Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

January 25, 2007

Branson in Macau?

Posted by Hunter

This just looks a little crazy but I thought I should report on it.

This article implies that Richard Branson, British business mogul, is interested in doing a project in Macau:

This seems a little wacky to me. I can't imagine him as an operator but who knows, maybe this will be brilliant. Does he have other hospitality assets?

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Read archived comments (7 so far)
January 26, 2007 1:29 AM Posted by Mike E

As far as hospitality, he does own Necker Island which has bungalows that run 22K a week per couple, but running a casino is a whole different animal, of course.

While the Virgin company has had some blunders in the past, I admire Branson because he has proven to be a worthy competitor often one-upping his competition with innovative ideas (Virgin Atlantic, high-speed trains, and even Virgin Galactic).

If this casino actually blossoms, I'd be very interested. You know he'll have a couple new tricks up his sleeve.

January 26, 2007 6:31 AM Posted by Robbie M

Richard Branson is a dabbler, as well as his reccord buisness and airline he owns hotels in the UK and worldwide (including the carribean), a game reserve complex in South Africa complete with safari lodges, a private island in the carribean and several other Virgin branded companies ranging from cola to condoms to space travel.

In the UK Branson has tried twice for a licence to run the state lottery and has stated that he wants to introduce casino gambling onto his new A380 'super jumbo' airbus planes. He's also said that he'd like to own an casino in Vegas and I think at one point had talks with the Sahara.

I haven't got a clue how likely a venture in Maccau would be but my guess is that like some of his other projects with a major industry player for a Virgin branded property

January 26, 2007 5:19 PM Posted by Brian Fey

If he comes to Macau, with who will he partner? He needs a liscense. There are only the three concessions, and three subconcessions, and they are all spoken for. He needs a partner, and I know he and Steve Wynn are good friends.

January 27, 2007 12:07 AM Posted by HKBlogger

You were right! All over the press, Virgin to build a USD3 billion integrated casino resort in Macau.

He is reported to be teaming up with Australia's Tabcorp and they will further need to get into bed with one of the existing Macau casino licence holders. Viva Macau!

January 29, 2007 4:31 AM Posted by detroit1051

Hunter's Blog was four days ahead of the Wall Street Journal. Monday's Journal confirms Tabcorp, Australia's largest gaming company, is having preliminary talks with Branson to manage a $3 Billion casino/resort. Some analysts believe Tabcorp is a little late getting into Macau and doesn't have the expertise PBL does. Subscribers can read the article at:

February 1, 2007 8:22 PM Posted by Bert

I don't think Richard is wacky at all!

He must have known that Tabcorp is a target for a take-over bid by PBL. Also don't forget that Tabcorp owns a few casinos.

Otherwise he just has to team up with one of the 6 concession holders, most likely Melco/PBL.

The one big mistake they are making is that they are trying to make Macau into a family destination resort, but as you guys in Vegas know, this ain't going to fly. Not in my book anyway!

February 3, 2007 4:23 PM Posted by detroit1051

Trouble in Macao

By David McKee
February 1, 2007
Just when everything was looking hunky-dory for U.S. companies moving into Macao, who should pop out of the woodwork but the son of wastrel North Korean despot Kim Jong-il. It sounds like he's a chip off the old block (and even uglier than Dad, if such a thing were possible) and he's been hanging out in Macao for the past three years, it seems, mostly at the enclave's luxury hotels.

If Junior's been hanging his hat at any properties owned by Las Vegas Sands or Wynn Resorts � well, that would be a bit of a PR nightmare, wouldn't it? The news report says that Kim Jong-nam has been spotted dining at Macao's "plush casinos." (I guess that rules out any of Stanley Ho's joints.) The North Korean consulate in Macao pleads complete ignorance of the situation. Yeah, and they're probably shocked � shocked! � to find out that gambling is going on in Macao, too.

American casino companies would presumably prefer that the public (and regulators) not be reminded of Macao's chummy relationship with Pyongyang. The State Department has condemned Macao as a hive of North Korean money laundering. And who operates a casino in Pyongyang (right next door to Communist Party HQ)? Stanley Ho. Who did MGM have to buy its subconcession from? Stanley Ho. Whose daughter did they have to take on as a partner? Stanley Ho's. Once again, all roads lead to Dr. Ho. (Spokespeople at MGM Mirage get decidedly nettled whenever the subject turns to the elder Ho.)

Speaking of Pansy Ho � Nevada regulators may postpone their decision on her suitability as a business partner for MGM Mirage, pending new information. At this rate, execs at MGM may soon be able to toast the third anniversary of the Nevada Gaming Control Board's probe. Normally when you have to explore that far deep, you need a bathysphere.

Meanwhile � analysts raise some questions about the amount of exposure facing some mega-developers in Macao, particularly with regard to exponential increases in retail (a quintupling of the current supply) and hotel-room inventory. Hotel occupancy hasn't been keeping pace with capacity, so a collision (or at least a speed bump) between Macao's status as a day-trip market and Western efforts to convert it into Chinese Vegas appears inevitable.

Closer to home � California's Office of Problem Gambling released its 2006 prevalence study and found as many as 1.2 million Californians to be suffering from problem or pathological gambling. Disabled and unemployed people, and men in general, were found to be the most at-risk groups. When 3.5% of Californians have a gambling problem, I'd say it's cause for alarm. Harvard researchers (and the casino industry itself) think a much lower percentage of adults nationwide are problem gamblers, but California offers far greater opportunity for gambling than many other states in the Union, so I see no reason not to take these numbers seriously, barring some major flaw in the survey's methodology.

Rich man, poor man: Although he's trying to hit up two of his dealers for $70K in court costs, I guess we don't need to pass the hat for Steve Wynn just yet. The casino mogul gave himself a $500K raise today, which should keep him in toothpaste for a while to come. However, since his company has had only one profitable quarter out of the last four and not one profitable year, shareholders have a right to ask what justifies Wynn padding his salary by 18%, especially if the Wynner starts bellyaching about the effects of minimum-wage increases at the state and federal level.