MGM opened its doors on December 18th, 2007, the second Western type casino to debut in Asia, after its next door neighbor the Wynn. The hotel project was a 50-50 venture between MGM Mirage and Pansy Ho, Stanley Ho's highly visible and most influential daughter. She's currently the leading candidate to succeed her father as head of SJM, but it's far from a done deal. A lot of experts think Ho's fourth wife, the ex-dancer Angela Leong, will have a lot to say in the matter before it's all said and done.
Maybe Ms. Ho ought to spend less time on family squabbles and more time managing her casino, because the latest numbers indicate under-performance. While MGM's mass gaming share is only a little bit behind their most natural rival, the Wynn (6.3% to 4.9%), their VIP roll share is very under-whelming. Wynn dominates them 17% to 11% in that department, which is not an inconsequential difference.
It's funny, because if you ask me, the MGM casino is much better than the Wynn's.
I wonder if those numbers would be reversed if MGM was in front of the Wynn and not behind it. Seriously, Steve Wynn snagged the prime real estate when he made out with land across the street from the Lisboa. As it is, MGM is tucked away in the corner, pushed up against the water beside the One Central Mall and the lavish new Mandarin Oriental.
The MGM casino reminds me a lot of the Sands. Neither place concerns itself too much with appearances, preferring instead to let the gambling take center stage. And with more than 200 mass gaming tables and a ton of slots situated on the huge ground floor, MGM puts on one hell of a show.
It won't cost you too much either as a large proportion of the tables are either $100 or $200. Although they do get more expensive as you move from left to right (assuming you've entered from the Grande Praca), most tables still stay under $500. For those with bigger wallets, the Las Vegas Room is the casino's highest limit quarter, with minimums of $1,000, $2,000 and $3,000. They probably should have called it the Macau Room though, because outside of one Roulette table, it's all baccarat.
As for slots, the vast majority of MGM's 900 machines don't exceed $1. High ones max out at $10 and can be found in the high-limit slot section next to the Las Vegas Room. All five electronic games are spoken for as well, with baccarat, blackjack, craps, roulette, and sic bo all available on the left side of the room.
For having so many tables, the MGM never feels cramped because they're so well spaced. Decoration is pretty much limited to the row of chandeliers that line the ceiling, while the signage is eerily similar to the signage used at the Wynn. In some ways MGM is a throwback to the old school SJM haunts that used to dominate Macau. There's no entertainment anywhere or much of anything to look at, other than rows and rows of tables and slots. Players aren't there to look good or be seen, only to take dealers down.
For non-smokers, one section near the Las Vegas Room is smoke free.
While mass gaming rules the day on the ground floor, it's all Baccarat whales on floor two. Elegantly done up and designed in very fine taste, the entire floor looks like one big suite. 35 rooms of varying size hold around 200 tables with minimums that range from $1000 to $30000.
There's more VIP gaming on MGM's three highest floors, with Hap Tak and Sun City on floor 33, Golden Way and MGM Sky Club on floor 36, and David 66 on floor 66. The latter two are lies, both clubs are really on floor 34 and 35, but 6 is a number that signifies success in China. I didn't go to Hap Tek or Sun City, but can tell you David 66 and MGM Sky Club both return 1.15% while Golden Way gives 1.1%. Note that all three places require players to roll at least $100,000 monthly to qualify for the cash back bonus.
I learned a little bit about Macau law as well while at David 66. They have little brochures reminding players that casinos are required to report cash transactions of more than $500,000, on something called a High-Value Transaction Report. In order to complete the form, players must provide casino staff with their government ID, date and place of birth, address, profession, and source of funds.
As you can see, most of the major Western games are spoken for, except for Texas Hold 'Em. Three Card Poker is pretty hard to find in Macau, but MGM's got it.
It's one thing for a casino to offer a player card, promotions, and a VIP program, and quite another for the management and staff to make sure all of the information is transparent and understood. MGM does a great job in both areas. Their membership counters are always stocked with a lot of brochures explaining player card perks as well as current promotions (albeit most are in Chinese), while the onsite staff is very professional and courteous. I must say I was quite impressed with them when I was there. Excellent job MGM!
In terms of where they rank city wide in the area of player service, it's pretty clear MGM is right at the top with Las Vegas Sands and Galaxy. When you walk up to the membership desk in one of those properties, it's going to be a pleasurable experience. I'd rank Melco Crown casinos one tier below while SJM is hit or miss. I've had great experiences in some of their casinos and horrible ones in others. The Wynn though is by far the worst. I wrote it in their review and I'll say it again. I don't think they want people to know the specifics of their player card or various promotions and programs.
MGM has a four tier player card system with the following benefits:
All card holders accumulate points through table or slot play which can be redeemed for prizes. One point is earned at the tables for every $100 bet, while it takes $20 at the slots to amass one point.
MGM has a nice catalogue of gifts available for redemption. A selection includes:
Gold and Jewellery
Mobile and Electronics
Canon Camcorder — 81,200 points
Ipod Touch 64 GB - 71,000 points
Wine and Spirits
MGM Highland Harvest Scotch — 20,000 points
Spa vouchers, MGM merchandise and shopping coupons are lesser prizes also listed in the catalogue book.
MGM has a thing about giving away expensive cars. At the beginning of the year it was a Maserati, and now it's a Bentley.
$3,288,888 Bentley Extravaganza — At the beginning of September MGM is going to hold a draw where the lucky winner drives away in a Bentley. One draw ticket can be redeemed for every 300 points earned on the player card. If you live in the hotel for one night or spend more than $500 in the hotel restaurants, then you can also redeem a ticket. To add a little suspense, five names will be drawn and those five players will all be given keys. The lucky person with the key that starts the engine wins the car.
The Golden Jubilee — The same deal as with the car, only the prizes are different. The top winner makes off with $488 888 HK dollars, $200 000 in chips and $688 888 in prize goods.
Golden Lion Baccarat Series — MGM is also staging a Baccarat tournament where the champion receives $188888 Hong Kong dollars, $200000 in casino chips, and $388888 worth of prizes.
MGM's dead chip program offers the following rates:
|MGM Dead Chip Rebates|
|$ 200,000||0.7 %||0.1 %|
|$ 1,000,000||0.8 %||0.1 %|
|$ 5,000,000||0.9 %||0.1 %|
|$ 10,000,000||1.0 %||0.1 %|
|$ 20,000,000||1.1 %||0.1 %|
The MGM Sky Club on the 36th floor returns better, but you'll have to gamble at more expensive tables.
The superb centerpiece of MGM is the gorgeous Grande Praca, a stunning re-creation of an old world European square, located right beside the lobby. It's especially ambient at night, when the black sky busts in through the skylight dome, providing the perfect backdrop for the brightly lit facades and terraces. The flowers, trees and plants situated in the middle section often get changed around, their decoration dependent on whatever festival or current event is on, while the ground tile is a precise replication of the swirling black and white pattern used in all of Macau's important squares, like Largo de Senado, Largo de Lilau etc. Perhaps best of all, the two restaurants both offer outside seating, so you can take in all of the fine Portuguese heritage with food that's just as good.
MGM's 35 story hotel has 600 rooms in total, with prices two or three hundred patacas cheaper than the Wynn on most days. Rooms are almost always sold out Friday to Sunday, so don't get too upset about their ridicuously high weekend rates. Just to compare, a deluxe room at the Wynn Friday and Saturday is only $3321 while a 1 bedroom suite is $5737. That pretty much makes MGM criminally overpriced on those days.
Prices including all taxes are as follows:
|MGM Room Rates|
|Grand Room||$1880 - $2117||$4,025|
|Grand Deluxe Ocean Room||$2117 - $2354||?|
|Grand Studio||$2354 - $2590||?|
|Grand Suite||$4131 - $4367||$9,200|
|Grand Deluxe Suite||$5670 - $6263||$13,255|
Grand rooms are located on floors 5 to 17, while suites take up floors 20 to 28. Floors 31 and 32 are the exclusive domain of MGM's villas, which I didn't even know existed before now, so I can't tell you their rates. For some reason, they aren't listed anywhere on the MGM website.
For grand suite and villa guests, they have their own separate VIP lobby for check in, located ... well, located somewhere in the hotel. Desk staff wouldn't divulge its exact whereabouts to me, citing security issues.
MGM's outdoor pool on the third floor has very nice views of the South China Sea and Taipa island. They could probably use a few more trees and plants out there, but then again, that might not mesh too well with the sparse cold black and grey color scheme. Although the pool is heated it closes down three months of the year from January 2nd to March 31st.
The pool opens daily at 8 am and closes at 10 in the evening.
MGM has a good mix of Asian and international restaurants. Prices on average tend to fall on the high side.
Aux Beaux Arts — Delectable French cuisine for your dining delight at Aux Beaux Arts. Set meals are a very reasonable $428 or $480, while caviar is the most expensive thing on the menu with 30 grams costing $1900 and 125 grams $4100. Soups and salad are $75 to $135 while entrees are a mere $60. For main fish and meat courses, expect to drop between $165 to $490. Aux Beaux Arts is located in the Grande Praca and is open from 2 pm to 12 am on Monday to Friday and from 11 am to 12 am on Saturday and Sunday.
Rossio — This beautiful restaurant, accessible via the Grande Praca, specializes in high end international buffet dining. While the selection is a little light, the quality is superb, with the seafood station worth the price of admission alone. One downside is that beverages cost extra, with only water and tea provided free of charge. Prices and buffet times are as follows:
High tea time is daily from 3:00 pm to 5:30 pm and costs patrons $168, which also includes some sandwich snacks and ice cream.
Don't forget to add 15% to all of those prices.
Imperial Court — Imperial Court is a Cantonese restaurant with prices firmly set in the mid range. Appetizers start at a pricey $88, while rice and vegetable staples run $118 to $200. Barbecue favorites are $88 to $380 while seafood is between $180 and $320. Cantonese specialties like shark's fin, bird's nest and abalone are $320 to $1280. Imperial Court also has 6 rooms available for private dining and other celebrations. To get to the restaurant head to the VIP entrance on the southeast corner of the building. Hours are from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm Monday to Friday, and from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm and 6:00 to 11:00 pm Saturdays and Sundays.
Grand Imperial Court — More Cantonese dining is on tap at Grand Imperial Court located in the second floor VIP casino. The menu is larger than at Imperial Court with a few more selections and choices overall. Delicacies at Grand Imperial Court are $340 to $1580 while main meat dishes are $128 to $480. Appetizers and vegetables are the cheapest thing on the menu, costing between $68 and $180. There's a lot of seafood as well with dried going for $188 to $1288 and the live variety subject to daily market rates. Congee, noodles and rice, finally, are between $128 and $680. Grand Imperial Court is open from 11 am to 4 am Tuesday to Sunday and is closed on Mondays.
Square Eight — Large menu at Square Eight, made up mostly of Chinese fare. Prices are pretty low with most dishes $62 to $88. The menu is quite varied, with food served in Cantonese, Hong Kong, Macaunese, Shanghainese and Northern Chinese style. Four Western set meals run $168 to $188, with the main course a steak or pork chop selection. They also serve salads, soups, sandwiches and toast. Square Eight is located across from the casino floor and stays open 24/7.
The New Buffet at Square Eight — Perhaps Macau's limpest buffet can be found at MGM's Square Eight. Thankfully it only costs $52 to savor the one or two station fare. Don't get there too early to line up because you'll never have to. New Buffet at Square Eight hours are from 8 am to 12 am daily.
MGM Patisserie — I passed by the MGM Patissiere many times and thought it was just a dessert stand, but I could not have been more wrong. They actually have a pretty serious menu, with soup, salad, sandwiches, curry, pizza and pasta all available. Prices for those dishes run $45 to $115, while small cake and pastry desserts are $42. On the left side of the Patisserie they also sell a lot of coffee, tea, juice, chocolate, honey, and jams. MGM Patisserie is located in the hallway between MGM and One Central Mall and is open daily from 9 am to 9 pm.
Six Senses Spa, located on the third floor, is a bit of a disappointment for hotel guests as it's not free to use. Prices are certainly five star levels, with massage, body and facial treatments all over $1,000. Only hand and foot care, along with some hair procedures, stay in the $500 to $1,000 range.
The front desk girl made sure to point out that Six Senses is one of the few spas in the city that has hammam, laconium and a floatation salt pool. Not wanting to lose face, I just nodded my head like I understood her, but the truth is that I had no idea what she was talking about and I still don't know what any of those things are.
Six Senses spa is open from 10 am to 4 am.
In terms of the MGM gym, there are no complaints at all. It has everything required for a full and comprehensive workout. A couple of fitness instructors are also on hand to assist you with your workout if needed. The gym is beside the spa and opens daily from 6 am until 10 pm.
MGM's always been associated with the movies, with Hollywood, with big stars and big productions; in short, with entertainment. And yet their hotel doesn't do a single thing in that regard. Welcome to Macau!
The hotel map shows 6 bars inside the MGM, but they really only have 4. Veuve Cliquot is a thing of the past, while The Russian Room is the lounge section of the Aba Bar.
Lions Bar — Lions Bar is back open for business, with the renovations completed as of April or May. Now I don't know what the set up was like before, but it looks pretty boss now, especially the wide screen TV behind the small music stage that commands the whole room. The house band that performs nightly is a 50-50 mix of Eastern and Western musicians so they play anything and everything.
Lions Bar prices are a bit higher than usual, with beers $45 to $60, cocktails $75, and hard stuff $55 to $88. For those with more elevated taste, martinis are $70 while sophisticated Sangria runs $50 to $100. Shooters make a rare appearance on a Macau menu with 6 for $300, 12 for $550 and 24 for $1100. Shooters... wow, I haven't done them in years and Lions Bar doesn't have my two favorites: Broken Down Golf Carts and Sex on the Beach. What up MGM??
Lions Bar is in the middle of the casino floor and keeps hours are from 7 pm to 5 am Tuesday to Sunday.
Aba Bar — Located beside the Grande Praca, there's a real cool feel inside the small Aba Bar. The drink menu is pretty large dominated by a lot of harder fare like bourbon, whisky, gin, rum, tequila, and vodka. Prices for those drinks generally stay in the $50 to $90 range but some premium brands push some numbers into the $100's. Tamer fare like beer and wine aren't as expensive with beers $40 or $50, and glasses of wine starting from $45. Aba Bar also has a small food menu with bar fare like finger sandwiches and french fries $110.
Aba Bar is open daily from 5 pm to 2 am.
Pool Bar — Pool Bar has more food than beverages on the menu with soup and salads $45 to $95, sandwiches $75 to $115, and pizza and pasta $85 to $105. Beers range from $40 to $50 while coffee and juice are $35 to $45. Located right beside the pool on the third floor, Pool Bar hours are from 8 am to 8 pm daily.
M Bar — M Bar was away for awhile, but I think it's back. Situated beside MGM Patissiere, everything inside looks good to go, only the doors aren't open yet. That should change any day now, and I can't imagine it staying closed any later than mid September.
With One Central Mall connected to MGM, you'll never have to go outside to get to 200,000 square feet of over-hyped marked up luxury goods. Normally I subscribe to the line that you can't beat the house, but you might have a better shot in the casino than going against your wife and say, Mr Ermenegil Do Zegna. Who knows, she may double down with Ralph Laurent and Fabio Caviglia next, and that'd only be the beginning. I'm no Wizard but I put the One Central Mall house advantage on that action somewhere around 156%.
MGM also has one small art shop in the lobby. Last time I was there, the corridor leading to One Central Mall had a lot of the artist's large original glass work on display.
Chihuly Gallery Macau — Leading American glass sculpture artist Dave Chihuly has his work exhibited here, with pieces that include original setworks, hand painted drawings, and limited edition prints. Most of the small glass sculptures for sale on the right hand side are not originals, instead they were mass produced by Mr Chihuly's team according to his specifications. It turns out the rigors of glass work have become too much for the venerable 70 year old master, so that's why he's passed that chore onto his team, and also why he's turned to painting in his later years. If you like what you see, his work can be had for between $40000 and $80000.
Mr Chihuly's artwork is also a key part of the decoration in two parts of the MGM lobby. The weird looking wall of drawings behind the lobby desk is his as is the pretty ensemble of red flowers hanging from the ceiling above the Dali statue.
Chihuly Gallery is open daily from 12 pm to 7 pm, except on Thursdays when it's closed.
MGM is held back by only one thing — poor spa facilities. They have a good selection of bars and restaurants as well as a huge shopping quarter, not to mention one striking central square that rivals anything else found in the city. If it weren't for the Wynn, then MGM might very well be the best hotel on Macau island.
Their casino is certainly top notch. Apart from not having any entertainment, there really isn't anything to complain about. They've got a ton of games, low minimums, as well as a good player card and terrific promotions. If their craps table would only give 5 times odds, then I'd probably make it my casino of choice. As it is now, I have to take my business to the Cotai Strip.
As a side note, craps is really going fast on Macau island. Four places have removed their table this year alone. Lan Kwai Fong, Sands, L'Arc (which gave 10X odds) and then just sometime in the past two weeks, the Grand Lisboa called it a day. I had been a Grand Lisboa man through and through, so I'm taking that loss rather hard.