First-day success encourages Galaxy to plan operating more high-stakes tables Galaxy Entertainment Group, the Macau gaming operator controlled by tycoon Lui Che-woo, said the three VIP rooms with 12 tables in its flagship hotel-casino generated about HK$200 million in chip turnover on Sunday, their first day of operation. StarWorld, the first casino owned by Galaxy, plans to operate 30 high-stakes gaming tables without the involvement of VIP operators before the Lunar New Year, when it will have nine high-stakes gaming rooms with 36 tables, said Galaxy deputy chairman Francis Lui Yiu-tung, the son of Lui Che-woo. The HK$2.95 billion StarWorld hotel, which opened last month, is the fifth casino to be operated by Galaxy in the former Portuguese enclave. Driven by the opening of StarWorld, Galaxy's shares have risen 93.8 per cent so far this year, despite the company suffering a first-half loss of HK$734.45 million due to hefty interest payments arising from the purchase of a gaming licence last year. The company had an interim net profit of HK$14.3 million a year ago. Previously known as K Wah Construction Materials, Galaxy completed the HK$18.4 billion acquisition of an effective 97.9 per cent stake in the gaming business from chairman Mr Lui's family in July last year. StarWorld aims to become one of the largest high-rollers' casinos in Macau by table capacity, with plans to eventually have 90 high-stakes gaming tables. The younger Mr Lui said the company will use its database of 50,000 StarWorld members to find 'potential customers of our high-stakes gaming tables' and did not rule out competing against the hotel's own contracted out VIP rooms. While rival US casino operators Las Vegas Sands Corp and Wynn Resorts have aggressively pursued a share of Macau's high-stakes gaming market, they have done so using gaming junket operators who work on a commission basis. Galaxy competes more directly with Stanley Ho Hung-sun's Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (SJM) casinos in that it vies directly for a slice of Macau's VIP gaming market, which spun HK$28 billion in revenue last year. Galaxy announced in September that it will pay a HK$2.5 billion land premium after finalising terms with the Macau government for the rights to develop the whole of its 4.7 million square foot plot on reclaimed land at the Cotai Strip. The first phase of the development will comprise the 1,500-room Mega Resort, scheduled to open in 2008. The occupancy rate at the 500-room StarWorld hotel is more than 80 per cent with an average room rate of more than HK$1,000. Mr Lui said Galaxy will have no difficulty achieving its aim of increasing its share of Macau's HK$45 billion gaming market to 25 per cent by the end of the year, up from 20 per cent in August and 7 per cent during the first quarter.