MGM Cotai project gets rocking

New casino resort due for 2016 will provide at least 5,000 jobs

The predominating image at yesterday’s ceremony for the symbolic start of the construction of the US$2.6 billion MGM Cotai casino resort was rock; not the rock played by former Betty Ford Center in-patients and commemorated in memorabilia on the walls of hamburger restaurants around the world, but the real hard stuff.
“This very ground where we are standing, is actually built on a bedrock that is 288 million years old. It is on this bedrock 100 metres below us that the foundation of MGM Cotai is anchored,” Pansy Ho Chiu King, chairperson of resort developer MGM China Holdings Ltd told the assembled dignitaries, analysts and media.
“This epitomises our commitment to assimilate into the core strata of the Macau community, and to foster Macau’s growth into one of the world’s leading tourism, leisure and entertainment destinations,” she added.
If that appeared to be applying a certain amount of gravitational pressure to the metaphor, it was understandable. The joint venture between Ms Ho and MGM Resorts International has had to wait a long time for its Cotai opportunity. It first applied for a land plot there in August 2007, according to Macau’s Official Gazette.
Jim Murren, chairman and chief executive of MGM Resorts expressed – via a pre-recorded message from Las Vegas beamed onto the stage in a giant marquee specially set up for the occasion – his thanks to the Macau government for the opportunity. He also thanked MGM China’s chief executive Grant Bowie and his “high performing team” for providing “a strong foundation for further growth”.
There was the rock imagery again. Guests at yesterday’s event were even given a souvenir sample of the earth deep beneath their feet housed in an hourglass.
But Ms Ho was firmly grounded on some of the practical benefits to the Macau economy of the new project. She said it would provide “5,000 to 6,000” new jobs once completed.
“In order to run a hotel consisting of 1,600 to 1,800 rooms, casino, and other shopping and restaurant facilities, we basically need [workers] in a similar scale like our resort in the Macau peninsula – about 5,000 to 6,000 people,” she told the media after the ceremony.
She added: “It is not a confirmed figure as we want to have more entertainment elements in this project such as some art performances, exhibitions. We are still exploring these elements in the current stage so maybe there will be a different figure [on staff numbers in the future].”
"The present design proposal already includes a theatre. The key right now is not about the venue but what kind of shows [or] themes are we able to find," she explained.

Bo diddlings

As Ms Ho was speaking, news was emerging – via a report in the mainland publication Caijing magazine – of possible links between now disgraced Communist Party of China official Bo Xilai, former party boss in Chongqing, and the Macau junket investor Neptune Group.
Ms Ho was asked in general terms about the rumours of a further central government crackdown on junkets. A number of Macau junket executives were briefly arrested late last year in a move linked by some analysts with a general crackdown on corruption and the change of leadership at central government level.
“So far it [speculation on a further crackdown] has only been arising from amongst the media,” Ms Ho told reporters yesterday. “There has never been really any real concrete and clear indication that there were to be a direction from the government [on that],” she added.
MGM Cotai will have 2,500 slot machines and up to 500 gaming tables, MGM China said in a statement, adding that 85 percent of the gross floor area will be for non-gaming including restaurants, shops and entertainment.
Bill Hornbuckle, president of MGM Resorts told Business Daily yesterday the site had “potential of additional space if we’re given the opportunity to do so”.
“Obviously as we’re spending US$2.5 billion plus, we have a lot of optimism for the future,” he added.
“We see this thing opening in the spring – or summer at the latest – of 2016.”