Melco International Owns 75% of City of Dreams Cyprus
Melco International Development Ltd., the Hong Kong-listed casino company owned by Lawrence Ho, has increased its stake from 4.26% to 75%, by investing $188.5 million in plans for a new casino project in the Republic of Cyprus. The provisional name for the new casino currently is City of Dreams Mediterranean.
Melco is now fully vested in a joint venture investment agreement with a local conglomerate, Cyprus Phassouri (Zakaki) Ltd.
Lawrence Ho recently sold parts of his Tigre de Cristal casino in the Russian Far East to a Taiwanese shipping, retail, and real estate conglomerate. That cash now can be invested in the Cyprus casino, which would welcome European tourists and gambling enthusiasts.
The opportunity to build a Cypriot casino stems from the Cyprus legislature’s passage of a casino bill in 2010.
Cyprus Betting Law 2012
The Betting Law 2012 introduced a comprehensive legislative framework for land-based casinos, as well as other betting activities for Cyprus. The Betting Law 2012 was put into effect to supplement gaps in the law and to establish a solid legal framework for the future. The biggest change wrought by the 2012 gaming law was the creation of the National Betting Authority (NBA), which has authority over all gambling activities in Cyprus.
The NBA holds responsibility for examining applications, licensing, auditing and supervising prospects for betting shops as well as online betting operators. The Ministry of Finance holds power over the legislation and all of its amendments, as well as regulations and directives. Most importantly, the NBA oversees the licensing process for land-based casinos.
Anastasiades Praises Casino Projects
With the approval of the bill, President Nicos Anastasiades has high hopes for the country. He mentioned in a press release that the new bill should help to turn the country into an investment center. Cyprus has been long overdue for a new casino. The president believes that the country’s tourism population will rise as well as create several new opportunities for employment.
The 2012 has an addendum, the Casino Law 2015, which provided for a single casino license for a large integrated casino resort. The license includes four minor regional venues that can be built throughout the island. After a long process of shuffling through 6 different international operators, Cyprus chose the Chinese company, Melco International.
The single operator will receive a 30-year license. They will be able to build and operate a casino. The first fifteen years of the license are a guaranteed monopoly. The operator will also be allowed to build two additional casinos that can be located in areas of the operators choosing. Each additional facility must be able to accommodate 100 table games and 1,000 slot machines as well as provide hotel accommodation with at least 500 bedrooms.
Cyprus Casino Applicants
Many of the world’s top casino companies applied for the casino license. Others were rumored to have applies, but now claim they never sought a gaming license in Cyprus.
- NagaCorp: Cambodia Casino operator
- Bloomberry: Philippine Casino operator
- Hard Rock International: US company (the Seminole Tribe of Florida)
- Absolut Gaming Company: Russian company
- Barriere / Accord Hotels / Bouygues Batiment International: A French consortium
There are still some casinos that have the potential to still apply:
- Las Vegas Sands Corp: US company
- MGM Resorts: US company
Those Rumored to Have Applied
- Caesars Entertainment: US company
- Genting Limited Group: Malaysian multinational conglomerate [huge holdings in the US and Singapore]
- Sun International: South African company
Cyprus Phassouri Casino
Cyprus Phassouri Ltd now owns 25%, but is still responsible for the land in which the casino will reside. Cyrpus Phassouri may have decided that the investment was too large, or might have decided that lack of experience was a detriment. The company now is partnering with a company which operates in the largest gambling destination in the world.
According to a press release at the time the application process began, Melco’s goal in Cyprus is to establish “itself as a global entertainment and gaming operator.”
Later, Lawrence Ho declared that he considered the possibility of building and operating an integrated casino resort in Cyprus to be “an attractive business opportunity.”
In a press release, Melco said, “Partnering with The Cyprus Phassouri (Zakaki) Ltd, a strong local partner and member of the CNS Group, is expected to be highly beneficial to the development of the project.”
Cypriot Integrated Casino Resort
Melco International said that they expect that the entire transaction will be completed before the end of December. Lawrence Ho mentioned that Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd or one of its other subordinates will be responsible for overseeing the coming Cypriot integrated casino resort. They are in partnership with license holder ICR Cyprus Holdings Ltd.
The statement from Melco International said, “Those services include development management services in relation to the design, construction and development process for the integrated casino resort, pre-opening and related services, corporate management services and the provision of intellectual property and proprietary systems.”
Lawrence Ho Profile
In the year 2001, Lawrence Ho took over Melco International Development Limited. Once the company was in his hands, Ho began to re-strategize the business goal for the company and shift its focus towards the entertainment and leisure industry.
Lawrence Ho, the son of Stanley Ho, now owns casinos in China, Russia, and the Philippines. Lawrence Ho, being a native to Hong Kong, made his big start in 2009 when Melco Crown Entertainment set up its first casino hotel in Taipa, Macau (now known as Altira Macau). This casino has made the Forbes list and is 5 Star Hotel Status. It was the start to a very fruitful career.
The City of Dreams Macau and Studio City are resorts on the Cotai Peninsula in Macau. Until 2016, Melco was known as Melco Crown, because of a strategic partnership with the Australian casino company, Crown Resorts. Lawrence Ho and James Packer had a lot in common, as sons of famous corporate moguls, but Crown had to sell its 33% stock after a scandal involving illegal advertisements in mainland China that enveloped 18 employees.
Tigre de Cristal
Lawrence Ho is the Chairman as well as a non-executive director of Summit Ascent Holdings Ltd, a Russian based casino. In 201 the company was listed on the Main Board of the Stock Exchange.
The company holds interest in Tigre de Cristal. It is a gambling and resort development project located in Vladivostok, Russia, which was successfully opened in 2015. However, Lawrence Ho has recently reduced his stake in the company that runs the casino resort in Russia’s Far East. Ho informed the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that he is relieving himself of 8.31 percent of his shares in Summit Ascent Holdings Ltd. This has reduced his personal holdings in Summit Ascent from 27.06 percent down to 18.75 percent.
City of Dreams Manila
In February of 2015, the Lawrence Ho company Melco, opened its first overseas integrated resort, City of Dreams Manila, in the Philippines. Lawrence Ho said of his Philippine holdings, “Our ability to bring together and work with leading names in the entertainment, hospitality and lifestyle sectors was key to realizing City of Dreams Manila, which will now set the benchmark for entertainment-inspired leisure destinations globally.”
City of Dreams Manila has a large gaming space and more than 900 hotel rooms that operate under three different hotel brands – Crown, Hyatt and Nobu. The casino and resort offer the DreamPlay indoor amusement park as well as tons of restaurant and retail options.