The Billion-Dollar Failure of “The 13 Hotel”

The number 13 has become synonymous with bad luck. The origin of this is unclear, however some link it to The Last Supper and that thirteen people attended this dinner and, of course, one of these attendees was a traitor. Others claim that its unfortunate emergence as a numeral of disrepute began with Norse God Loki. The tale goes that the mischievous deity crashed a reunion of the 12 gods in Valhalla and caused the unfortunate demise of Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and sadness.

The notoriety of the number 13 is such that it is responsible for evoking fear and anxiety amongst people who suffer from triskaidekaphobia – a phobia of number 13. Such is the infamy of the number, a surprising (and somewhat ironic) 13% of respondents to a 2007 Gallup poll stated that they would be uneasy lodging on the thirteenth floor a hotel.

Many hoteliers have taken this into account when erecting their lodgings skipping the number completely in their design. Often when you visit a hotel you will find that the rooms are numbered 1-12 then 14 onwards. This is in order to spare those who suffer from triskaidekaphobia from the anxiety they may face when they encounter the nefarious numeral.

With this in mind, you may think that it would be a bad idea to name an entire hotel The 13, right? Surprisingly, serial entrepreneur Stephen Hung did precisely that! Superstition be damned, he decided to name his billion-dollar project in Macau after his favourite number, believing it to align perfectly with his vision. However, what originally began as a mission to deliver a VIP resort for the elite would quickly descend into a cautionary tale that perhaps one should not tempt fate!

diary with number 13 and triskaidekaphobia written

The VIP Vision

Building commenced on the luxury hotel and casino back in 2013 and, initially, it had a lot of promise. The vision was clear; to build a resort that would become the foremost destination of the major high followers who visit Macau. In order to attract these elite players, Stephen Hung embarked on a mission to make The 13 one of the most lavish resorts in the gambling mecca. It would have just 200 rooms. However, these rooms would not be any standard-fare, rather they would be vast villas with Baroque-inspired interiors, which would measure anywhere from 2,000 to 30,000 square feet.

These villas would cost an estimated $7 million each to build, and come equipped with marble Roman baths for 8, crystal chandeliers and retractable marble floors that revealed private pool. The 24-hour butler service were even certified by the English Guild of Butlers to ensure that these guests were treated with the majesty their $100,000 a night warranted.

Stephen Hung wanted his guests to be treated like royalty on arrival in Macau, and to ensure this he was responsible for the single biggest order of Rolls Royce’s in history. Of course, this order would not be for any standard, straight off the production line option. Instead, the fabulous fleet of thirty would be bespoke; decorated in red and gold paint, have a gold ornament on the hood and cost $20 million.

Macau lockdown information poster

The Dramatic Downfall

The resort was originally due to open in 2016, however financial problems meant that this would be delayed several times before finally opening in September 2018. However, the palatial hotel would open without two key ingredients.

Firstly, Stephen Hung cashed out of the project in January 2018 leaving his brainchild behind. Secondly, and more importantly, the Hotel and Casino resort would open without a gaming license. This meant that the luxury hotel aimed at the highest of Macau’s high rollers would have no casino for the high rollers to play. This devastating blow resulted in the hotel’s multi-million-dollar villas being booked for and average of just sixteen nights in their first twelve months.

Covid must also take its share of the blame. When the pandemic arrived, China implemented one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. The result was that Macau ‘s borders were closed and only reopened for visitors in mid-2022, striking a devastating blow for many hotels in the region. The 13 closed its doors in February 2020 due to the restrictions placed on businesses as part of the effort to curb the spread of Covid. However, unlike many of its competitors, The 13 is yet to reopen and only time will tell if it ever will.

Tom Bogues has been working in the gambling industry since 2020. He has a keen interest in all aspects from industry, from the casino floor to industry regulations.

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