Melco Crown rethinking Studio City’s lack of VIP gambling

melco-crown-studio-city-vip-gamblingCasino operator Melco Crown Entertainment (MCE) is reportedly looking at belatedly launching junket operations at its Studio City property in Macau.

Studio City made waves at last October’s official grand opening based on its complete lack of VIP gaming tables. However, the company’s chief operating officer Ted Chan Ying Tat recently suggested that Studio City was preparing to roll out the VIP red carpet.

On Friday, MCE held an event for local companies to learn more about becoming suppliers to the casino operator. GGRAsia quoted Chan telling local media that MCE was considering ending its VIP embargo in part because “we internally are not very satisfied with the current condition” of the Studio City property.

When Studio City launched, MCE CEO Lawrence Ho framed the lack of VIP rooms as a “business decision” based on (a) the company’s stated desire to focus the property on mass market guests and (b) its disappointment with being allocated only 250 new gaming tables, not the 400 the company had sought.

However, Ho’s version of events was challenged two months later by Alvin Chau, who heads up SunCity Group, Macau’s largest junket operator. Chau told Inside Asian Gaming that “it is known that [Studio City’s] license for VIP rooms hasn’t started.”

Chau went on to claim that the delay was down to “a matter of table distribution by the government – delaying the distribution of VIP tables till next year.” Studio City received 200 new tables when it opened, while the remaining 50 were to come this January.

Macau officials have yet to comment on Chau’s claims, which suggested for the first time that casino operators aren’t completely free to allocate their tables as they see fit. Either way, the government has been pushing operators to shift their focus from VIP gamblers to the mass market as a way to broaden Macau’s tourism appeal.

The VIP share of Macau’s gambling market has tumbled along with the market’s overall revenue, which has now reported two straight years of monthly declines. When Macau’s revenue was at its peak, the VIP segment as a percentage of the whole ranked in the mid- to high-70s. In Q1 2016, VIP’s share had fallen to 54%.