Every gaming company in Macau is trying to expand in the Cotai region, and MGM Resorts (NYSE: MGM ) has finally received initial approval to do so. The company has accepted a Land Concession Contract from the Macau government to build a $2.5 billion resort in Macau, although it won't be official until the contract is published in the Official Gazette of Macau. Usually this is a formality, but this is Macau and it could take weeks or even months to become official. When it does become official, the company will commence construction.
In the heart of Cotai
For decades, gaming in Macau was centered in the Macau Peninsula, and this is where MGM is currently located. But when Cotai was formed, it created a blank canvas for future megaresorts and was seen as the future of Macau. Galaxy, Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS ) , and Melco Crown (Nasdaq: MPEL ) have all had a turn building in this area, and now MGM and Wynn Resorts (Nasdaq: WYNN ) are getting a chance.
As you can see by the map below, Cotai has a few key advantages besides the fact that all of the resorts are new. It is located near the Macau Airport, a ferry terminal, and one of the two entry points from mainland China. This existing infrastructure along with high-speed rail to mainland China and a proposed new light transit system within Macau will ensure that gamblers will be able to get to Cotai to experience these resorts.
Galaxy recently completed a resort on Cotai and Wynn Resorts recently started construction on a resort next to MGM's location, which is directly next to Cotai Central and City of Dreams. The red-hatched area in the image above notes the location.
Cotai is an important space for MGM because it gives the company an increased footprint in the world's largest gaming market, one of the company's only growth drivers. This helps the company at a time when U.S. gaming has stagnated and over $13 billion of debt drags on the balance sheet. Macau has been one of the few bright spots in recent years.
You can think of Cotai as the Las Vegas Strip and the Macau Peninsula as Downtown Las Vegas in the future. The focus of growth is clearly on Cotai.
This doesn't make MGM a buy, but it will help the company overcome debt problems in the future. For now, there are companies with far more exposure to Chinese gaming and other attractive markets the world over.
One such company is Las Vegas Sands, which successfully capitalized on a boom by making a big bet on Macau gaming about a decade ago that's paid off in spades. The company is now looking to spread its empire further, but will it be able to replicate its prior successes? Learn about all these opportunities, and the risks they pose, in our brand-new premium report on Las Vegas Sands. We're providing a full year of analyst updates to go with it, so make sure to claim your copy today by clicking here.