BUSINESS

New floating casino part of first Chinese mainland-controlled luxury cruise line

TAGs: China Cruises Company Ltd., China Star, Huang Weijan, stanley ho

china-star-casino-twin-hull

Twin hulls, no waiting

A ship formerly owned by Macau gambling magnate Stanley Ho will form the nucleus of a new cruise line aimed at a high-end Chinese clientele. Ho bought the Finnish-built, twin-hull, 12-floor, 172-room Asia Star in 2004 and almost immediately converted most of the public rooms into gambling venues. In June 2011, Huang Weijan purchased the vessel from Ho for 283m yuan — “a cheap deal” according to the entrepreneur from Wenzhou in Zhejiang province. Rechristened the China Star, it becomes the first ship in the new China Cruises Company Ltd. fleet. Huang hopes to buy perhaps four or five more vessels to traverse the waters of East Asia, South Asia, China’s east coast and the Taiwan Strait, with plans to eventually run lines to South Korea, Japan and Russia.

The China Star will sail from Hong Kong on March 8, marking the maiden voyage of the first Chinese mainland-controlled luxury cruise line. Huang hopes to make in-roads into the casino cruise business by customizing onboard amenities to cater to Chinese mainland culture. The company is reportedly talking to gaming operators regarding branding and table leasing opportunities.

Casino cruise ships sail nightly out of Hong Kong, including those operated by Genting Hong Kong – a 50/50 partner with Alliance Global Group in one of the casinos going up in Pagcor’s Entertainment City Manila project. Also sailing out of Hong Kong since last year are junket operators Jimei Group, which, together with fellow junketeers CCUE, acquired a ship from the Neptune Group. There was talk in 2011 that the decommissioned UK aircraft carrier Ark Royal might be purchased by a Hong Kong businessman and transformed into a floating casino, although it never came to fruition.

In Singapore, New Century Cruise Lines operates the M/V Leisure World, but another ship, the Long Jie, was sold in 2011 by Asian Cruises after the opening of the city-state’s two integrated resort casinos in 2010. Even with the $100 entry fee, the IRs proved popular enough with the locals to make the Long Jie’s long-term future a bad bet, proving that the floating casino biz isn’t always smooth sailing.

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