Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. (MPEL) plans to lure 8,000 people to work at its third casino resort in Macau by offering competitive pay and management scholarships amid record-low unemployment rates in the city.
The company will begin hiring for Studio City by the end of this year, about six months before the scheduled opening in mid-2015, billionaire Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Ho said in an interview in Macau. “We’re willing to grow our people and pay them well,” he said, declining to provide figures.
Melco Crown faces competition from operators including Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. (27) and Sands China Ltd. in hiring people to fill positions as they expand resorts to attract more gamblers. Jobs at the company, controlled by Ho and billionaire James Packer, and its rivals may rise 38 percent to 117,000 by 2017 amid a shortfall of workers, according to Morgan Stanley.
Studio City, a $2.9 billion Hollywood studio-themed resort, is Melco’s third project in Macau after Altira and City of Dreams. Melco plans to equip the resort with 500 gaming tables and more than 1,500 slot machines. It will also have a five-star hotel, shopping mall and multi-purpose entertainment studio.
“Six months should be sufficient lead time for them to hire decent number of people,” said D.S. Kim, an analyst at BNP Paribas Securities Asia Ltd. in Hong Kong. “The casino operator is unlikely to get the additional 500 gaming tables in one go, so that gives them some extra time.”
Galaxy will open the second phase of the Galaxy Macau early next year. That will be followed by projects from Melco and Sands China Ltd. (1929) Wynn Macau Ltd., MGM China Holdings Ltd. (2282) and SJM Holdings Ltd. (880) are also expanding their resorts in the former Portuguese enclave.
Melco gained 1.3 percent to close at HK$104.20 in Hong Kong trading, while the city’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.3 percent. Wynn Macau dropped 1.4 percent and Galaxy fell 1.2 percent.
The unemployment rate in Macau, the world’s biggest gambling hub with $45 billion in casino revenue last year, fell to 1.7 percent as of February, the lowest level since the government began providing data in 1996. The U.S. had a jobless rate of 6.7 percent and Portugal 15.3 percent.
“Macau gaming industry is confronting a severe labor shortage,” Praveen Choudhary, an analyst at Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong, wrote in a Jan. 21 note. The worker crunch and new casino openings will “put upward pressure on wages,” he wrote.
To retain workers, Wynn Macau issued shares to its employees and plans to give a two-month bonus in July. MGM, SJM and Sands have also said they will pay bigger bonuses.
Melco’s general and administrative costs, which include salaries, rose 13 percent to $255.8 million in 2013. Ho declined to give an estimate for expenses this year.
While Melco pays salaries competitive with other operators’, what makes the company stand out is the career path it can offer, Ho said in the interview on March 28.
Melco pays for management courses for existing employees and offers scholarships to their children, Ho said. Half of the company’s senior management positions have been filled by Macanese workers since 2010, he said.
MGM also plans to develop local management employees and has introduced a leadership program to enrich their career prospects, the company said March 24.
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