Macau mogul hopes dinosaurs trump volcanoes in new casino resort

Tue Jul 30, 2013 5:22pm EDT
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By Farah Master

MACAU (Reuters) - Macau tycoon David Chow is ripping up the fake volcano and Roman amphitheatre that were the show pieces of a failed theme park he built in the Chinese gaming enclave seven years ago.

He is replacing them with something a little less kitsch and more in keeping with the neighborhood: a casino resort boasting an opera house and dinosaur museum that he hopes will return him to the spotlight of the world's largest gambling hub.

The second-generation casino operator, whose four decades of Macau experience rival former kingpin Stanley Ho, is going up against the industry's modern titans, including Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp and Steve Wynn's Wynn Resorts Ltd who have built massive casino, hotel and shopping complexes that rake in billions of dollars each year.

"It is my time to come now," said Chow, 62, whose Macau Legend Development Ltd listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange in July, raising $283 million, less than half of what was initially planned.

Chow, a former Macau politician, has kept a low profile since the failure of the theme park, which he built with Ho. In his absence, Macau has been transformed with sleek glass towers, Michelin dining and luxury brand flagship stores.

Only a decade ago, the former Portuguese colony was a gangster's paradise where rivals regularly settled disputes with guns. China has sought to turn it into a safe, family-friendly resort city. It granted gaming concessions to the Las Vegas elite such as Sands, who opened glitzy casinos that dwarf the older ones surrounding Chow's property.

With the IPO proceeds funding his upcoming casino resort, Chow hopes to remind Las Vegas rivals that he is still a force to be reckoned with.

For investors burned by Chow's last big dream, grand plans may sound all too familiar. Merrill Lynch and U.S. hedge funds Och Ziff and TPG-Axon were among backers who plowed $400 million into the theme park in 2006, recouping only around a third of their investment three years later.   Continued...

Women walk in front of a closed entrance to an attraction at Fisherman's Wharf in Macau July 28, 2013. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu