MGM Cotai Could Miss Chinese New Year Tourism Influx, Resort Licensing Delays Continue

Posted on: February 3, 2018, 10:00h. 

Last updated on: February 2, 2018, 12:22h.

There’s no guarantee that MGM Cotai will be open for business ahead of the busy February 16 Chinese New Year. That’s according to the Macau Government Tourism Office, which told GGRAsia this week that the $3.45 billion property still hasn’t been issued the necessary hotel and amenities licensing to welcome guests for what is one of the biggest days for tourism in the gambling enclave’s casinos.

MGM Cotai Macau Chinese New Year
Throngs of travelers will descend on Macau for the Chinese New Year, but MGM Cotai might not be opened yet to benefit. (Image: ChinaFotoPress/Getty)

MGM Resorts’ second Macau casino, but its first on the Cotai Strip, was originally scheduled to open in early 2016. The resort was subsequently shelved in the wake of the Chinese government crackdown on VIP junket companies transporting high rollers from the mainland, a move which reduced net gaming win from $45 billion in 2013 to $27.9 billion in 2016.

MGM never fully abandoned the project, but continually announced delays. The Cotai casino was pushed back to the first half of 2017, only to be later delayed to the second half of the year. Last fall’s Typhoon Hato made that target date unrealistic, prompting MGM to announce a January 2018 opening.

Now it’s February, and there’s still no clear picture as to when the multibillion-dollar facility might open.

Missed Opportunity

The Macau Tourism Office oversees the licensing and inspection process for hotels and resorts.

Director Senna Fernandes explained this week, “We are still waiting for the assessment reports from other departments involved. If everything meets the required standards, we can move forward with the inspection, and eventually issue the hotel license.”

MGM Resorts is already late to the game in operating in Cotai, the Strip that’s quickly become the epicenter of Macau’s gaming industry. Missing out on the Chinese New Year is certainly not what MGM wants, as the weeklong holiday is one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

During the 2017 New Year, Macau and Cotai resorts were nearly filled to capacity on premium rates.

Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is based on the lunisolar moon phase. The country celebrates the new moon for an entire week, with most workers off from Thursday, February 15, through to the following Wednesday. The holiday marks a high travel period, with more than 3.5 billion trips planned among Chinese citizens.

Costly Delays

MGM China, the parent company to the $3.45 billion Cotai resort, has taken a hit as a result of the property’s continual delays. Last week, when MGM announced that the casino would not be opening on January 29 as planned, its stock slid seven percent on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The company could be positioned to endure more losses should MGM Cotai fail to open its doors before the Chinese New Year. Macau casinos are fresh off their biggest year-on-year monthly gain since 2014, as January gaming revenue soared 36.4 percent to $3.26 billion.

The surge was fueled by the VIP segment, which continues to return after China’s federal government seemingly eased its strict oversight of junket companies. Should MGM Cotai and its 1,400-room and 500,000-square-foot casino be permitted to operate during the New Year, February will be presumably positioned to continue Macau’s rapid growth.