Kevin Benning (pictured), senior vice president and property general manager of Macau casino resort Studio City, has confirmed to GGRAsia in an interview that the property’s Epic Tower hotel building in Phase 2 has a high-limit gambling area within it, and that it is “ramping up” business-wise.
“We just recently opened it here at Epic [Tower] and it’s a ‘Qi Long’, which is our premium mass space,” said Mr Benning, referring to the gambling area and its branding.
“It’s been well received since the day it opened,” in December, Mr Benning told GGRAsia.
“Qi Long High Limit Area” (lobby sign pictured, below) has 16 gaming tables and is on the second floor of the hotel structure of the Epic Tower. The latter had a soft launch in April, while the W Macau hotel also in Phase 2, launched in September. Together they add 900 rooms to Studio City. The Cotai property is majority-owned by Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd.
Mr Benning further noted, referring to the new premium mass gaming area: “It’s just ramping up now. It’s been another great addition.”
“At the end of 2019, we opened up a new beautiful premium mass Qi Long slot space in Star Tower,” one of two original hotel towers at Studio City; “and now having this premium mass table game space in Epic Tower really sets us up for both segments,” he stated. He was referring to premium mass slots and premium mass table gambling, the latter a form of high stakes play for cash, rather than the traditional credit-based junket play popular in Macau previously.
“At the moment, we don’t have any plans for additional Phase 2 gaming” facilities. “But of course, we will always be looking at all options. We’re focused on optimising our Phase 1 and Phase 2 gaming spaces first, before we really look towards what’s next,” the Studio City executive explained.
The Epic Tower had enabled the company to drive more premium mass gaming business to Studio City with its 300-plus suites and eight 2-storey villas, Mr Benning remarked.
“Star Tower and Celebrity Tower [of Studio City Phase 1] are great hotel products. But what they never really were able to offer our customer was that luxury villa…and suite experience,” the executive stated.
Epic Tower has “been highly utilised by our sales teams”. He added: “We do have rooms available for cash, but they’re grabbed pretty quick[ly].
W Macau brand appeal, Studio City ‘hybrid’ strategy
The Studio City operator also saw “strong demand” from casino guests for the W Macau, which provides most of Phase 2’s fresh hotel capacity for Studio City, at 557 rooms and suites. The marque is a brand of hotel conglomerate Marriott International Inc.
“W [Hotel] historically has catered to a younger audience and a more female-dominated audience, and the brand is particularly strong around Asia…so we are looking to W and Marriott to bring in a new type of customer into Macau that we haven’t seen before,” Mr Benning told GGRAsia.
He added; “Our casino guests also have really taken a liking to W and we’re seeing very strong demand” from that client segment, Mr Benning stated.
Studio City Phase 2 has taken a “hybrid” approach in appealing to mass-market family-trip customers, and gaming patrons wanting high-end hospitality, according to Mr Benning.
“We have a lot of family offerings,”at Studio City, while the high-end offerings are “not quite as intimidating as some luxury properties,” can be, stated the executive.
Both Epic Tower and W Macau hotel have so far been able to reach “100 percent” occupancy during holiday periods, according to Mr Benning.
“Epic [Tower] is pretty much full every day. W [Macau hotel] has done a great job ramping up business,” since launch.
W Macau was in “high 60s,” of percent occupancy-wise through its first month, with October in the “70s to 80s. From November on, it’s been “high 80s and now into the low 90s,” Mr Benning observed.
Studio City aims to launch in Phase 2 a multi-screen cinema probably “in the second quarter or early third quarter”, and an outlet of Japanese discount retail chain Don Don Donki in the first quarter. Both should drive extra foot traffic to the property, remarked the executive.
“Don Don Donki will be probably the biggest” space-wise and “is probably the one I’m most excited about,” Mr Benning told GGRAsia.
“Unique features” for the cinema complex include “recliner type seats” for [a] large-screen theatre, and capability to offer a “4D experience”.
The cinema complex will also house “three to four director’s clubs”, i.e., small-sized theatres offering food and drink, he noted.
The whole facility will be “a great attraction that can drive some incremental foot traffic into the building”. It can also give the resort operator the ability to offer “unique experiences for our VIPs,” the Studio City executive remarked.
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