There is still uncertainty over when the long-awaited Grand Lisboa Palace – Macau casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd’s first project in Cotai – will open. A final decision on the launch date is being impacted by the poor trading conditions in Macau’s gaming and leisure markets amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, admitted company co-chairman and executive director Angela Leong On Kei (pictured) at an event on Wednesday.
SJM Holdings said in a filing in July that the HKD39-billion (US$5-billion) Cotai casino resort complex was expected to open by “the end of 2020”.
In her Wednesday comments, Ms Leong said VIP gaming would be an “important” business segment for Grand Lisboa Palace, but she fell short of providing further detail.
Macau’s junkets are currently facing liquidity issues and have been under pressure as China reinforces scrutiny on cross-border gambling activities and capital flows, industry insiders have told GGRAsia.
“VIP [gaming] is an important component” for Grand Lisboa Palace, said Ms Leong. “We’ll adapt to suit client needs, and we will see how Macau’s market conditions evolve.”
Grand Lisboa Palace could open with only 150 to 250 gaming tables, a tally that might be increased over time, suggested analyst Michael Ting in a September paper filed with Singapore-based Smartkarma Innovations Ptd Ltd. Mr Ting further suggested at the time that the new Cotai property would be geared towards high-end players as it featured two luxury hotels, Palazzo Versace and Karl Lagerfeld.
Grand Lisboa Palace is expected to help lift SJM Holdings’ pre-tax earnings relative to its local market peers, Mr Ting further noted.
In her Wednesday comments, Ms Leong also discussed the opening of a resort project next door to Grand Lisboa Palace, called Lisboeta Macau. The project is by an entity called Macau Theme Park and Resort Ltd, fronted by Arnaldo Ho Yau Heng, a son of Ms Leong by late Macau gaming entrepreneur Stanley Ho Hung Sun.
Ms Leong – also a director at Macau Theme Park – said that the team promoting the Lisboeta Macau resort project could “soon prepare” to open the property.
The Macau government has already given an operating licence to the hotel part of Lisboeta Macau and four-star rating, according to an official statement published in August. But “more time” was still needed for the retail component of the project to be ready for launch, Ms Leong said on Wednesday.
She did not commit to an opening date for Lisboeta; but Ms Leong did not deny the possibility that the project could only open doors in 2021.
In comments to local media in June last year, SJM Holdings’ chief executive, Ambrose So Shu Fai, had acknowledged the possibility of gaming being offered at Lisboeta Macau, under a so-called service agreement that would make use of SJM Holdings’ Macau gaming licence. Ms Leong declined to comment on the matter on Wednesday.
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”Our own consensus is that any newcomers to this [junket] sector should be corporatised, and should be financially sound and able to commit a higher guarantee deposit”
Kwok Chi Chung
President of junket trade body, the Macau Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters