Duo to bring bunnies to casino town

Playboy Enterprises and Macao Studio City have teamed up to open a Playboy Mansion in Asia’s booming casino town of Macau.

Wednesday’s news underlines the determination of the Macau government and developers to diversify away from gambling into wider entertainment and convention activities.

The Mansion, described variously as a “club” and a “multi-faceted entertainment destination,” will debut as part of MSC’s grand opening in late 2009.

Within the MSC resort, which encompasses gambling, live entertainment and broadcast, the Playboy Mansion Macao will have its own gaming facility, lounges, dance floor, Playboy pool and grotto and even “overnight accommodation” in a Hugh M. Hefner Villa.

“We are bringing the bunny back to Macau,” said Christie Hefner, Playboy Ent. CEO. “The mansion helps bring the brand to life. That’s why Disney has theme parks.”

David Friedman, co-chairman and co-CEO of MSC, said the Playboy deal is the first of many entertainment properties that MSC expects to sign. “I don’t think anyone will ever have seen anything like the array of brands we will have,” he said. “Playboy is joining an all-star cast.”

MSC is already counting on Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and the world’s first hotel by Shanghai Tang fashion group founder David Tang.

In addition to casinos and hotels, the $2 billion MSC will have an arena, mini-broadcast studios and more than 1 million square feet of retail space.

“We will be using East Asia’s roster of stars for live entertainment and taped performances,” said MSC co-CEO Ambrose Cheung.

Financial details of the mansion were not disclosed, though Hefner said they will be discussed in Playboy’s second quarter results presentation in August. She said Playboy may use the production facilities being built into the MSC in a similar manner to lensing of its “Party at the Palms” show in Las Vegas.

MSC is being developed by Cyber One Agents, a joint venture between East Asia Satellite Television Holdings and New Cotai. East Asia is controlled by the eSun Group, which also controls “Infernal Affairs” production shingle Media Asia, and Singaporean property developer CapitaLand. New Cotai is a consortium headed by veteran casino developer Friedman and two U.S. investment funds Silver Point Capital and Oaktree Capital Management. After eliminating crossed shareholdings MSC is 40% owned by New Cotai, 40% by eSun and 20% by CapitaLand, according to Friedman.

Friedman said the integrated resort concept will attract more convention and corporate entertainment traffic as well as a growing proportion of women and non-Chinese visitors. As a gambling center, Macau’s predominant clientele has been hardcore gamblers from mainland China.

“We aim to open other Playboy Mansions at the rate of about one per year,” Heffner said. While she envisages other Asian locations as a possibility she de-scribed Macau as the company’s “capital” in Asia and pointed to Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America as more likely next moves.

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