February 2, 2015 / 12:03 PM / in 3 years

Melco Crown's Ho not eyeing South Korea expansion

MANILA, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Macau’s Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd is not eager to include South Korea in its resort-casino portfolio and will instead focus on ramping up operations at its newly opened City of Dreams Manila project, a top company official said on Monday.

The conservative Korean culture has largely excluded locals from gambling in casinos. Operators setting up in the country are banking on its proximity to northeast China and Korean culture as a draw for Chinese gamblers who bet billions in places like Macau.

Areas like Incheon in South Korea cannot guarantee a daily traffic of 30,000 visitors, a key requirement to make an integrated casino-resort project viable, Lawrence Ho, Melco Crown co-chairman, told reporters in Manila where he led the formal opening of the over $1-billion City of Dreams

“In our opinion, foreigners-only gaming market is difficult. Korea and its policy of not letting locals in, to us, is difficult,” Ho told reporters.

“But one day, if the government changes its policy about locals, we would jump in head first,” Ho said, in his first comments about prospects in South Korea.

South Korea has already approved a consortium of U.S.-based Caesars Entertainment Corp and Lippo Ltd as well as a joint venture of local player Paradise Co Ltd and Japan’s Sega Sammy Holdings Inc to build two casino resorts in Incheon, west of Seoul, part of a three-year plan to boost the economy.

Melco’s Manila resort-casino is its first outside Macau. The company hopes to take advantage of the expanding domestic consumption in the Southeast Asian country, the fastest growing in Asia after China, as Macau reels from China’s crackdown on corruption and Japan indefinitely postpones casino legalisation.

“As of this moment there is no better market than Macau and Manila,” Ho said.

City of Dreams Manila, which held a soft opening in December, is comprised of three hotels, 380 gaming tables, 1,700 slot machines and 1,700 electronic tables.

Melco Crown, through local unit Melco Crown Philippines Resorts Corp, built the Manila project with Premium Leisure Corp of the Philippines’ richest man Henry Sy.

City of Dreams Manila is the second casino resort to open in Entertainment City, Manila’s version of the Las Vegas gaming strip. Rival Bloomberry Resorts Corp opened its Solaire Resort & Casino in 2013.

Reporting By Neil Jerome Morales; editing by Keith Weir

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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