Las Vegas firms on track for Chinese licenses

January 15, 2002 8:27 AM
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When Chinese officials in Macau award three gaming licenses between now and the Chinese New Year on Feb. 12, Las Vegas-based companies are expected to be included in the award-winners.

On Monday, representatives of the Macau Special Administrative Region committee said nine of the applicants had been tabbed as finalists for the licenses and the group includes the major Las Vegas operators.

These include Sheldon Adelson’s The Venetian; MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGG), the odd-pairing of Park Place Entertainment Corp., (PPE) as partners with Mandalay Group Resort Inc. (MBG), Steve Wynn’s group, Las Vegas Macau East, led by former long-time Downtown gaming personality Ed Munley, and the Lucky 9 Casino Corporation headed by Navegante’s Larry Woolf.

Also among the finalists is Macau legendary gaming czar Stanley Ho, whose 20-year gaming monopoly in Macau ends on March 31. Although some observers have suggested that Ho and his associates were certain to be among the successful bidders, others have disagreed, pointing to some recent problems Ho’s operations have developed with employees.

Originally, there were 21 applicants for the much-sought after licenses but the administrative committee disqualified three. The remaining 18 bidders were then given personal interviews ranging from two to four hours.

After trimming the field to nine finalists, the committee again provided each an opportunity to present their cases.

The bids ranged from $1 billion to $2 billion, with Larry Woolf’s Lucky 9 Casino Corporation, an amalgamation of American investors, presenting the highest bid. There were at least two other bids that approached the $2 billion mark since one of the requirements set forth by the licensing committee was that the bidders propose projects that would help tourism and economic development.

Among the projects being proposed to accompany the casinos were such things as hospitals, amusement park that would contain the world’s largest ferris wheel, and even a bridge linking Hong Kong and Macau.

Applicants were not told when the decisions would be made, but the Chinese authorities indicated it would be prior to the New Year festivities.