Macau, the only part of China where casino gambling is legal, overtook Las Vegas as the world’s casino capital in terms of revenue after the sector was opened up to foreign competition in 2002.
Hollywood stars including Leonardo DiCaprio launched Macau’s newest $3.2 billion casino and entertainment resort Tuesday, as the southern Chinese enclave’s high-roller gambling business takes a hit from Beijing’s corruption crackdown.
Studio City’s opening was marked by the premiere of “The Audition”, a short movie promoting the resort, directed by Academy Award-winner Martin Scorsese and starring DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Brad Pitt.
The film reportedly had a budget of $70 million.
The Hollywood names attended the resort’s red carpet opening ceremony along with Hong Kong actor Aaron Kwok and South Korean girl band SISTAR.
Developers of what is billed as an “integrated resort” said Monday they are bullish about the future despite slumping gaming revenues.
Macau in September saw its 16th consecutive month of declining gaming revenue, 33 percent lower than the same month last year, as Beijing encourages the territory to diversify from gambling and reins in high-rolling visitors from the Chinese mainland.
Gross revenue for September was 17.13 billion patacas ($2.15 billion), according to figures from the former Portuguese colony’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.
Melco Crown Entertainment, which developed Studio City, said it remains positive about the future of the gambling industry in the semi-autonomous city.
“We hope that the opening of Studio City will be part of a catalyst that will improve gaming revenues,” said co-chairman Lawrence Ho.
“We have great confidence in the long term,” Ho said, adding that projects such as the opening of Macau’s light rail and a bridge linking Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau would bring improvements in years to come.
The revenue decline has mostly been attributed to a corruption crackdown spearheaded by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which has dented the VIP gaming market.