Archive for June, 2011

Singapore casinos beat long odds

June 30, 2011

Bulletin (new date): My interview on Macau’s TDM Talk Show will be televised on its Portuguese channel on Saturday, July 2 at 8pm (Macau/Hong Kong/China time; Saturday 8am US Eastern time) and be repeated Sunday night/Monday morning at 12.30 am. After the initial airing, you can watch it on the TDM website via the TDM Talk Show link. Hope you’ll tune in for my talk (in English) with Natalya Molok about Macau gaming, Hong Kong On Air – the perfect read for this Hong Kong Reunification Day weekend, as well as July 4th – and Writing Camp.

Plenty of experts doubted that Singapore’s experiment with two casinos would succeed. Not because of Singapore’s straitlaced reputation, nor because of unprecedented public opposition to the so-called integrated resorts (IRs). The issue was money.

Marina Bay Sands at $6.9 billion and Resorts World Sentosa at $5.7 billion are the two most expensive casino resorts ever built. (MGM’s $9 billion-plus City Center in Las Vegas includes residential and office components.) “They’ll have to be much more successful than the most profitable casino in history,” a skeptical analyst told me while the IRs were under construction.

A year after the grand opening of Marina Bay Sands, Singapore’s two IRs have become the world’s two most profitable casino resorts, helping fuel a tourism boom in Singapore. Yet, as I wrote in Asia Times, there’s little joy over the achievement.

Earlier this year, I highlighted the fun gap at Marina Bay Sands amid its renowned architecture. That report in Macau Business also examined the odd departure of Marina Bay Sands CEO Thomas Arasi after delivering company record profits. Sometimes, it seems, money alone can’t buy happiness.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

Macau Studio City puts Lawrence Ho center stage

June 24, 2011

Bulletin: My interview on Macau’s TDM Talk Show will be televised on its Portuguese channel on Saturday, July 2 at 8pm (Macau/Hong Kong/China time; Saturday 8am US Eastern time) and be repeated Sunday night/Monday morning at 12.30 am. After the initial airing, you can watch it on the TDM website TDM Talk Show link. Hope you’ll tune in for my talk (in English) with Natalya Molok about Macau gaming, Hong Kong On Air, and Writing Camp.

Taking control of the long idle Macau Studio City project has turned heads Lawrence Ho’s way. Ho’s Melco Crown has long been viewed as a logical party to buy out one of the project’s feuding partners since it agreed to operate the Studio City casino back in 2007. But the timing of the US$360 million deal surprised gaming industry observers far and wide.

As I wrote in Asia Times, the acquisition has won a lot of respect for Ho. Getting Macau Studio City out of Hong Kong’s courts and back into construction is sure to please the Macau government. The key challenge for Stanley Ho’s highest profile son in the casino business is to build a winning property that could make him as big a player as anyone in Macau. Ho’s Altira and City of Dreams efforts have been less than overwhelming successes, but analysts believe he will do better this time. He probably shouldn’t get another chance if Macau Studio City lays an egg.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

Macau’s boom trumps skeptics

June 18, 2011

There’s no room left to argue about the success of Macau. Optimism about Macau and gaming across Asia dominated last week’s Global Gaming Expo Asia (G2E Asia) in the world’s gaming capital.

The annual conference and trade show was also an opportunity to showcase the new Galaxy Macau resort that’s the most daring attempt since the Venetian Macao to transform the character of the Macau market from gaming-centric day trippers. In its four years, the Venetian has become a local landmark and tourist touchstone, but it’s done little to alter the composition and direction of Macau’s growth. This year, as I reported in Asia Times, gaming revenue is on track to surpass five times the take of the Las Vegas Strip.

You can’t dispute numbers like that, but smart investors and observers can ask how much they know about what’s behind those numbers.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

Remember Tiananmen Square

June 4, 2011

Twenty-two years ago today, under the cover of darkness, China’s government unleashed its military against peaceful protestors in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square asking for little more than a fairer deal from their unelected rulers. Hundreds, probably thousands of people were slaughtered on the streets of China’s capital city.

Last year, I interviewed Chinese writer in exile Ma Jian, author of Beijing Coma, a novel about the Tiananmen Square massacre and its aftermath that Ma says still reverberates today across China.

Beijing says the matter of the June 4, 1989 “incident” is closed. Tens of thousands of people will gather tonight in Hong Kong to remind Beijing that the incident remains very much alive in the minds of people everywhere who enjoy freedoms the people of China are still denied. The demand for fair and representative government remains, not just in China under the regime’s boot heels, but playing out right now across the Middle East.

The events of June 4, 1989 must serve as a reminder that change from dictatorship to freedom is not inevitable. In much of the Middle East, most notably Libya, Syria and Yemen, unwanted rulers are following China’s playbook to deal with their restive populations. People across the world should seize this day to remind those rulers clinging to power that it is time to go and that violent repression will have consequences.

To paraphrase a great revolutionary, governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, not the other way around. Good people everywhere should demand that revolutionary idea take hold across the globe. Wherever you are, stand with the people of Hong Kong tonight.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.


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