Online poker titan PokerStars will open a live poker room at Melco Crown Entertainment’s City of Dreams casino in Macau. No opening date has been set, but PokerStars LIVE at City of Dreams will eventually feature 13 tables on the casino’s main floor and will serve as the new home of the Macau Poker Cup, the Asia Pacific Poker Tour, the Asia Championship of Poker and the Macau Millions competition.
PokerStars has maintained a steady if nomadic presence in the Asian gambling enclave, opening a room at the Grand Waldo in 2008, moving to SJM Holdings’ Grand Lisboa the following year. Following the expiration of that contract in March 2012, PokerStars returned to the Grand Waldo while searching for a more permanent home.
The deal is significant because new gaming tables are scarce in Macau. Every poker table means one less baccarat table on the casino floor, and poker generates far less revenue per table than baccarat. But PokerStars’ biz-dev director Guy Templer told GamblingCompliance that demand for poker in Macau had “grown quite considerably” over the past year or so, even if the supply of poker tables had not kept pace. Templar acknowledges that casino owners must “look at the business and where they can make the most money,” but says City of Dreams’ emphasis on mass-market gambling makes a poker room “a natural fit.” Templer declined to speculate on whether Stars would open rooms in any other Melco Crown casinos, such as the Belle Grande Manila Bay facility set to open in the Philippines in Q4 2013.
The Melco Crown deal is the latest in PokerStars’ convergence play, which has seen it ink live poker room deals with London’s Hippodrome Casino and the Casino Gran Madrid in Spain. The Madrid room opened its doors earlier this month while the London room is set to open March 4. Meanwhile, PokerStars’ bid to acquire the Atlantic Club casino-hotel in New Jersey is awaiting regulatory approval.
Proving that convergence is a two-way street, the Hippodrome recently launched its Microgaming-powered, Betway Group-operated online casino. Hippodrome director of online operations George Constantinou said the site was designed to make its land-based customers feel right at home by incorporating photographs of rooms and locations from the venue. Players can even top up their accounts in person at the iconic Leicester Square facility. Hippodromeonline.com will eventually feature an online poker offering provided by PokerStars, which took a minority interest in the casino as part of its live poker room plan.