The duplicitous nature of the Macau gaming industry was on view last month. In one scene, the six operators have agreed to form a trade association to create a unified front. In another, former monopoly holder Stanley Ho railed against “foreign investment” in Macau, a remark clearly aimed at Las Vegas Sands and its chairman, Sheldon Adelson.
For the trade association, representatives from SJM, Galaxy Entertainment Group, Venetian Macao, Wynn Resorts, Melco Crown and MGM Grand Paradise met last month to discuss the common good. SJM Chairman Ho was elected to lead the organization. He reportedly initiated the meeting. The group will be called the Chamber of Macau Gaming Operators.
Members expect the organization to improve communications among the various companies and between them and the SAR government, which should benefit the entire gaming sector.
The first issue the group discussed was a proposal by the governments of Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong to allow unlimited visits to Macau and Hong Kong by Guangdong residents. All three governments agreed to the proposal, but it still must be approved by the Chinese central government. The chamber hopes it can be approved by May 1, the beginning of the Golden Week holiday, one of the biggest of the Chinese year.
Despite his leadership in the new association, Ho has never truly accepted the breakup of his gambling monopoly, and has been rankled by the American companies that tried to overshadow his SJM company.
Now, Ho has stepped up his attacks, focused specifically on Las Vegas Sands and its Cotai Strip development, sensing a weakness in the organization when Chairman Sheldon Adelson ousted President and COO William Weidner (see People, page 53).
Comments attributable to Ho in Chinese media outlets demonstrate his stepped-up campaign.
“We are Chinese,” said Ho. “We should unite against foreign capital. We cannot keep silent. If not, the foreign capital will bully us.”
Adelson did not know what to make of the comments.
“You never know the effect his words could have,” Adelson told the Wall Street Journal.
The Journal story continued, however, “If Mr. Ho is trying to stir up nationalist feelings to help steer business from his rivals, it is unclear how much support, if any, he has in higher political circles.
“While he is a member of a top mainland Chinese political consultative body, it was with Beijing’s blessing that the Macau government broke his monopoly on gambling in Macau earlier this decade.”
Ho’s Shun Tak ferry service also recently challenged an agreement that LV Sands had with the government to run high-speed ferries directly to the Venetian in Macau’s Cotai district. A Macau court struck down the agreement, but LV Sands is appealing.