MGM Resorts International received approval from the Macau government to open its second hotel-casino on the China-controlled group of islands.

MGM China Holdings, a joint venture between MGM Resorts and Hong Kong billionaire Pansy Ho, will build a $2.5 billion, 1,600-room hotel-casino on Macau’s Cotai Strip. Plans call for 2,500 slot machines and 500 gaming tables.

MGM China Holdings paid the Macau government $56 million as an initial installment for a leasehold on an 18-acre site.

The resort will take about three years to build.

Last year, Macau tourist spending, excluding gaming, jumped 20% to the equivalent of more than $4.7 billion, according to Macau’s Statistics and Census Service.

Visitor arrivals rose 12% to 28 million, while Macau’s 95 hotels totaled 22,356 rooms, up 11% from a year earlier.

As a result, Las Vegas-based resort operators MGM, Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts continue to boost their investments there.

Las Vegas Sands has spent an estimated $8 billion on Macau resorts. The company earlier this year opened the first phase of its Sands Cotai Central project, which includes the world’s largest InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Conrad and Sheraton hotels.

MGM's 600-room MGM Grand Macau Hotel & Casino opened in late 2007. For the first half of the year, that property had operating income of $158.3 million, or 43% of the company's total.

Macau is about 40 miles southwest of Hong Kong and was controlled by Portugal until 1999. The Cotai Strip is about 200 acres of reclaimed land linking Macau’s Taipa and Colaone islands.

Pansy Ho, the daughter of Hong Kong casino mogul Stanley Ho, is worth about $3.5 billion, making her Hong Kong’s 11th wealthiest person, according to Forbes.

Follow Danny King on Twitter @dktravelweekly.


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