Not quite a virgin

Richard Branson might be setting his sights on Macau as the location for a $3bn, Virgin-branded casino and resort.

UK businessman Richard Branson has an estimated worth of around £4 billion, tried to be the first person to sail around the world in a hot air balloon, started his own airline, launched a space tourism company called Virgin Galactic, was knighted by the Queen of England and his record label released Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols.

Now he’s set his sights on a casino in Macau, the Chinese special economic zone near Hong Kong, which is quickly positioning itself as the Las Vegas of the Orient. While gambling in the former Portuguese colony was long defined by the majestic-in-its-own-seedy-way Lisboa Casino, the city has been beset by gigantic Vegas-style gaming-and-entertainment projects from casino pros like Kirk Kerkorian, Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson—with more on the way.

Is Branson next? Bloomberg is reporting that the 56-year-old entrepreneur was recently in Macau to discuss opening a $3 billion Virgin-branded resort featuring three hotels and a casino. Gambling receipts in Macau surpassed the Las Vegas Strip for the first time last year, making it the biggest gaming destination in the
world. With that sort of cash flow, no wonder Branson is racking up the frequent flier miles to Southeast Asia.

And industry watchers are betting that he can do it, particularly if Branson draws on the Virgin brand, which has been associated with everything from trans-Atlantic air travel to Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells LP to train service in the UK.

“I’m sure he’ll bring his own unique content to the project,’’ research director Simon Smith, of Savills Hong Kong, told the wire service. “The Virgin brand is fairly well-established and, a lot of it is about branding.’’

Meanwhile, Jonathan Galaviz, a partner at gaming consultant Globalysis, was even more blunt. “Virgin can use an integrated entertainment development in Macau as a new platform to submerge Chinese consumers into the Virgin brand experience.”

Macau, you have been warned.