Macau to do Bunny hop

Jul 3, 2007 5:33 AM

Gamblers in Macau are about to discover what their counterparts in Nevada have known all along: casinos and cleavage go hand in, well, hand.

Already the casino capital of Asia, now Macau is about to get a Playboy Mansion, populated with Playmate-like hostesses famous for their tight-fitting bunny suits and plunging necklines.

Playboy Enterprises, publisher of the world’s most widely read men’s magazine, will open a 40,000 square-foot entertainment complex, including gaming facilities and bunny-suited waitresses, in Macau in late 2009.

The Playboy Mansion Macao will include dining, entertainment and retail shops, company Chairman and Chief Executive Christie Hefner said in an interview in Hong Kong last week. It will be part of the Macao Studio City complex, with the gaming operations run by casino operator Melco International Development Ltd.

"Macau has vast growing power as a travel destination, with the number of visitors expected to double between 2006 and 2011,’’ said Hefner, daughter of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. "We will look for the most beautiful, personable women from Asia and the United States’’ to hire as Playboy Bunnies."

Hefner added it was "too early’’ to disclose how much will be invested in Playboy Mansion Macao and how much gaming will contribute to its revenue. She also didn’t say how much Playboy will pay Melco to run the project’s gaming operations. Melco is controlled by Stanley Ho’s son, Lawrence Ho.

Billionaire Stanley Ho’s gaming monopoly in Macau ended in 2002 when the government awarded licenses to five other operators in the city, the only place in China where casinos are legal. By this year’s first quarter, 25 casinos were operating in the 26 square-kilometer (10 square-mile) territory.

Macau’s economy grew 16.6 percent last year, compared with 6.9 percent in 2005 and 28.4 percent in 2004, the year the city’s first foreign-operated casino began operating.

The city’s gaming revenue may reach $8 billion in 2007, mainly driven by the scheduled opening of Las Vegas Sands’ Venetian Macao in the middle of this year.

Adelson said he recouped his $260 million investment in Macau in eight months after opening the Sands Macao in 2004, the first U.S.-owned casino in the city.

Launching a club with gaming isn’t new for Playboy. Last October the company opened a club at the Palms in Las Vegas, and said it hoped to open a similar venue in London.

Playboy’s licensing unit benefited from the debut of the gaming and cocktail lounge at the Palms, the world’s first Playboy Club since a location closed in 1991 in Manila. The division estimated the new Playboy Club will help fuel its full-year profit and sales by as much as 25 percent.