Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, chairman and chief executive of Asian casino developer Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd, says he is confident regarding his firm’s intended bid for a Japan casino licence, in spite of “intense competition” posed by fellow casino operators.
“Japan is the best opportunity [for casino resort investment] outside Macau, so the competition is going to be very intense: the largest gaming and entertainment firms from around the world as well as local large-scale Japanese firms will head for it,” said Mr Ho (pictured in a file photo) on Saturday, in comments to reporters. “But we are still confident about it,” he added.
Mr Ho made the remarks while in Beijing to attend the latest meeting of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body to China’s central government.
The Melco Crown boss had indicated at the CLSA Japan Forum 2017, an investor conference held in Tokyo last month, that the firm would “spend whatever we need to win”.
In a press statement issued on February 22, Melco Crown gave specifics on two possible locations in the city of Osaka, namely Umekita and Yumeshima.
Mr Ho noted in his Saturday comments that his firm would not in the meantime reduce its investment in Macau. He described that city as the “headquarters” of Melco Crown, and always its “best market”.
In November the firm said it expected to begin operating in 2018 a new, US$1-billion hotel tower with gaming at the City of Dreams casino resort in Macau.
In December Melco Crown told GGRAsia that plans were being developed for the second phase of Studio City a majority-owned casino resort that opened in the Cotai district in October 2015.
Mr Ho also briefly commented on a Macau government counter-proposal to an industry initiative suggesting stricter technical standards for air extraction systems in Macau casino smoking lounges. The industry’s proposal had been presented as an alternative to a complete ban on casino smoking.
Mr Ho said he was confident his company’s facilities could meet the standards proposed by the government, even though, according to the CEO of market rival SJM Holdings Ltd, that would mean air extraction standards normally associated with hospitals and medical laboratories.
“I think we can fulfill the government requirements [for casino smoking lounges], and that by doing so we can offer our clients more choices,” said Mr Ho.
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"VIP growth [in Macau] is roaring back on the heels of last year’s economic stimulus – but we think this could stall once the effect of the stimulus and the Chinese housing bubble wears off – as it did in 2013-14"
Cameron McKnight and Robert Shore
Analysts at Wells Fargo Securities