Lawrence Ho’s plans to expand his casino company past Macau’s shores received another shot in the arm with the announcement that his Melco International Development company had signed a memorandum of understanding with Spain’s Veremonte Espana S.L. to manage “one or more casinos” in BCN Dream, a “gaming, mixed tourism and integrated resort project” being developed near Barcelona as part of Veremonte’s larger BCN World project.
The Spanish MOU, which was announced at the close of trading at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange last Friday, marks the second time in one week that Ho’s companies have been mentioned in casino news outside of Macau. Just last week, the Ho-controlled Summit Ascent announced it was increasing its ownership stake in the casino project it was developing in Russia’s Primorye territory near Vladivostok with partners Firich Enterprises Co. and local developer Oleg Drozdov.
The Spanish deal would see Melco act in a managerial capacity as a casino operator. The Spanish investment group invited Ho’s Melco International Development to be a part of the project last year when it was still in its proposal phase. Melco was approached to operate the first resort in the project (the aforementioned Barcelona Dream) and as part of the Veremonte’s proposal, Ho’s Melco group would have two local partners – Meliá hotel group and a firm called Value Retail – in the casino project. All told, the casino will be built on 300,000 square meters of land and will feature a total of 1,100 hotel beds, a casino, and a theater.
Ho’s international ambitions mark a departure from the strategy used by Ho’s father, the incomparable Stanley Ho, who built his entire massive casino empire in Macau when he had monopoly of the market for decades until it was opened to foreign operators. But the younger Ho clearly has a business mind of his own.
The City of Dreams Manila project in the Philippines – being developed by the Melco Crown Entertainment joint venture with Crown Resorts – is in the final stages of development before its long-awaited opening later this year. Malco Crown has also committed to making a serious run at a casino in Japan when that market eventually opens.