The Cotai Strip‘s Studio City Hollywood-themed leisure resort and casino enjoyed a star-studded grand opening yesterday. Melco Crown Entertainment’s (MCE) $3.2 billion resort will focus on the mass market through its wide array of non-gaming amenities throughout the coming years. Co-chairmen, Lawrence Ho and James Packer, outlined that objective at the press conference at yesterday’s opening event.

Currently there are no junket rooms at Studio City mainly due to the government’s new-to-market table allocation for the gaming property. Prior to the opening Ho was hopeful that the government would allocate 400 gaming tables, but instead had to settle on the 250 tables that MCE received. Ho addressed the the issue at yesterday’s event stating that, “Melco Crown, as a company, steered away from VIP a long time ago. We are the second last operator relying on VIP of the six concessionaires.” Ho added that had they been granted the larger sum of tables the company may have opted for a small VIP section, but that they are happy where they’re at and it’s understood that the government needs to maintain the table cap. However, that may change in the future if and when more tables are received.

Melco Crown expects the US3.2 billion Macau project to attract more than 31 million in the coming years. During a period of extreme highs and lows experienced by the region’s casino market, MCE has invested US$10 billion in Macau. Ho stressed, “With this amount invested we are looking five or ten years ahead. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge will be a game changer. Also, with the completion of the Cotai Ferry Terminal and Light Transit Rail, Macau will be able to accommodate more than 31 million tourists,” according to local sources.

MCE’s investment of non-gaming amenities was one of the most mentioned topics by the company’s chairmen during the grand opening press conference. Packer explained that in keeping with the government’s expectations they focused on building non-gaming attractions as they did with City of Dreams. Ho added, “We are the undisputed top investors in terms of non-gaming attractions. We have really brought it to another level. Studio City is more about interactive attractions that the entire family can share.”

The hotel at Studio City has 1,600 divided into the Celebrity Tower and the all-suite Star Tower with 600-plus suites; the result of a partnership between New Cotai LLC, a local company with a 40 percent stake in the project and MCE which owns 60 percent. In keeping with the change of strategy to focus more on a family-oriented vacation destination and to attract more visitors, MCE downgraded the hotel from a 5-star establishment to a more approachable 4-star property.

In addition to a performance by Mariah Carey, the grand opening showcased Hollywood elite including Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese who directed the actors in a special 15-minute short film, “The Audition,” which was made to commemorate the launch, and that producer Brett Ratner hopes can be turned into a feature film. Leonardo DiCaprio said the experience of working with his two cinematic father figures was “a slice of heaven.” The ability of Studio City to draw that kind of star-power attests to the increasing influence of the special Chinese region, which rivals Las Vegas as the world’s top gambling market.

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