He’s the hero Macau deserves, and the one it needs right now! So, what does Batman have to do with slumping casino revenue in China’s only legalized gambling destination? Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd., which is led by Macau casino billionaire Lawrence Ho and Australian billionaire James Packer, is planning to bring Chinese tourism back to prominence in the Special Administrative Region by appealing to families through a new deal with Time Warner, Inc. Plans for a new family entertainment center are in place to update the company’s new $3.2 billion Macau casino and shift focus and resources away from high rollers and in the direction of middle class families and tourists from the Mainland.
The 30,000 square foot Warner Bros. Family Entertainment Center, currently known as Melco’s Studio City, will include a host of DC comic favorites from Superman to The Flash, but a virtual reality Batman ride could be the most exciting prospect for visitors to the largest gambling center in the world. That’s not the only treat that fans of the Dark Knight have to look forward during future visits to Macau, however. Expanding on the family theme, the new casino complex will also feature a 130-meter tall Ferris wheel inspired by Gotham City’s resident superhero.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s harsh stance on corruption played a part in keeping rich players away from the tables and leading Macau to its first drop in gambling revenue in over a decade. As a result, casino owners are taking a long, hard look at refocusing their casinos to be more accommodating to middle income earners and family tourists. According to Ho, the rise of middle income earning demographics is a vital statistic to consider when contemplating the business strategy of Macau’s major casinos into the future.
Melco Crown has publicly announced intentions to delist from the Hong Kong stock exchange because of added costs and inadequate trading volume, but Ho denies that the move is a result of the recent gambling slowdown or China’s recent anti-corruption campaign. The company will, however, maintain its NASDAQ listing, and it remains open to relisting in Hong Kong at a later date if the right properties become available.
In November 2014, an estimated 2 million Chinese tourists flooded the gambling hub, which served to quell any concerns of a lack of tourist interest, but decreasing casino revenue remains an issue for the former Portuguese colony. With Chinese President Xi calling on Macau to nurture growth and transform the city into a world tourism and leisure center, China’s only gambling destination may be looking to reinvent its image to regain slumping revenue in the future.
With an economy largely dependent on a combination of gambling revenue and tourism, experts predict a full recovery from the 2014 slump over the next few years. Rebounding Hong Kong tourism following months of student protests could also play a part in increasing tourism numbers, as visitors to the two Special Administrative Regions commonly plan trips to both locations on a single trip. In any case, a realignment of focus is definitely on the radar of major casino owners in Asia’s premier gambling hub.