ut the authority reiterated that only applications submitted before 2008 would be considered for any new additional gaming floor.
Lawrence Ho, Co-Chairman and CEO of Melco Crown Entertainment, told the media last Friday that Studio City had received construction approval and is expected to open in 2015 as scheduled. He also confirmed that the company had already applied for a gaming business to be added to the project originally planned as a hotel resort, and he expressed confidence that there would be positive feedback from the authority.
But Francis Tam, the Secretary for Finance and Economy, told the media later on the same day that the government hasn’t changed its position, and only applications for gaming floor submitted before 2008 would be considered. He reiterated that it’s an established policy to limit the number of gaming tables in Macau to below 5,500 by 2013, and after that, the growth rate would be contained at an average of 3 percent per year.
Since the approval of Studio City’s development plan in 2008, Melco and the authority have repeatedly expressed conflicting remarks over the possibility of a casino at the project. Last July, the Secretary for Transport and Public Works Lau Si Io, also personally confirmed that there would be no gaming facility at Studio City and that the developer of this Cotai property was required to adhere to the 2008 development plan approved by the government, in which no casino was proposed.
But Lawrence Ho restated his confidence on different occasions that the group’s next Cotai project would receive the necessary government approval to include a gaming floor. In June, Melco completed the acquisition of a 60 percent share in Studio City. The gaming operator said the new project has 300 to 400 tables and 1,200 gaming machines planned for when it opens.
“Studio City needs the necessary gaming tables to make the project financially viable for us,’ said Ho in an investor briefing last August. A 130,789 square meter plot was earmarked for the new Cotai project, according to a Macau’s Official Gazette issued last year.
Ho also told the media on the sidelines of the award presentation ceremony of the Macau Youth Design Contest, held at the Cotai Grand Hyatt Hotel last Friday, that although Melco is also investing in casino businesses overseas, including in the Philippines, Macau is still, and will always be the company’s major investment market.