Macau Casino Owner Lawrence Ho Critical of Crown Resorts
Macau casino owner Lawrence Ho isn’t too pleased with several local gambling operators. Ho was critical of Crown Resorts, among several others, for adopting a new policy regarding marketing their businesses to potential patrons in mainland China.
Of course, casino gambling is illegal in China, with Macau being the lone exception to the rule. As a result, it has apparently been fairly common for local casinos to send sales staff around the region in an attempt to lure new customers. The staff would offer casino credits to potential customers in an effort to attract new players.
Crown Staffers Arrested
However, promoting casino services is illegal under Chinese law everywhere in the country except Macau. 18 Crown Resort staffers were arrested last fall after being caught promoting their casino’s services across several provinces in China. As a result, several casinos, including Ho’s, saw a fairly serious downturn in profitability.
Chinese casinos depend greatly on Chinese “high-rollers” for business, and these arrests exposed the casinos’ reliance on these people for business. The arrests of employees caused a severe downturn in business, and that caused Crown to get cold feet about a new venture with Ho.
Crown Resorts was forced to pull out of a deal with Ho’s Melco International Development. Crown, which is based in Australia, decided to focus its efforts more on local ventures rather than expand abroad. So, Ho was essentially left to proceed on his own. Melco Resorts & Entertainment, which had formerly been called Melco Crown, will continue to seek expansion into the Japanese casino market, which is now a legal market. Melco already has casino resorts in Macau and in the Philippines.
Crown owns casinos in Melbourne and Perth and is in the process of building a new resort worth $2 billion in the Barangaroo district of Sydney.
Here’s what Ho had to say about Crown (via Financial Times):
“In all these instances, you had casino sales people running around offering credit, talking about collection … it wasn’t discreet. That’s what caught their attention: ‘Like what the hell, you’re deliberately spitting on our faces’.”
A spokesman for Ho later issued a statement indicating Ho was not singling out Crown Resorts in his comments, but rather speaking on the topic of Chinese casinos as a whole. Additionally, Ho mentioned a South Korean casino operator who had employees arrested and detained in 2015.
Ho’s Melco International is worth $2.4 billion, per Forbes. Ho recently told Bloomberg he is “bullish” on gambling in Macau despite gambling revenues having declined in each of the last three years. Revenues are reportedly on the rise again despite recent crackdowns on gambling in mainland China. April was the third consecutive month in which Macau gambling reported double-digit revenue growth.
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