Jim Murren expressed supreme confidence that the MGM Cotai resort, which will open later this year, will be awe-inspiring. The MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO believes that MGM’s property in Cotai will contribute to expanding Macau’s visitor base. In an interview with Macau Daily Times and Macao Daily this week, Murren, 55, says that the current elevation of the Las Vegas market shows that the investment in non-gaming elements paid off. The same is expected to happen in Macau, Murren says.
– A recent Washington Post article mentioned that you are known for designing properties as destinations that offer much more than casinos. Which are the MGM Cotai design features that you would like to highlight?
Jim Murren (JM) – I’m very proud of the fact that, of all companies, I think MGM is a great listener. Macau has been very clear, as has China. The future of Macau is based on its ability, and the company’s willingness and success, in diversifying the economy beyond simply gaming into a very broad hospitality field. That is extremely positive for MGM because that is exactly what we do. We believe that anyone can simply operate a casino. We are in the entertainment business, we create public spaces, thoughtful art collections, public gathering places, unique entertainment experiences and it is our differentiator. We are the largest MICE owner and operator in Las Vegas and the largest provider of entertainment in the United States. We are very focused on cultural connectivity to our resorts. In Cotai we are very focused in creating something very unique and simply not just a larger MGM [Macau]. The personalities of the two properties will be very different, because we believe it is our duty to create new experiences, to draw an even broader visitor to Macau.
– Regarding the customer base, will MGM Macau be targeting more VIP customers and MGM Cotai more for the mass market?
JM – The intent of [MGM] Cotai is to have a much broader customer base, with a great emphasis on the mass market. We believe the mass business is going to continue to grow in Macau and we want to be the resort of choice for this new generation of Chinese tourists that are coming to Macau – as they are around the world – to experience something new and unique. Given the larger scale of [MGM] Cotai and the greater diversity of food and entertainment, we believe it will be far more diverse in its customer base than MGM Macau and it will be consistent with the government’s goals of driving mass visitation and more diversified hospitality to Macau. A good example would be our art collection in Cotai. MGM was the first and it’s the most committed to the arts in Macau and we are taking this leadership even further in Cotai. We have developed a very large and diverse collection of art, combining over 300 pieces of art that focuses not only on contemporary art from Asian artists, but also we are returning home 28 imperial carpets from the Qing dynasty that used to be housed in the Forbidden City. This has been a focus of my friend and partner, Ms Pansy Ho and is a responsibility that we take very seriously to promote the arts in Macau.
– What is your outlook for Macau’s overall economy, given that many resorts have already been built in Cotai?
JM – I’m extremely excited about the future of Macau. I believe that the leadership here has been very clear on the responsibilities of companies such as mine. We are excited to bring more non-gaming offerings to Macau to solidify Macau’s position as a world center of tourism and leisure. I believe that the evolution of this market ensures long term sustainable growth because of the efforts to continue to grow Macau from a hospitality perspective. One example is the application by Macau to become a UNESCO city of gastronomy. We have taken that challenge on board and we are delivering many restaurant concepts that no one has seen before in the world. For over 20 years, Las Vegas grew solely because new properties kept being built to expand tourism. That was Las Vegas’ past. Today, Las Vegas continues to grow, not because there are new resorts, but because companies like MGM are investing in non-gaming facilities and in software, investing in content and creating experiences. That is the reason Las Vegas is growing today. That is exactly, in my opinion, what is going to happen in Macau.
– What is the current situation of the market in Las Vegas?
JM – The Las Vegas market is leading in the United States. The visitor trends are in an all time record high. The occupancy rates of the resorts are also at an all time record high. MGM Resorts is a dominant operator in Las Vegas. We own more resorts than our competitors combined and we are gaining market share because of our focus on non-gaming. We just built one of the world’s greatest arenas last year, we built parks, plazas, retail, restaurants, music festival lots… continuing to find ways to make Las Vegas more globally attractive, to a broader demographic. That is exactly our mission here in Macau: to continue to be a positive force to evolve the hospitality market in Macau into a holistic entertainment destination.