest casino resort to open in Macau was MGM Cotai, in February last year. Its promoter, MGM China Holdings Ltd, got 100 new-to-market live gaming tables from the government for the opening of the property; it was granted an additional 25 new-to-market tables at the start of this year.
“We can only apply for gaming tables from the government when everything is completed,” Mr So said in his Monday comments, referring to Grand Lisboa Palace. “Judging from past experience, the government would allot about 100 tables… Must be less than 200.”
He added: “But we have the flexibility of moving some other tables from our existing operations [to Grand Lisboa Palace], to make up for what is necessary.”
Mr So said the firm planned to operate “a few hundred” gaming tables at Grand Lisboa Palace.
As of end-2018, SJM Holdings had 287 VIP gaming tables in operation, and 1,425 mass-market ones. Of those, an aggregate of 150 VIP gaming tables and 809 mass market gaming tables were allocated to satellite casinos, according to the firm’s 2018 annual report.
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"There’s a huge amount of possibilities out there and in the case of Macau, it seems that some of these issues should be considered or we may lose the epithet of gambling capital of the world"
Macau-based lawyer and senior partner at law firm Rato, Ling, Lei and Cortés