Macau officials have ordered the temporary closure of the hotel containing the troubled Greek Mythology Casino for “harming the image of Macao’s tourism sector.”
On Friday, the Macao Government Tourist Office (MGTO) ordered the Beijing Imperial Palace Hotel – formerly known as the New Century Hotel – to shut down on Saturday (23) due to its operator having “committed serious administrative irregularities, constituting threats to public safety.” The closure will last six months.
The MGTO claimed that past inspections of the Imperial Palace had uncovered multiple instances of illegal reconstructions that presented “serious fire safety issues,” including obstructed escape routes, use of flammable construction materials, defective lighting and smoke detection systems, inadequate number of fire extinguishers, etc.
The MGTO’s inspections had already led to the closure of a number of the property’s dining and other facilities but the MGTO claims the owners had failed to bring their building up to code. Until the necessary changes are made, the public is forbidden from setting foot on the property. The closure marks the first time that Macau officials have shut down a five-star hotel.
The Greek Mythology Casino has been ‘temporarily’ shut since Dec. 30 following a request by SJM Holdings, under whose gaming license the casino had been operating. The casino was run by a company called Greek Mythology (Macau) Entertainment Group Corp Ltd, in which junket investor Amax Holdings holds a one-quarter stake.
Amax suspended trading in its shares on Friday following news of the hotel’s closure. Amax has been locked in a multi-year legal dispute with the casino operator, which Amax claims has refused to provide “valid financial information” to Amax, making a proper mess of the company’s annual reports.
Amax chairman Ng Man Sun acquired the hotel in 1996 but lost control of it in 2012 after ‘temporarily’ transferring 80% of its shares to his former paramour Chen Mei Huan, who decided the transfer was permanent once the couple split up.
The 600-room hotel was rebranded from its New Century identity in 2013 after the Macau Court of First Instance ordered it seized as compensation for debts owed to Hoi Cheng Nga, boss of the Energy Travel Agency.
Last October, the hotel’s ownership was transferred to Victory Success Holdings but Amax challenged the legality of this transfer. On July 15, Macau’s Court of Final Appeal (TUI) ruled that Hoi Cheng Nga had the right to sell the Imperial Palace to recover money she claimed to be owed from unpaid VIP gambling commissions.