When Melco Crown Entertainment decided to build yet another casino in the biggest gambling hub in the world, there were a number of wealthy investors happy to invest into the $3.2 billion project in Macau as the return on investment in the past has always proven to be a safe bet. Studio City, the new project by the Melco Crown venture looked to be a very lucrative investment especially because it was backed up by Australian billionaire James Packer and Hong Kong billionaire Lawrence Ho.
Macau’s government only recently confirmed the number of gaming tables sanctioned for the latest Melco Crown entertainment property and many investors have been disappointed over the fact that only 250 gaming tables have been approved. Gaming authorities have approved 200 tables to start from the 27th of October and an additional 50 tables to operate from Jan 2016. There will also be a total of 1,233 gaming machines permitted to operate on the casino floor.
Investors initially expected around 400 gaming tables to be approved and the fact that the casino is now 150 tables short makes it harder for them to recover their investment. The investors raised a total of $1.4 billion in loans based on Standard & Poor’s Ratings and are not very happy with the government’s decision to permit just 250 tables.
Things have changed considerably during the last 15 months as Macau’s casinos have faced a serious anti-corruption probe resulting in a significant loss of business as VIP gamblers from the Mainland China have decided to stop coming to Macau. Under Beijing’s instructions, Macau’s government has also tightened its regulations on the gambling industry making signifying a shift in priorities and a desire to change Macau’s image from being just a gambling hub.
Melco could transfer some of its unutilized tables from its other casinos to the new studio city but since hedge funds own nearly 40% of the new Studio City casino, this move appears highly unlikely as it will not benefit Melco in the long run. Melco operates a total of 619 tables that are spread between its Altira Macau casino and the City of Dreams. Melco has suffered losses during the last 12 months as gaming revenue in Macau has declined and buyers, investors and shareholders in the new Studio City casino will now have to accept the fact that their return on investment is going to be a lot smaller and slower than initially expected.