Real fun is where fam­i­lies flock?

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS - By LUOWEITENG

The game has changed Ma­cao.

The world’s largest gam­bling cen­ter has un­der­gone a painful trans­for­ma­tion, with new re­sorts on the Co­tai Strip bet­ting big on the idea that it can beAsia’s ver­sion of the Las Ve­gas Strip, where fam­i­lyfriendly en­ter­tain­ment will hold mass ap­peal.

Casino op­er­a­tors have been des­per­ate to sus­tain the decade-long red hot growth in the af­ter­math of Bei­jing’s clam­p­down on cor­rup­tion and ex­trav­a­gance. They hope the new casi­nos with more nongam­bling at­trac­tions will breathe life back into the Ma­cao econ­omy.

Melco Crown’s Stu­dio City, for in­stance, made its de­but later last year as a Hol­ly­wood­in­spired gam­bling and en­ter­tain­ment com­plex with a Bat­man vir­tual re­al­ity ride and Fer­ris wheel. US bil­lion­aire in Shel­don Adel­son’s ParisianMa­cao, which opened last week, fea­tures a half-scale replica of the Eif­fel Tower.

“Casino it­self is a pas­sive busi­ness and only about gam­bling. It is just a su­per­fi­cial and in­ac­cu­rate de­scrip­tion of Wynn and its ri­vals’ busi­nesses in Ma­cao,” said Las Ve­gas casino mag­nate Steve Wynn, whose “lux­u­ry­for$4.2 bil­lion lav­ish re­sort Wynn Palace opened last month with air-con­di­tioned ca­ble car rides and mu­si­cal foun­tain shows as the high­lights.

“What makes Ma­cao won­der­ful is the di­ver­sity of hos­pi­tal­ity at­trac­tions on the Co­tai Strip. It is the com­bi­na­tion of ho­tels, restau­rants and shop­ping malls that lure peo­ple to come here,” saidWynn.

The most ex­pen­sive casino to date in the gam­bling mecca has some $3.6 bil­lion worth of non-gam­bling ameni­ties, point­ing to a big trend of rein­vent­ing SteveWynn, the ter­ri­tory into an amuse­ment park with more fam­ily-ori­ented at­trac­tions.

This all echoes Ma­cao gov­ern­ment’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to boost the share of the in­dus­try’s non-gam­bling rev­enues from 6.9 per­cent in 2014 to 9 per­cent by 2020.

How­ever, piv­ot­ing to a new model of growth may prove a daunt­ing task for the small penin­sula.

The much-touted non-gam­bling busi­ness model is noth­ing newand can be com­pared to new tourist at­trac­tions on the main­land like Shang­hai Dis­ney­land, said Stan­ley Au Chong-kit, chair­man of Ma­cao-based bank Delta Asia Fi­nan­cial Group.

Am­bi­tious casino op­er­a­tors may go too far down the new route than what the core gam­ing mar­ket could ac­cept at the mo­ment, and the big bet on fam­ily-ori­ented en­ter­tain­ment may well be shrugged off by cus­tomers, said Zeng Zhonglu, pro­fes­sor of the Gam­ing Teach­ing and Re­search Cen­ter of theMa­cao Polytech­nic In­sti­tute.

His view may have been shaped by the fact that the world’s most fa­mous live spec­ta­cle, Cirque du Soleil, com­pleted only three-and-ahalf years of its 10-year con­tract with Sands China and ex­ited Ma­cao in 2012 due to dis­ap­point­ing ticket sales.

The no­tion of non-gam­bling

Casino it­self is a pas­sive busi­ness and only about gam­bling.” mag­nate Las Ve­gas casino

may not al­ways work out, es­pe­cially when the el­e­ment is a sim­ple trans­plant from West­ern mar­kets. Also, it takes es­ti­mated three to four years for casino op­er­a­tors to reap the pos­si­ble ben­e­fits from new open­ings, in­di­cat­ing the gam­bling oa­sis’ switch from “gam­ing only” to a recre­ational hub can never be done at one go, said Zeng.

De­spite all the doubt and hype, Wynn be­lieves Ma­cao’s trans­for­ma­tion way.

“Di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of Ma­cao is ex­actly what is hap­pen­ing here today. In fact, it is hap­pen­ing so fast that peo­ple tend to ig­nore it,” saidWynn. is well un­der

REUTERS

Tourists walk in­side theWynn Ma­cao ho­tel, a chain of the Las Ve­gas casino op­er­a­torWynn Re­sorts.

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