May 16th, 2011
03:33 AM GMT
Macau, China (CNN) – It would not be a stretch to say that Macau has made its fortune at the Baccarat table. The card game is the unchallenged favorite here, the only place in China where casinos are legal. In the first quarter of this year, government statistics reveal Baccarat made up a staggering 90% of gaming revenue, which totaled $7.3 billion. In a place where gaming revenue is the primary tax revenue, that is saying a lot.
Still Macau wants more than just Baccarat. As it watches Las Vegas expand to a center for entertainment, dining and shopping, the Macau government wants to follow. And Francis Lui is here to help.
Lui, Vice Chairman of the Galaxy Entertainment Group, unveiled Sunday his Galaxy Macau, an integrated casino-resort that cost nearly $2 billion to develop. With an artificial white sand beach, a 3,400-square-meter spa and more than 2,000 hotel rooms, the Galaxy Macau is attempting to lure visitors to spend time off the casino floor.
“Our aspirations are how to merge Phuket in Thailand with Macau,” says Lui of his new property.
Not that Galaxy Macau won’t have gambling. The resort has a large casino, with 450 tables and 1200 slot machines to start.
One of Lui’s key goals is to keep visitors in Macau, spending money, for longer. The average length of stay here is only 1.5 days, according to research from CLSA. That’s better than four years ago before the two competing integrated resorts, the Venetian and the City of Dreams, opened. Still it lags far behind Hong Kong, Singapore and Las Vegas, where tourists tend to stay for 3 to 4 days.
Executives at Galaxy Macau are banking on the Asian ownership and influences of the resort to differentiate it from its competitors. The resort’s tagline, “World Class, Asian Heart,” slips its way into every press conference, along with frequent mention of the incorporated Banyan Tree and Okura hotels, two brands well associated with luxury in the region.
“We believe the customer is always an Asian customer,” Lui tells CNN. “We believe 97 percent of our customers would be either from China or the neighboring region.”
RBS analysts Philip Tulk and Frank Hung think this approach may pay off. They wrote in a recent report it will “likely lead to a moderately differentiated product in the Cotai marketplace that will attract the attention of mainland Chinese gamers – Macau’s top consumer constituency.”
Still they believe Galaxy faces a challenge in attracting and keeping customers. Galaxy doesn’t have much experience with the mass market and “building from this low base will take either outstanding marketing or time,” or likely both, the analysts wrote. The new casino is also physically separated from the two existing integrated resorts.
It may have taken more than five years to build, but the Galaxy Macau won’t be the new kid of the block for very long. Las Vegas Sands’ next project, with more than 6,000 hotel rooms, is expected to open by the end of 2012.
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