Hollywood goes to China in the form of Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd.’s newest casino, a $3.2 billion Studio City project in Macau that launched this week with the help of a few of America’s most famous stars. The movie-themed resort’s opening was assisted by A-listers including Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, and Mariah Carey, who is currently dating Melco co-chairman James Packer.
Entertainment at the Studio City resort features a 4D Batman flight simulator, the world’s first figure-eight ferris wheel, Pacha Macau nightclub, a 40,000 square-foot, Warner Bros.-themed playground, and a massive event center. The Art Deco architecture and decor is reminiscent of Roaring-20s Hollywood glamour.
The casino is bringing something new to the Cotai Strip, a glitzy venue with a House of Magic and shopping mall. The entertainment-based resort – and its lack of tables catering to high-roller VIPs – represents Studio City’s attempt to appeal to middle class gamers, something most Macau establishments have yet to do.
“We believe this is the future of China … The rise of the middle income earning bracket and the rise of the more sophisticated well-travelled customer,” Melco co-chairman Lawrence Ho told the South China Morning Post.
Despite the declining Chinese gambling market, Melco is continuing with its wave of big-budget projects that were first conceived when wealthy mainland Chinese gamblers were consistently flowing to Macau – the only place in China where gambling is legal.
“We hope that the opening of Studio City will be part of a catalyst that will improve gaming revenues,” Ho told dw.com.
Two years ago, Forbes declared Macau to be one of the world’s fastest-growing economies – the three dozen casinos on the Cotai Strip were regularly raking in seven-times the profit of the casinos in Vegas.
Now, however, Chinese President Xi Jinping has instituted a sweeping government crackdown on corruption, a move that has seriously damaged the industry. September marked the 16th consecutive month of declining revenues, and gambling profits have now dropped to a four-year low.
But Michael Ting, an analyst at CIMB securities in Hong Kong, remains optimistic. “We have great confidence in the long term,” said Ting.
(Photo credit: Studio City – Macau)
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