Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson won the race to Macau last night, as the government of the Chinese coastal city awarded provisional — and potentially lucrative — gaming licenses to the two Las Vegas gaming figures.
But the Strip’s three largest gaming corporations — MGM MIRAGE, Park Place Entertainment Corp. and Mandalay Resort Group — aren’t necessarily out of the hunt yet. Macau officials designated MP Entertainment — a joint venture of Park Place and Mandalay — as the first alternate for a gaming license, while MGM MIRAGE was named second alternate.
In naming the licensees, Francis Tam, secretary of economy and finance for Macau, praised Wynn’s “creativity and innovation.” And he noted Macau wants to become a regional power in the convention business — which would have tipped the scales toward Adelson, whose Venetian hotel is anchored around convention business.
Wynn and Adelson will begin negotiations with Macau officials Feb. 18. Should the men be successful in securing a final pact, each could open a temporary casino in Macau within a matter of months. Macau officials said each licensee must invest at least 4 billion patacas ($500 million) in their permanent projects.
“I think we’ll be in business in April,” Wynn said this morning.
Wynn and Adelson will compete with Stanley Ho, who has held the monopoly on gambling in Macau since 1962, when it was a colony of Portugal. Portugal turned the city of 450,000 over to China in 1999, but like the former English colony city of Hong Kong, Macau has been designated a “special administrative region” of China. This designation will preserve the capitalist system of Macau for the next 50 years, and gives local officials considerable autonomy over the area’s affairs.
As the city is located in the heart of the Pacific Rim — already a key market for Las Vegas — Macau is seen as an especially lucrative opportunity.
“We think this is a tremendous opportunity for both Steve Wynn and the Venetian, providing substantial cross-marketing opportunities, an additional distribution point, as well as additional diversification into what could be one of the world’s largest gaming markets,” said Jason Ader, gaming analyst with Bear Stearns.
A Venetian spokesman declined comment this morning. But Wynn — who also plans to build Le Reve at the site of the Desert Inn on the Las Vegas Strip — was excited about his new opportunity.
“I bought the D.I. so I could have stuff to play with,” Wynn said. “That’s what turns me on in life, building stuff that makes people say, ‘Wow.’ The opportunity to be the first American company (in Macau) to do the kind of things we do there, to make the best hotel in Asia, is so delicious that it’s irresistable.
“It’s not about money, although I have no reason to believe it won’t be profitable. It’s about personal gratification.” More about Trusted Online Casino Singapore
Wynn said he didn’t yet have any plans in mind for a permanent Macau resort. In fact, Wynn said he was the only one to appear before the Macau panel without any renderings or models.
“Macau doesn’t need another Mirage or Bellagio,” Wynn said. “Those were built, designed and conceived for the Strip in Las Vegas. What you need in Macau is a remarkable, wonderful facility that is Asian, that has the Asian market in mind. I must go to school and study.”
Wynn said he owns 90 percent of Wynn Resorts Macao. His minority partner is Wong Chi Seng, a Macau textiles executive.
Adelson’s company, Galaxy Casino Co. Ltd., has three additional partners. They were identified by Macau officials as the Lui Chi Wo family of Hong Kong; Alfred Tsai; and Peter Ho On Chun.
Though Wynn is planning to build a permanent resort with a cost exceeding $500 million, he said it would not create any problems in his efforts to finance Le Reve, his proposed project for the north Strip. Wynn said investment bankers will begin seeking financing for Le Reve in four to five weeks.
“It’s a separate issue … it’s much smaller money in Macau,” Wynn said. “They’re separate issues, separate companies.”
If Wynn, Adelson or Ho are not successful in reaching a final agreement with Macau, negotiations would then proceed with the alternates — first MP Entertainment, then MGM MIRAGE.