Limassol and the City of Dreams
City of Dreams Mediterranean is the official name of the integrated casino resort that will open in Limassol in three years’ time. The consortium behind the project – Melco International Development Limited and Cyprus Phassouri (Zakaki) Ltd – recently presented the final plan at the Presidential Palace. Lawrence Ho, Chairman and CEO of Melco spoke to GOLD about the €550 million investment and how he expects the new resort to enhance the island’s tourism offering and significantly raise visitor numbers.
What made you decide to invest in a casino in Cyprus rather than somewhere else in Europe?
Lawrence Ho: We are a company headquartered in Hong Kong and traditionally very focused on Asia. Macau is our main base, where we have invested US$10 billion over the last 10 years and have one of 6 licences, plus one of four in Manila, but we've had global aspirations ever since the company was listed on the NASDAQ over 10 years ago. We have looked all over the world for the right opportunity and Cyprus ran a very good, transparent process; we were extremely impressed by that. Cyprus as a destination has great rule of law as part of the European Union, a great government, it is the closest for legalised gaming to the countries of the Middle East and, of course, it already has many Russian and UK tourists. These are among the important factors that we considered. Every time we go into a jurisdiction we invest heavily. In Macau we were not required to invest US$10 billion but we did it anyway. In Manila, we didn't have to invest US$1 billion but we did. So we always look at what we are doing as a Private/Public Partnership. We like working with governments and growing the market and this is one reason why we didn't choose a more mature destination to be the first place we are going to outside Asia. Given that Cyprus has 3.7 million tourists this year and with more infrastructure to come – more hotel rooms – the potential is certainly there. If we are successful, tourism is successful and the government is successful so everybody wins. The terms of the licence here – 30 years’ duration and exclusive for 15 years – were attractive too. We would much rather be in an environment where things are controlled and we can work wholeheartedly with the Government to maximise the benefits and Cyprus gives us that.