Lanni eager for
Macau connection

Mar 6, 2007 5:38 AM

Will the new Asian casinos complement or compete with those in Las Vegas? The answer, according to MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni, is a little of both.

"That is obviously why we want to be in Macau and other parts of Asia," he said.

MGM is losing business to Las Vegas competitors who are already in Macau.

One of the most important dynamics of the moment, he explained, is found in a close look at what’s happening in the four coastal provinces of the People’s Republic of China as people and their circumstances are being shuffled as never before.

Taiwan continues to be an important source of business for MGM and its Las Vegas casinos, but Lanni says a "significant portion" of MGM’s former Taiwanese customers have either moved or relocated their businesses to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

"They are spending less and less time there (in Taiwan), so a lot of business that comes to us from out of the PRC now is, interestingly enough, what we once thought of as Taiwanese business," Lanni said. "Take a look at what’s happening now in Macau and when you add up the dollars that are being wagered there, I would guess that 80 percent of the money is from the PRC either directly or indirectly."

Then there are the Macau visitors who appear to be coming from Hong Kong.

Lanni said the statistics that show the large number of people originating Macau trips from Hong Kong creates some misleading impressions because "we know for a fact" that many of them are from Beijing and Shanghai, but have homes or businesses in Hong Kong.

These are people with an interest in gambling who have, in many instances, previously been to the United States, but are spending time now in Macau at the American casinos owned by Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson.

"That’s why we are looking forward to opening in Macau because not being there now puts us at a disadvantage, quite frankly," Lanni said.

Lanni adds that a "good portion" of the increase in business at the Adelson and Wynn resorts on the Las Vegas Strip has been generated as a result of relationships developed at Macau casinos.

There is another point to consider as the benefits of a Macau presence are calculated.

"There are a lot of people coming in from the PRC who, I suspect, are not interested in exposing the amount of wagers that they make as close to home as they are in Macau," Lanni said. "They might be more comfortable with the relative anonymity that they have here in Las Vegas."

Wynn: AC a ”˜challenge’

Atlantic City lacks astute political leadership. Now there’s a shocking statement, right?

It was the thrust of recent remarks by Steve Wynn who was asked to update reports that he has an interest in creating something nice there, along the lines of what he is doing in Las Vegas and Macau.

"We do not have anything going on," Wynn said, "except an abiding interest in the market, but political leadership in Atlantic City has been illusive."

Wynn does have high regard for New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, whom he characterized as "perhaps the most intellectually gifted man who ever held that office."

But whether Corzine’s talents can translate to an improved environment for developers anxious to try their hand at big time gaming remains to be seen.

"Unless there is political leadership in Atlantic City," Wynn said, "it will always be a place that creates challenges for developers."

Wynn may be right about the lack of leadership, but some Atlantic City insiders think his view might improve were the city to approve the zoning that would enable him to develop on the acreage that was once Bader Field.

Other gaming industry leaders have said they are opposed to opening the Bader real estate for casinos at this time.