t will be Macau's second-largest casino complex - complete with three hotels, more than 500 gambling tables, Las Vegas-style shows, an upscale shopping mall and restaurants. The complex on Macau’s Cotai Strip has 516 gambling tables in a 39,019 sqm casino, Hard Rock and Grand Hyatt hotels as well as a multimedia theater and shops run by DFS.
Melco Crown, a joint venture between Lawrence Ho and Australian billionaire James Packer, has created a complex designed to get visitors to stay for longer by providing a entertainment, shopping and dining in addition to gambling. City of Dreams, the first major casino to open here in almost two years, will host a permanent show designed by Franco Dragone, director of Celine Dion’s show in Las Vegas.
Christening one of its centerpieces, the Hard Rock Hotel, the resort's backers James Packer and Lawrence Ho, both scions of casino dynasties, smashed guitars hours before a celebrity-studded opening bash set for Monday night. How the City of Dreams fares is being closely watched as a test of whether the territory can appeal beyond the hard-core Chinese gambling set and sustain its fortunes after years of white-hot growth.
The only place in China where casinos are legal, Macau boomed after the local monopoly was broken up in 2002. But the industry has cooled since Beijing began curbing the frequency and duration of travel by mainland residents over the last year. The global financial and economic crises have also taken a toll, forcing several operators, notably Las Vegas Sands, to delay construction on projects.
"It is a crucial project," Lawrence Ho told reporters Monday. "What is good for us ... is good for our competitors and is good for Macau." Ho said Macau's "darkest time" was likely in fourth quarter of 2008. He outlined what has become the oft-stated strategy in Macau: wean the territory from its reliance on day-tripping high-rollers with shows, shopping and other attractions that lure mainstream tourists for extended stays. Whereas Melco Crown's first resort catered almost exclusively to VIPs, City of Dreams casts a wider net.
City of Dreams will need “much less” than the Venetian’s 70,000 daily visitors, Ho said in an interview today, declining to be more specific on the company’s metrics for measuring the success of the project, which is also next door to Las Vegas Sands’s stalled 20,000-room project, which would include Shangri-La and St Regis hotels.
The opening of Macau’s second-largest casino may be the “tipping point” for Cotai, CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets analysts Aaron Fischer and Huei Suen Ng said in a May 27 research report. One gaming analyst told The Daily Telegraph the City of Dreams "was a sink or swim moment" for MPEL. However, UBS analysts believes product offering, and most surprisingly timing, will make City of Dreams a success. "Against the context of limited supply growth, improving market revenue trends, and City of Dream's scale and product, MPEL is arguably in the right place at the right time," the analysts said in a report.