tv Titans at the Table Bloomberg September 20, 2015 11:00am-11:31am EDT
betty: tonight on "titans at the table," i traveled to what many consider the las vegas of the east. macau. this is part of what attracts people here, right? lawrence: yeah. betty: the small territory on the southern chinese coast raked in $45 billion of revenue last year. seven times more than vegas. and there is a race to control all that money. did you ever think macau would surpass las vegas by that much? >> it makes perfect sense. the resorts in macau are world-class compared to las vegas. macau has taken off. pansy: we are talking about the next generation of people from china, who have become more affluent. betty: siblings lawrence and pansy ho have become leaders in
the industry thanks to their father, stanley ho. the siblings have a combined net worth of $7 billion. for the last decade, they have met stiff competition. from a las vegas billionaire who is known for constantly betting against the odds. sheldon: they predicted i would not even open. they did not believe somebody else could do something better than they could. betty: they underestimated you. sheldon: they grossly underestimated me. betty: sheldon adelson is ceo of vegas sands, with a net worth of $35 billion. much of that wealth made on his macau casinos. the race for macau pits billionaire against billionaire. all vying for the attention of the 1.3 billion chinese to the north. macau is an 11-square mile enclave on the southern coast of mainland china. for over four centuries, it was
under portuguese rule. today it is the closest place to china where gambling is legal. in 1962, chinese businessman stanley ho was the first person to usher in a new era of casinos in macau. for decades, ho built a gambling empire that raked in billions. he paved the way for other investors to make it big in macau. today, one of those investors is stanley ho's son, lawrence ho. lawrence: my father revolutionized the casino market 40 years ago in macau. he brought in a new style. throughout my career and life, it has been about trying to prove myself. betty: it was important to you to prove that you could build a company from scratch? lawrence: yes. definitely. betty: determined to break out of his father's shadow, he partnered with australian james packer, himself the son of a famous tycoon. together they formed melco crown. their properties include two extravagant resorts.
whose opulence gives las vegas landmarks a run for their money. lawrence: it is the ultimate destination for urban entertainment in macau. betty: lawrence refers to the "city of dreams" as an integrated resort. where tourists come to spend at high-end boutiques and stay at five-star hotels. what has las vegas inspired in you? how have the casino moguls in las vegas helped you in terms of inspiration in macau? lawrence: i think many times in asia, a lot of people built slowly and are more conservative. when you go to las vegas, and you see the mega-resorts, the 3000, 5000 rooms, shows and theaters and nightclubs, my philosophy is like that. go big or go home. so you know, having seen that that is workable and doable, that is how i developed "city of
dreams." betty: big vision. lawrence: big vision, and we need to give our customer something they have not seen before. it is about being more innovative. and being bigger and better. betty: bigger, better, and wetter. part of his vision is attracting customers through live performances, including this acrobatic experience called "house of dancing water." it is the crown jewel of city of dreams. five days a week, 3.7 million gallons of water flow through the custom-built stage as actors dance, dive, and dazzle a captivated audience. building it was a huge gamble. it premiered in 2010 in the wake of the financial crisis. lawrence: we went ahead and built out our $250 million "house of dancing waters" show.
it has been a huge success. the fact that we tried these things that nobody wants to try has given us an edge. betty: in the beginning, business was far from booming. lawrence ho's first casino opened to disappointing results. it seemed as if his gamble to go big in macau was destined to go bust. but then ho focused his attention on high-stakes vip clients. the tables quickly turned. last year, revenue topped an incredible $5 billion. betty: are you surprised by how fast this has grown and developed? lawrence: you know, i think one of the great things that has happened in the last 10-20 years is the growth of the middle income earning bracket in china. they are at an age where they would like to travel and enjoy life. betty: did you ever think macau was going to surpass las vegas by that much? lawrence: we all knew that was going to happen. ultimately, if you look at geographically -- a lot of our customers prefer things that are closer.
since now the resorts in macau are world-class, comparable to las vegas, it makes perfect sense that if you look at the five-hour flight time for macau, there are over one billion people. whereas if you go from new york to las vegas, that is also five hours. betty: while lawrence is bringing lots of glitz and glam to gambling in macau, sheldon adelson says he invented the concept -- in vegas first. now he says he is the one who will conquer macau. sheldon: they vastly and wrongly predicted i would not even open. i would never get it built. if i got it built, it would not open. and if it did open, i would be in bankruptcy immediately. they didn't want to believe someone else could do it better than they did. betty: they underestimated you. sheldon: right. they grossly underestimated me. betty: when we come back, sheldon adelson tells us why he is the real king of macau. ♪
betty: for a man whose business caters to high rollers and big spenders, billionaire sheldon adelson's roots are unglamorous. today, he can also be seen at high-profile events with his wife, miriam. he was born the son of a cab driver in a poor section of boston. adelson first began in the convention business in 1979 when he founded comdex, one of the largest technology trade shows. he eventually sold that and other shows for hundreds of millions of dollars. ten years later, he bought the original las vegas sands hotel only to demolish it and replace it with the venetian. it is the first integrated resort of its kind. with hotel, casino, entertainment and convention space. sound familiar? in macau, he has built another venetian almost exactly like it, but with more gaming space.
this is what adelson says made him stand out among other casino tycoons. i was listening to you speak, and you mentioned you wanted to build a las vegas in macau. how come no one else saw that? sheldon: i guess that is what a visionary is made out of. betty: no, but really -- people thought you were crazy. sheldon: of course. i have been in dozens of businesses. every time i go into business, everybody thinks i am crazy. nobody wants to recognize that doing something different than what people do routinely is viable. nobody wants to recognize that. the only way i could prove it is to do it and succeed. betty: adelson did not just succeed. he dominated. his first resort, the sands macau, was so successful he made back the $265 million investment in the first year.
sheldon: 30,000 people showed up. more than 30,000. we do not know the exact number, because as they waited to get in they knocked the doors down. betty: he went on to build a massive 6400 room hotel. and the 2900 room venetian macau. he plans on adding another property to be completed by the end of 2016. bringing the grand total to over 10,000 rooms. if he has his way, visitors would never leave. sheldon: we are now developing enough retail malls of different types. you can be in 3000, 6000, 12,000 or 15,000 hotel rooms and never leave the building. betty: wow. sheldon: i will give you a short anecdote. i had a friend from boston that
came in with his wife. they came in on thursday. on monday, he said, how is the weather? i said, you have not been out? he said, why would i go out? everything i want is here. betty: lawrence ho is talking about shows that are coming in. hotels, retail, restaurants. they are copying you. sheldon: yes they are. they are trying to copy me. he's a nice guy and a gentleman. he has no exhibition and convention space. there is not a city in the world that does not want exhibition space and convention space. betty: as many of adelson's peers have noted, it is his very success in macau that has left las vegas in the dust. a point not lost on the billionaire. did you ever think macau would surpass las vegas in the way it has? sheldon: yes. betty: what convinced you? sheldon: when we first applied
in macau in 2002, there was $2.5 billion in gross gaming income. by 2004 when we opened the sands, there was $5.5 billion. betty: $5.5 billion? sheldon: right. in two years. the business was already there. people were not recognizing it. how did i think it was going to grow? because there were 1.3 billion chinese. betty: in fact, about 64% of his las vegas sands revenue comes from his macau properties. since opening the sands in 2004, he has expanded into other industries. including ferries, bringing people from his resorts in hong kong to macau in high-speed boats. sheldon: what i recognized was there was not enough ferry service. so i set up a ferry business. what do i know about the ferry business? what i know about every business when i go into it.
zero. but there's not much i cannot learn. i believe this industry in which we operate, the lodging or gaming industry, i believe it is a supply-driven industry. if i put those buildings there, they will come. betty: and they did. sheldon: and they still do. betty: when we come back, the battle for market share pits adelson against the ho family. not just lawrence, but his sister, pansy ho. she tells us how she is trying to keep the gaming industry all in the family. pansy: my father paved the foundation for macau today. we carry that torch. ♪
patriarch stanley ho's original empire is far from failing. his company, sjm holdings, operates the most casino tables in macau. nearly 2000. and sjm accounts for nearly a quarter of the revenue. we spoke with pansy ho, his daughter. she says gaming in macau is still a family business. you are the richest woman in hong kong. pansy: i don't know how they calculate it, but they say so. betty: do you feel, and among your own siblings, the fact that you are part of a legendary hong kong family? you have an added responsibility. pansy: we definitely feel like we have that sense of a legacy. if you look at it, there were 450 years of portuguese presence in macau. my father helped create and pave the foundation for macau today
in terms of creating the largest industry, the gaming industry for 50 years. we would very much want to help grow macau to be something that is more exciting and more important. we definitely carry that torch. betty: pansy has a 27% stake in mgm china, which owns the mgm grand macau property. the casino made $3.3 billion in revenue last year. i know you have this partnership with mgm. how is that relationship going? pansy: it is going very well. this is the moment when we are resting on our laurels, and we have done fantastically well, especially last year. we are now snug in the position where we have formed a strong professional team, which really oversees the daily operations.
we have the time and space to consider long-term perspective strategies for the future. betty: of the 30 million visitors who come to macau to roll the dice each year, more than 60% are from mainland china. hong kong is a one-hour ferry ride. and with the rising middle class, pansy says the typical chinese consumer is evolving. pansy: what has been surprising is the swiftness with which chinese consumers are changing. in many ways, they are not the type of stereotype that we would have thought about the chinese consumer market, their patterns and behavior. this is a very fluid group of people. they are full of curiosity. their requirements continue to
change over time. we can already see that happening during the past seven or eight years. betty: pansy ho also runs a company that operates turbo jet, a high-speed ferry service called shun tak holdings between macau and hong kong, competing directly with adelson. last year, her ferries transported about 28,000 people a day. pansy: we have been running the terminals, the ferry terminals. we have a direct experience. we know how to manage and how to commercialize the real estate so it can be of great service to these people. sees it.hat is not how adelson sheldon: she doesn't like that we are a competitor in the ferries. i can't say that i am the ferry expert of the world, but because she got bitter over the competition, so she has been bitter all this time.
betty: the explosion of the casino business in macau has been a huge windfall for this tiny chinese territory and the beijing government. casinos paid the government almost $18 billion in taxes and fees in 2013 just to operate in macau. with great success comes a great amount of squabbling. adelson, a man who is not afraid to wade into conflict, whether it is about israeli sovereign rights -- sheldon: there is no such thing as the history of the palestinian people. betty: or how the gop can take back the white house -- he has seen his share of battles against the ho family. sheldon: there was a meeting of the coalition of the concessionaires. pansy ho was there. not a very congenial environment. betty: she was not nice to you?
sheldon: i don't think she was nice to most of the people. she doesn't like that we are competitive in the ferries. i think it is a matter of jealousy. i think they never anticipated that i would succeed. if you go back to when i first opened in 2007 with the venetian, and you look at the clippings, you look at the articles, it was clear they thought i would fail. the day i opened -- we opened at like 6:00 or 7:00, by 7:00 in the morning we had over 114,000 visitors. listen to this -- there were 30 million people visiting macau. last year, we got 63 million visitations. how can i get 63 million visitations from 30 million visitors? because 30 million visitors went to one of my four properties
twice. betty: it remains to be seen who will claim the crown of king of macau. but for lawrence ho, sometimes bigger is not always better. some things that happen in vegas should stay in vegas. lawrence: by having mega properties, sometimes you lose the experience. because in a 3000-room hotel, sometimes people have to walk for five minutes or 10 minutes just to go to their rooms. asians are not used to that. betty: do you understand the chinese tourist naturally more, because you are chinese versus sheldon adelson or steve wynn? lawrence: i think that is an advantage we would have as well. i was born in hong kong. spent time in hong kong and macau. at the same time was educated in north america. i get a good sense of the best of both worlds.
the formation of melco crown 10 years ago was based on that belief. how do i marry the best of the east with the best of the west? betty: it is easy to see the asian touches when you walk around his properties. the dragons. the feng shui that he incorporates into the layout. lawrence: when we first started, it was gold and iron metal bars. it resembled the bamboo, but then feng shui came in and said no, no. it has to be real. [laughter] betty: but adelson, who once called himself the richest jew in the world, says there is no monopoly on culture. sheldon: by vast majority, most of our employees are chinese. my chinese dealers and my chinese service people interact with chinese customers. what is the difference? betty: they would say they know the people.
they are chinese. sheldon: oh, they know all the people? really? i can't be a successful businessman if i don't respect who and what my customer is. the integrated resorts are a commercial enterprise. the measurement of success is the bottom-line profit. why are we several times more profitable than each one of them? betty: some casino watchers warn there is a bubble of hotels forming in macau that is about to burst. fears of a smoking ban and stricter visa rules have investors worried that the inflow of tourists may slow down. but rather than wait, they are doubling down. they are spending $26 billion on new resorts, doubling hotel capacity. they won't stop there. these casino titans want to score big in the rest of asia.
lawrence: japan is the holy grail at this stage. they have pachinkos. pachinkos are like slot parlors. but technically you don't win money, you win prizes. very popular. an amusement-type industry. that industry itself is $35 billion. it has a lot of potential. betty: with the olympics slated for tokyo in 2020, the casino industry could win big in japan with the worldwide publicity. the government still has to approve. but win, lose, or draw, the titans have already made a killing in macau. ♪
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