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Crown stake helpful for Japan casino bid: Lawrence Ho

Melco Resorts & Entertainment Limited Chairman and CEO Lawrence Ho said that the recent acquisition of Crown Resorts Limited shares would help his company enter the Japanese gaming market.

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UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 5:44 am

Melco Resorts & Entertainment Limited Chairman and CEO Lawrence Ho Yau-lung said Tuesday that the recent acquisition of Crown Resorts Limited shares would help his company enter the Japanese gaming market, but insisted that Macau would remain its priority.

Ho made the remarks during a media roundtable at City of Dreams’ Morpheus hotel about Melco’s purchase of a 19.99 percent stake in Crown last week.

Ho said that the decision to buy a stake in Crown was after it “checked all the boxes”, pointing out that Melco had a 12-year partnership with Crown previously, and that with the Crown shares, his company would be able to expand Melco’s global footprint from three to five countries, as in addition to its own casino resorts in Macau, Manila and Cyprus, it would also include Crown’s casino resorts in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, as well as in London.

He added that Crown’s experience in social safeguard policies and Melco’s high-roller and premium mass customers would contribute to his company’s bid for a stake in Japan’s gaming market, potentially in Osaka.

Irrespective of its interest in the Japanese gaming market, Ho said that Macau would remain the company’s core business. He said that his company was in talks with the government to hopefully begin its US$1.4 billion expansion work on its US$3.2 billion-Studio City casino resort later this year.

After the Phase 2 development, Ho said he hoped to continue to invest in Macau, especially in the Greater Bay Area (GBA), as a contribution to Macau and the central governments.

Regarding the upcoming bidding for Macau’s gaming concessions, Ho said that he was “very confident” about winning one.

“In terms of Macau and the central governments’ policy of diversification and investing in the development of non-gaming entertainment, I dare to say none other than us do as much as we do,” Ho pointed out, adding that the bidding process would be “very fair”.

When asked about the possibility of new bidders for the concessions, Ho said that he was “open-minded” about it.

“If [the government] grants more concessions, and the winning bidder doesn’t contribute much, especially in comparison with the original six gaming operators, then why grant one more,” Ho said, pointing out that Melco has invested US$10 billion in Macau over the past 15 years. Ho said if there is space for such development, all the current six gaming operators would put their hands up to invest even more in Macau.

Currently, there are three gaming concessionaires (Wynn, SJM and Galaxy) and three sub-concessionaires (Melco, MGM and the Venetian). The six agreements expire in 2022. The government has said that there will be a new bidding process, no rebidding.

On non-gaming offerings, Ho said that although it was “tough” to make money from these kinds of business, the casinos are there to “subsidise” them and make the non-gaming attractions more diversified. Consequently, Ho pledged, Melco will keep bringing new non-gaming entertainment to Macau.

“Our competitors having casinos and not doing it, that’s really an insult to the government,” Ho said.

For gaming revenue this year, Ho said he was still optimistic that there will be growth for the whole year despite the US-China trade spat.

Ho is the son of Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung-sun, the founder and chairman of SJM Holdings.(Macaunews)

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 5:44 am

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