Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn said Wednesday that China has relaxed travel curbs for Guangdong residents visiting Macau, giving a boost to the Hong Kong listing of his casino group next month.
Wynn, in Hong Kong to announce details of the listing of Wynn Macau on October 9, said Guangdong residents can now get a visa to travel to the gaming enclave once a month, compared to once every three months previously.
“It is a macro-economic consideration by the central government,” he told a press conference.
Macau, the only Chinese city where gambling is legal, has become a gaming paradise after it opened up its market to overseas casino operators in 2002. The city has already overtaken Las Vegas in terms of gaming revenue.
But income has been battered by the financial crisis and the visa restrictions placed by Beijing on Chinese visitors, who form the bulk of Macau casinos’ clientele.
Visa policies for mainland Chinese visitors to Macau has always been a murky issue. Analysts said that China tightened the restrictions last year to control an already over-heated gaming sector.
Wynn said he is planning to sell 1.25 billion shares in the company to raise up to 1.6 billion dollars for the expansion of his gaming business in Macau.
Striking a more humble tone than when he first set up business in Macau, Wynn said he was grateful to Beijing for allowing him to list Wynn Macau in Hong Kong and described his company as “more Chinese than American.”
“We are a Chinese company that has an American partnership and some American management…We will assimilate ourselves to the Chinese more quickly and efficiently,” he said.
He said the listing was to “invite Chinese people and Chinese institutions to take part in the ownership of this company.”
His words contrasted with the conquering tone used when he opened Wynn Macau in 2006, saying: “We will bring a new day and a new beginning to Macau.”
“We were selected by the government of Macau to bring change (to the city) — now change has come.”
The listing comes at a time when confidence is returning to the gaming sector after the downturn.
Macau gaming revenue set a record in August, with investors expecting more business from mainland China as travel restrictions ease.
Asked if he was concerned that Singapore, which will see its first casino project open by end of this year, will draw Chinese gamblers away from Macau, Wynn said it was unlikely.
“Will the government of Macau and the government of China let it happen? I don’t think so.”
Wynn Macau is the first integrated casino and hotel resort to open in the former Portuguese enclave and the second US gaming venue to open since a 2001 law liberalised the city’s century-old casino industry.
Wynn’s listing follows a share sale in July of rival firm Sociedade de Jogos de Macau Holdings (SJM), the casino firm of Macau tycoon Stanley Ho, who enjoyed a monopoly on gaming in Macau for four decades.
Its rival Las Vegas Sands, controlled by another gaming guru Sheldon Adelson, is also seeking a Hong Kong listing of its Macau assets, reports said, after it brought its expansion projects in the city to a halt last year over financing problems.