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Nothing defeatist in MGM Cotai’s “mass only” announcement

Written by Ben Blaschke

As misleading headlines go, they don’t come much more so than one that featured on over the weekend, reading, “MGM admits VIP defeat in Macau.”

The article refers to MGM’s announcement last week that MGM’s new Macau property MGM Cotai, due to open in 2017, would not include any VIP tables.

“We’ve already made the decision that we’re envisaging opening with only mass tables and that’s obviously the basis of where we see the future of Macau,” MGM China CEO Grant Bowie told Macau television network TDM. “That’s the decision we’ve taken at this time and we’re going to walk forward as being a mass-only property.”

In truth though, it has nothing to do with admitting VIP “defeat.” The VIP business in Macau has certainly been dealt some heavy blows over the past three years and it is unlikely junkets will ever relive their glory days of the past decade, but they are far from a spent force – nor is Bowie suggesting any such thing.

Rather, he is simply nodding to the reality of Macau in 2016. In fact, his comments could be construed as being particularly clever. After all, the Macau government showed last week that it is standing firmly by its word in regards to the criteria it will use to determine how many new tables each Cotai property will receive. Wynn Palace didn’t heed the message and has been granted 100 fewer than its predecessors Galaxy Phase 2 and Studio City. Bowie has no intention of letting the same fate befall MGM Cotai.

More importantly, Bowie’s comments only echo what he told WGM in an exclusive interview last year when we asked him about what to expect from MGM Cotai.

“We’re spending too much time second guessing each other rather than collaborating and realizing that this change in market conditions is the best thing that could have happened to Macau,” he said. “It’s going to create the greatest opportunity we’re ever going to have to actually be able to respond to the changing nature of the Chinese consumer and therefore be price setters rather than just order takers.”