The 13 Holdings targets mid-2019 casino opening … maybe


the-13-macau-casino-2019-openingStruggling Macau luxury hotel project The 13 Holdings is hoping to attract fresh investment by announcing plans to launch casino gaming operations next year.

On Sunday, The 13 Holdings Ltd informed the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that it now plans to launch casino and retail shopping operations at its in-development luxury hotel project of the same name no earlier than March 31, 2019.

The announcement came as the company announced plans to raise additional capital via a new rights issue. The company says it needs an additional HK$973m (US$124.4m) to complete the unfinished hotel, which has undergone numerous financial setbacks over the past year.

Conceived as the ultimate gambling hideaway for the Asia-Pacific region’s über-wealthy during the Macau casino market’s pre-2014 heyday, the property’s raison d’être looked increasingly dubious after China began cracking down on corruption and on capital flow to Macau casinos.

Last month, The 13 founder Stephen Hung walked away from the project, resigning all his executive and board positions while selling off his significant holdings in the project. The company also announced another delay in the opening of the property’s hotel component, this time to April 30.

Part of The 13’s problem was the uncertainty surrounding Macau authorities’ willingness to grant the property a casino license. Early on, The 13 claimed it had reached a deal with an “affiliate” of one of Macau’s six casino concessionaires, with observers at the time suggesting the concessionaire in question was Melco Crown Entertainment (now Melco Resorts & Entertainment).

The 13 said Sunday that it had received a letter from this affiliate on January 17, and that this letter didn’t contain “any negative feedback” regarding their original agreement. The 13 claimed “disclosure restrictions” in this deal prevented the company from identifying the affiliate.

However, The 13 did indicate that the concessionaire “operates a number of integrated casino hotels in Macau and clubs with gaming machines as its non-casino based operations.” Among MRE’s divisions is the slots-only Mocha Clubs brand.

Assuming it ever opens, The 13’s casino plans to offer 66 gaming tables (16 VIP, 50 ‘premium mass’) with minimum bets set “at a comparatively high level.” The casino also hopes to offer around 50 high-limit slot machines.

However, The 13 cautioned that its casino plans depended on (a) the whims of the concessionaire and (b) securing the blessing of Macau authorities, and thus “the casino at The 13 Hotel may not proceed according to the currently contemplated plan.”

Furthermore, the money The 13 is currently seeking to raise won’t cover the casino’s development costs. For that, The 13 claims it will have to get out its begging bowl at some future date to raise an additional HK$352m ($45m).