Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013 | 10:55 a.m.
MACAU — In one of the last times I had talked with Mike Mecca before our visit Wednesday afternoon at Cascades lobby bar in Galaxy Macau, I accused him of fixing the Miss America Pageant.
This was in 2008, just before the show at Planet Hollywood’s Theater for the Performing Arts. Mecca asked for a prediction, and I said, “Miss Oklahoma because you’ve fixed the pageant, so she’ll win again.”
Mecca was president of Planet Hollywood at the time, and germane to that baseless accusation, is an OU graduate. Miss America had just moved to Planet Hollywood for the 2007 show, and Miss Oklahoma Lauren Nelson won that year. She replaced 2006 winner Jennifer Berry, who also was Miss Oklahoma.
As it was, Miss Michigan Kristen Haglund won in 2008, and within months Mecca was off to a place far, far removed from Oklahoma, Planet Hollywood and Las Vegas. Today, he is president and CEO of Galaxy Entertainment, running one of the biggest shows on the Cotai Strip: Galaxy Macau.
Mecca spent several years in Las Vegas beginning in the 1990s, working in Stations Casinos (Green Valley Ranch, specifically) and with Mandalay Resort Group (as president of Mandalay Bay). He also has worked in Melbourne, Australia, and Detroit but seems settled for good amid the resort boom in Macau.
His company is looking to double its presence on the Cotai Strip, upping the total number of rooms and suites to 3,600 with the addition of J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton. The property will double in the amount of acreage it occupies on the Cotai Strip, taking up 1 million square meters just south of Venetian Macau and Crown Resorts’ City of Dreams.
During the week leading up to the Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios "The Clash in Cotai" welterweight bout at Venetian Macau across the street from Galaxy Macau, Mecca sat for about a half hour to talk about his life and career post-Las Vegas:
You and your wife, Sandy, are on the cover of an animal-lovers magazine here in Macau. What’s that all about?
There is a foundation in Macau called Anima, and Ed Tracy over at the Sands China (who runs Venetian Macau) — who has become a great friend, as well as a friendly competitor — he and his wife, Janet, started a magazine called Pets & Hugs. Janet Tracy and their dog, Shu Mai, were on the first edition of the magazine, and they asked if Sandy and I would be on the second edition. It was great fun to do with our two Springer Spaniels, Annie and Jersey, who made the trip from Las Vegas to Macau, and now they’re gong to interview other dog owners and dog lovers in the future.
Anima is a great cause. It’s supported by Steve and Andrea Wynn, as well, and they hosted a great fundraiser several months ago that was supported by all the major casinos and a lot of other prominent businesses in Macau. Sandy and I go out there occasionally because they have a program where individuals can take two of the dogs living at the shelter and take them for a walk.
I am feeling a lot of community here, a sense of community someone who has never been here might not expect.
Where do you and Sandy live?
Well, the main island is Macau, and when you cross the bridge, you come to Taipa, then you go from Taipa to Cotai, then from Cotai to Coloane. We live just over the bridge in Taipa, so we are somewhat away from the property on the Cotai Strip.
But when you go from Las Vegas, living in Las Vegas — to, as Sandy and I did in the mid-’90s, we moved to Melbourne, Australia, and lived there for four years. We lived in Detroit and helped develop one of the properties there. Wherever you go, you have to be a bit adventurous, you have to be willing to embrace the new culture and to enjoy it. That’s what Ed and Janet are doing, and that’s what Sandy and I are doing, as well.
What does Macau do uniquely well; what is its singular appeal?
Whenever you go to a new municipality that offers casino-resorts, it takes a true partnership between government and the operators. The vision of the central government of mainland China was to establish in Macau a holiday destination for people who live in mainland China. To fulfill that promise, the central government has developed infrastructure enhancements that allow flow into both Hong Kong and Macau. There is a high-speed rail system, there is a light-rail system that is being built once you arrive in Macau and Hong Kong …
From where do these rail systems originate?
From the major cities inland. Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan through Dongjiao into Zhuhai and the border cities.
These are all major population centers.
Major. Millions and millions of people. There is also under construction now a bridge, from Hong Kong to Macau. That will be the longest bridge in the world (the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, to be open in 2016), 26 miles long, and will make it much more convenient for anyone who would like to travel from Hong Kong to Macau. Right now, it’s a system of ferryboats and helicopters. This will allow people to just jump in a car and drive over.
I’ve read about this bridge, $9 billion. It’ll cut the time to reach Macau from Hong Kong from 4 hours to 45 minutes, right?
Yes. What Macau has done, again, when we talk about the position of the central government in what they wanted to establish in Macau, it was incumbent upon the six concessionaires to develop integrated resorts (resorts that offer a full complement of entertainment options) that could fulfill that vision. What each of the operators have done in Macau and in Cotai are some of the most spectacular integrated destination resorts in the world. The scope of these resorts is not replicated anywhere in the world. With Venetian and City of Dreams and Galaxy Macau, they are spectacular unto themselves.
Talk a little about the construction underway for the expansion of Galaxy Macau, which I know about because I can see it from my hotel room across the street.
It is hard to ignore, yes (laughs). Once the second phase of Galaxy Macau is built, we will grow from three hotels to five hotels. We will grow from 35 retail stores to well over 200 retail stores. We will expand the most unique rooftop resort deck in the world, which is currently in excess of 13 acres on the rooftop …
Thirteen acres? You could farm that.
(Laughs) … with the largest rooftop wave pool and a 350-ton, white-sand beach. It will grow to more than 21 acres. It is spectacular.
When is the second phase going to be complete?
Mid-2015 and with all of the amenities. We’ll have 100 food-and-beverage outlets, and we have nine 3D cinemas that are the most comfortable movie theaters in the world. We have a full range of amenities, and right across from (the lobby bar) is the China Rouge nightclub, one of the most beautiful nightclubs in the world.
I was going to ask you about nightclubs. I’ve understood that this culture doesn’t take to big nightclubs with nearly the same zeal as people who visit Las Vegas. Where is the place for big nightclubs in Macau?
Each of the resorts has added nightclubs. City of Dreams has a large nightclub, Las Vegas-styled, called Cubic, and it does very well. It has an excellent show, “Taboo,” and they do a great job there. Venetian has the club Belini, which has live music. MGM has a major nightclub, we have at our Starwood property a live-entertainment nightclub called the Whiskey Bar, which is one of the most popular in Macau. Here, we have the Crystal Piano (hotel bar) on the top floor of Hotel Okura, and China Rouge, which is the most spectacular nightclub in Macau and has live music and DJs and is a throwback to Shanghai in the 1930s and ’40s, in that it’s intimate and erotic in its design and is a genuinely unique experience.
When you have comprehensive, integrated resorts, you have to provide entertainment options for everyone for different times of the day. Certainly, the resorts of Macau are doing that.
One of the most important distinctions between Las Vegas and Macau seems to be who is visiting. Macau is drawing almost entirely from its own backyard and not reaching into the U.S. or North America — or really anywhere outside its own region.
Certainly. The visitation right now is focused 70 percent on mainland China, 25 percent from Hong Kong, 5 percent from around the other countries of Asia. But with the quality of the resorts that exist now in Macau, and the quality of the resorts that are going to be built in Macau, including our own Phase 2 expansion, there are six major resorts that are being added to Cotai, and each one is more spectacular than the other. … This will add about 15,000 to 18,000 more rooms to Macau’s resorts, and all of them high-quality rooms.
You can see from the brands coming in, we’ll have the world’s largest J.W. Marriott, and we’ll have the only all-suite Ritz-Carlton in the world. We’ll have five spectacular hotels in one resort. The biggest and best resort operators in the world are now here in Macau.
When you talk about Macau’s future to someone who is visiting from Las Vegas, where it feels like we’re still gradually pulling ourselves out of a serious economic downturn, Macau seems like “Fantasy Island.”
The brand of Las Vegas is still huge internationally. When you talk about Las Vegas — everywhere Sandy and I go in the world, everyone knows Las Vegas. Las Vegas is still incredibly relevant. Las Vegas is known worldwide as a unique destination that everyone aspires to visit, and I think that appeal exists not just here, but all over the world.