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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Ionut Rusu

Universal Ent moves to consolidate overseas subsidiaries

GGRAsia
Universal Ent moves to consolidate overseas subsidiaries

Japanese gaming conglomerate Universal Entertainment Corp says it is working to improve the efficiency of the group’s corporate management, including “promoting the consolidation of subsidiaries and affiliated companies, mainly [those related to] overseas businesses”.

The company said it was putting new measures in place “to prevent reoccurrence” of what it described as fraudulent acts.

Universal Entertainment said earlier this month it had filed a lawsuit alleging damage by its founder and former chairman, Kazuo Okada. The company had announced in early June that it had established an investigative panel to probe Mr Okada’s use of company money, saying it had found three cases in which the Japanese businessman was suspected of misappropriating company funds.

The panel’s report – disclosed in September – found that the former chairman was responsible for “three acts of fraudulence”.

In a Tuesday filing to Jasdaq, Universal Entertainment said it had taken several steps to improve the group’s corporate governance system. The Japanese conglomerate said it had established a unified structure under the supervision of its president, Jun Fujimoto. It also created three new departments within the group: corporate planning; foreign business; and legal affairs.

“We added one outside director to beef up the oversight function of the board [of directors], which is now composed of seven directors, including as many as three outside directors,” said the firm. The company elected in June a new board of directors that excluded Mr Okada.

Universal Entertainment is the parent company of Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc, the promoter of the Okada Manila casino resort in the Philippines. Tiger Resort announced on June 16 it had removed Mr Okada as company chairman.

Universal Entertainment said in its latest filing that it had also revised and improved internal regulations concerning the board of directors and management of subsidiaries. The Japanese conglomerate additionally said it sent one of its own directors to Tiger Resort to serve in the top management “in order to intensify interaction” with the group.

The Japanese conglomerate said it plans to install a system to keep electronic records “tracing the flow of decision making and funds”. The parent company will also review internal regulations regarding the decision making processes at Tiger Resort, it added.

“We plan to complete each of these [tasks] by the first half of next year,” said Universal Entertainment.

Ionut Rusu

Finland’s slots jockeys will have to authenticate their identity

Casino – CalvinAyre.com
Finland’s slots jockeys will have to authenticate their identity

finland-veikkaus-slot-machine-identity-authenticationFinland is about to make life more difficult (or more responsible, depending on your perspective) for slot machine fans.

Last week, Finland’s state gambling monopoly Veikkaus used the Christmas hubbub to quietly announce plans to require slot machine players to verify their identities in order to use the machines. The changes will reportedly affect over 18k machines located in supermarkets, gas stations and other non-casino facilities.

The changes aren’t expected to fully take effect until 2023, but Veikkaus expects the new identification requirements will begin appearing on machines before then on a piecemeal basis through the natural process of upgrading older machines for new ones with enhanced features.

The precise method by which Finnish slot jockeys will be required to authenticate their identity has yet to be determined, given Veikkaus’ belief that there are likely to be rapid technological advances in this field over the next five years. Accommodations must also be made to ensure that international tourists can play the slots despite their lack of local credentials.

The change is expected to cost Veikkaus between €50m and €100m but the company was reportedly spurred to act following a report by the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL, which estimated that there were 130k Finns struggling with problem gambling behavior, and which claimed authentication was an effective method of curbing such undesirable activity.

Verification is currently in use on some machines and via Veikkaus’ online offering, but it only allows Veikkaus to track customer activity rather than impose restrictions on their behavior.

Veikkaus’ head of corporate social responsibility Pekka Ilmivalta told Finnish media outlet YLE that it was still too early to say “whether or not the requirement to authenticate will affect all games and all types of gambling.”

The post Finland’s slots jockeys will have to authenticate their identity appeared first on CalvinAyre.com.

Ionut Rusu

The top casino stories of 2017

Casino – CalvinAyre.com
The top casino stories of 2017

2017-year-end-adelson-macau-banner-3

MACAU IS BACK
The Macau casino market’s tentative return to growth that began in 2016 accelerated dramatically this year, with each month posting strong double-digit year-on-year growth and the full-year total is now projected to come in at least one-fifth higher than the year before.

Perhaps the most unexpected aspect of Macau’s resurgence was the fact that it was driven by VIP gambling, despite Beijing’s crackdown on corruption showing no signs of abating, and despite all the talk about Macau’s pivot toward mass market gamblers. Even the once beleaguered junket industry is back to opening new VIP rooms.

The market was buoyed by the first full year’s contribution from new casinos such as Las Vegas Sands’ Parisian (pictured above, behind Sands boss Sheldon Adelson) and even the ban on proxy betting couldn’t dent Macau’s momentum. Some stakeholders are now projecting a return to Macau’s pre-2014 revenue heights.

Ironically, the timing of Macau’s resurgence could actually work against the market’s six casino concessionaires. Macau is gearing up for its planned review of the concessions, the first of which are set to expire in 2020.

Had Macau’s market remained in the dumps, the authorities might have felt the need to tread lightly, banking that continuity was more important that wringing blood from a stone. But with operators back to printing money, Macau is free to consider all options, including opening up the market to other operators.

JAMES PACKER’S VERY BAD YEAR
2016 ended on a sour note for Crown Resorts owner James Packer with the arrest of multiple staffers – including VP Jason O’Connor – for aggressively promoting gambling activity on the Chinese mainland.

2017-year-end-crown-james-packerAs the calendar flipped to 2017 and it became evident that China was serious about prosecuting the Crown employees, Packer accelerated his sell-off of Crown’s stake in the Melco Crown Entertainment (now Melco Resorts & Entertainment) joint venture, ensuring Crown shareholders missed out on the benefits of Macau’s gambling revival.

With Crown’s name tarnished by the China arrests, Packer publicly withdrew his company from the race to win a coveted Japanese casino license. Packer also sold off Crown’s interest in a Las Vegas casino project, and looks set to unload the Crownbet online sports betting operation.

In September, Crown began defending itself in court against allegations that its pokies were misleading gamblers as to their chances of winning. The following month, an Aussie politician set off a firestorm by repeating the allegations of former Crown Melbourne staffers regarding tampering of pokies machines and helping high-rollers avoid federal financial reporting requirements.

Packer was also forced to submit to interviews with Australian federal police at the request of Israeli authorities, who are trying to determine what (if anything) Packer received in return for the generous hospitality he’s shown the family of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the years.

Packer even found himself indirectly connected to the #MeToo sexual harassment campaign when his former Hollywood production partner, Brett Ratner, was accused of abusive behavior. In April, Packer sold his share in RatPac Entertainment, which produced that star-studded promo film for Melco Crown’s Studio City resort, to Ratner.

It was Ratner who introduced Packer to singer Mariah Carey, with whom Packer reached a multimillion-dollar settlement this year after the pair broke off their engagement. Mariah got to keep the 35-carat diamond ring and, apparently, Packer’s mojo.

LAWRENCE HO’S VERY GOOD YEAR
By contrast, Melco Resorts & Entertainment CEO Lawrence Ho had a remarkably positive year. Packer’s selloff in Melco Crown gave Ho majority control over the rebranded joint venture, eliminating the need to share the profits from Macau’s resurgence. Ho reshuffled MRE’s senior management in January, and the year’s positive momentum suggests the changes were the right ones.

2017-year-end-melco-lawrence-hoThe Melco Crown/Resorts’ expansion into the Philippines also hit its stride in 2017, to the point that the City of Dreams Manila property now accounts for 15% of MRE’s earnings. MRE could further boost its Philippine presence next year if it wins the auction for the state-run Casino Filipino operations.

Ho’s Melco International also celebrated international gains in 2017 when the company took sole control of its joint venture casino in Cyprus, which will be Europe’s largest integrated resort when its first phase opens in 2019.

Ho likely scored some significant brownie points with Japanese decision makers by vowing to shift MRE’s corporate HQ to Japan if MRE were to win the Japanese casino derby.

If there was one stain on Ho’s 2017, it was his Russian casino Tigre de Cristal, which celebrated its second anniversary in October. The property has struggled to attract mass market gamblers, and the government’s abrupt decision to dramatically hike gambling taxes was apparently the last straw, prompting Ho to sell his stake in the project as the year drew to a close.

ASSHOLES WITH GUNS
There were two mass casualty events at casinos in 2017. In the Philippines, 37 people died when a gunman stormed Resorts World Manila (RWM) casino in June. What originally appeared to be a terrorist attack turned out to be a puzzling tale of an indebted gambler who didn’t appear that interested in shooting anyone.

Jessie Javier Carlos set several fires on RWM’s gaming floor, and the resulting smoke and fumes ended up killing casino guests who’d taken refuge in a narrow hallway. Carlos later shot himself, preventing any further explanation of his actions.

In October, Stephen Paddock opened fire on an open-air concert from the window of his hotel room in MGM Resorts’ Mandalay Bay casino. A total of 59 individuals died, including Paddock, who took his own life before security could enter his room.

Naturally, in both cases, the issue of the shooters’ gambling history was prime fodder for the media, even if there was little direct connection between their gambling activity and their violent ends.

Rightly or wrongly, RWM’s owner Travelers International Hotel Group and MGM were each accused of negligence in the wake of the attacks, and both markets suffered temporary dips in activity immediately following the incidents. However, both markets have since rebounded amid well-publicized improvements to security protocols, not only in the affected venues or markets, but at casinos across the globe, hopefully lessening the likelihood of such incidents going forward.

ATLANTIC CITY IS ALIVE… ALIVE!
The seaside gaming hub managed to go the whole year without closing another casino, which sounds like damning with faint praise, but when you’ve lost five of 12 casinos to mothballs in a short time period, you measure success differently.

2017-year-end-atlantic-city-casinos-aliveThe year got off on the right foot when AC announced its first annual gaming revenue gains in a decade. The surviving casinos showed they’d read their Darwin by getting far more efficient, posting double-digit profit gains despite only modest increases in revenue, and they got a wind-assist from online gambling, which now represents 10% of all monthly gaming revenue.

In March, Florida’s Hard Rock International showed its faith in AC’s rebirth by acquiring the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal and vowing to spend half-a-billion removing the Trump taint before reopening next summer as the music-themed Hard Rock Atlantic City.

Another mothballed property, the $2.4b white elephant that is Revel, also reportedly found a buyer late in the year, although Revel’s reliably loony owner Glenn Straub continues to deny it, even after the alleged new owner – Colorado developer Bruce Deifik – went to the trouble of applying for a New Jersey casino license (something Straub refused to do).

Trouble is, AC’s surviving casinos are worried that the reopening of some closed venues will upset the delicate balance that has allowed them to post those profits and restore the oversupply problems that led to AC’s decade-long decline.

VIETNAM WELCOMES LOCALS IN CASINOS
After years of hemming and hawing, Vietnam’s government finally approved plans for a three-year test of allowing local residents to gamble in casinos. (The government also announced a separate pilot program for legal sports betting.)

The locals ban had been cited by numerous international firms as the primary reason for their disinterest in pursuing Vietnamese casino projects. But the increasing likelihood of the government permanently bending on this issue has led to a flurry of casino project announcements.

While undoubtedly welcome news, the locals pilot program remains something of a chimera, in that none of the casinos designated to participate in the test are actually open for business. In fact, some of these casinos have yet to progress beyond the conceptual stage, and may not be ready to welcome gamblers – regardless of their nationality – for years yet.

On the plus side, if none of the specified casinos manage to open by the time the three-year trial is over, that means the potential for negative impact on Vietnamese society will be nil. So, uh, it will be considered a success?

BRITISH COLUMBIA: SO MUCH FAIL
A few years ago, the Canadian province of British Columbia dropped its pretentious official motto, ‘The Best Place on Earth.’ Now, if they’d added “…to Launder Money in Casinos,” they’d have been on to something.

2017-year-end-british-columbia-casino-money-launderingThis spring, BC voters threw out the governing Liberal party after 15 years in power, and the incoming NDP government announced they’d found a year-old report detailing rampant money laundering at BC’s land-based casinos. The situation was so prevalent that the laundering process was known internationally as ‘the Vancouver model.’

The Liberals and the British Columbia Lottery Corporation had long been accused of ignoring shady dealings at BC casinos but the report added flesh to those bones, including tales of Asian high-rollers collecting gym bags full of $20 bills in casino parking lots, then exchanging the cash for chips without too many questions asked. The government even shut down an investigative body that asked too many questions about the shady goings-on.

The release of the report led to police actions against BC-based private lenders, while Canada’s federal financial watchdog announced it was reviewing the allegations, and Great Canadian Gaming Corp – which manages the casino where most of the real shenanigans occurred – was forced into the embarrassing position of publicly declaring that it wasn’t in the money laundering business.

The whole incident added significant weight to the argument that acting as both gaming regulator and operator is a recipe for corruption. Calvin Ayre has predicted that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin Cash will eventually make regulators like BCLC redundant but their own greed and incompetence might do the job first.

IMPERIAL PACIFIC FINDS THERE IS SUCH A THING AS TOO MUCH PUBLICITY
In July, Saipan casino operator Imperial Pacific International finally transferred its shopping mall casino’s gaming operations to IPI’s permanent facility, despite the new joint being nowhere near completion, and despite a near-constant deluge of negative attention from international media, US law enforcement, local politicians and the company’s own labor force.

After closing out 2016 denying that its VIP gambling operations were the subject of a probe by US financial watchdogs, monthly VIP turnover at IPI’s temporary casino hit a staggering $5.6b in January – a greater monthly sum than that generated by virtually any casino in Macau. Related or not, a few months later IPI announced it would no longer report its monthly turnover figures.

IPI’s offices were raided by US federal agents in March, in what was initially suspected of being a financial probe. Instead, the raid was linked to IPI’s contractors hiring undocumented Chinese workers (and not always paying them) while dodging workplace safety rules, which may have contributed to the on-site death of a worker.

While IPI’s permanent casino finally opened (dodgy sewage system notwithstanding), the company’s historic aversion to unloading risk on junket operators led analysts to warn that the company could default if it couldn’t collect on its staggeringly vast bad VIP debt total. In the first half of 2017 alone, IPI wrote off $266m in unrecoverable debts.

Meanwhile, Saipan politicians continued to make noise about IPI’s sweetheart deal with the government, which require the company to pay business taxes and license fees but no tax whatsoever on gaming revenue. There may yet come a day in which IPI wishes it had never left the cozy confines of its shopping mall origins.

HONORABLE MENTIONS
Spain proved once again that it really isn’t interested in building integrated resort casinos; Baha Mar finally opened in the Bahamas, albeit to an underwhelming response; Phil Ivey’s bid to reclaim his millions in edge-sorting winnings crapped out in the UK Supreme Court; and US authorities fingered North Korea as the culprit behind 2016’s Bangladeshi bank heist that so embarrassed the Philippine casino and junket industries;

The post The top casino stories of 2017 appeared first on CalvinAyre.com.

Ionut Rusu

Some table games at Palace Station now feature smartphone charging outlets

Las Vegas Sun Stories: Gaming
Some table games at Palace Station now feature smartphone charging outlets
With the bevy of major upgrades as part of Palace Station’s multimillion remodeling project, one smaller addition might be easy to overlook. The Station Casinos property rolled out ...

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Ionut Rusu

Macau visitor tally up nearly 10pct in November

GGRAsia
Macau visitor tally up nearly 10pct in November

Macau’s visitor arrivals for November has increased by 9.4 percent year-on-year to over 2.83 million, a growth that has been mainly driven by a double-digit increase in visitors from the city’s most important source of inbound tourists, mainland China, according to data released on Wednesday by the Statistics and Census Service.

In November, the number of overnight and same-day visitors rose by 10 percent and 8.8 percent year-on-year to 1.51 million and 1.32 million respectively, the statistics bureau’s latest data show. The average length of stay of visitors in November was 1.2 days, on a par with the figure in the previous month as well as in the same month last year.

The number of mainland Chinese visitors to Macau in November was slightly above 1.98 million, up by 16.1 percent year-on-year. Among them, 886,093 visitors were travelling under the Individual Visit Scheme, up 12 percent from the prior-year period.

In November, Mainland Chinese visitors came mainly from Guangdong province, Hunan province and Fujian province, according to the statistics bureau. Nearly 1.09 million of the inbound visitors from mainland China last month stayed overnight in the city, an increase of 18.6 percent from a year earlier.

The number of visitors from Hong Kong and Taiwan – the second- and third-most important source markets for Macau respectively – dropped by 6.8 percent and slightly increased by 0.7 percent respectively compared to the prior-year period. The tally of visitors from South Korea increased by 16.9 percent year-on-year to 72,500 in November.

In the first 11 months of 2017, the aggregate number of visitor arrivals to Macau stood at nearly 29.56 million, up 5.1 percent in year-on-year terms. Among them, nearly 15.62 million visitors have stayed overnight in the city, representing an increase of 10.4 percent compared to the prior-year period.

Ionut Rusu

Key 2017 moments for the Asia Pacific casino industry

GGRAsia
Key 2017 moments for the Asia Pacific casino industry

The year 2017 could prove to have been a turning point in the development of Vietnam’s casino industry. In Macau, despite the VIP gambling segment being once again in the driving seat regarding contribution to gross gaming revenues, there was evidence that the right non-gaming offer to customers might have the power to drive some incremental gaming business.

Those are respective views of several commentators in their specialist fields, namely gaming law and financial analysis.

Meanwhile, the announcement in early December that a unit of Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd was to be a partner in a planned casino resort on the Philippine holiday destination of Boracay, could prove a pivotal moment for that country’s casino industry. That is provided the investors have good enough air transport links to guarantee a supply of foreign players, says a long-time operator of gaming machines in that market and local agent for major casino technology brands. Until now, most of the Philippines’ world-class casino resorts have been clustered in a district of the capital Manila.

In 2017, the Philippine casino industry was also hit by a tragic event: the Resorts World Manila casino resort in the Philippine capital was attacked on June 2 by a lone gunman, leading to the deaths of 37 people, including the perpetrator Jessie Javier Carlos. Following the incident, the country’s regulator – the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) – instructed Resorts World Manila to halt its gaming operations pending investigation of the attack on the property. Gaming operations were eventually resumed at the end of June.

That attack, and the mass shootings near the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada in the United States in October, were mentioned by the Macau government when it announced in mid-October the authorities there would work with the city’s six casino operators on how to cope with simulated “attack” on the sector. More details were given in late November, when Macau’s Secretary for Security said the simulation exercise would happen in the first half of 2018.

In the gaming supplier segment, a leading veteran of the casino technology sector – who asked not to be identified by name – expressed “surprise” to GGRAsia at the continued aggressive expansion in 2017 – via acquisition – of Scientific Games Corp, a specialist in casino gaming machines and systems and lottery equipment and services. But the person found it less surprising that Scientific Games had become a stronger competitor to Australia’s Aristocrat Leisure Ltd in the slot machine business in Asia Pacific and beyond.

Vietnam opportunities

Regarding the Vietnam gaming market, Pedro Cortés, a member of the International Association of Gaming Advisors (IAGA) and a senior partner at the Macau legal practice Rato, Ling, Lei and Cortés, told GGRAsia that a Vietnam government decree in January 2017, that came into force in March and paved the way for a trial period of gambling by economically-qualified locals at selected casino resorts, had helped to put Vietnam “on the regulatory map in the Asia-Pacific region”.

In February, the Vietnam government announced another gaming-related decree that included provisions to enable some citizens of the country aged 21 and over to bet on certain overseas football matches and on horse and dog races. The conditions included that the events must be approved ones as defined by the government. Players would be allowed to wager a maximum of VND1 million (US$44) per product day.

The combination of the potential for opening up of the Vietnam market for local players and the beginnings of some kind of discernible regulatory framework – rather than licences being granted on a case by case basis as previously –“permits Vietnam to have foreign investors, and Macau-based VIP gaming operators are reportedly starting investing in the casino industry of Vietnam,” Mr Cortés noted.

He added: “Due to its proximity to the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam has an enormous potential for the industry.”

There have been reports of some large-scale Vietnam casino resorts possibly being allowed to offer gambling to locals by the turn of the year.

Augustine Ha Ton Vinh, an academic who says he has been advising the government there on liberalising Vietnam’s gaming industry, told a panel moderated by GGRAsia at the MGS Entertainment Show – a casino industry trade exhibition and conference held in November – that two Vietnam properties would be in the first wave of gambling for locals. He said they were a so-called integrated resort at Van Don in northern Vietnam, and one on Phu Quoc Island in the south; with two more – in Ho Tram and at Hoi An – “in limbo”.

The prospect of local play in Vietnam has had major U.S.-based casino firms including Las Vegas Sands Corp and Hard Rock International LLC studying the market.

But there appears to be a high mandated threshold for capital expenditure per resort: it is reportedly US$2 billion currently, rather than US$4 billion as mentioned previously in some provincial government announcements regarding new projects. Such an entry price does not appear to guarantee operators permission for entry of locals, and the locals initiative is at this stage only for a trial period due to run for three years.

“We’re not necessarily in love with the conditions or the three-year test period,” said Sheldon Adelson, chairman and chief executive of potential Vietnam suitor Las Vegas Sands, in comments to investment analysts on the group’s first-quarter 2017 earnings call on April 26.

Against that background, it could be that Chinese entrepreneurs such as Macau junket investor Alvin Chau Cheok Wa, boss of Suncity Group – who is slated for an investment at Hoi An, and who is linked to an entity due to run the gaming at Van Don – have a stronger stomach for risk in the Vietnam market than Western public companies.

During the MGS Entertainment Show in November, Andrew Klebanow, senior partner at business consultancy Global Market Advisors LLC – also known as GMA – told GGRAsia that Vietnam would need to balance its domestic policy expectations regarding what the casino industry could deliver in terms of inward investment, with the commercial needs of the operators. He described the reported US$2-billion capital threshold as an “unrealistic number”.

Macau’s VIP comeback

In 2017, as in previous years since the turn of the century – when the system for exit visas from mainland China was partially liberalised, helping to support the tourism sectors in the special administrative regions of Macau and of Hong Kong – the Macau casino market led Asia Pacific in gross gaming revenue terms (GGR).

In respective notes on December 18, several brokerages said they expected 2017 GGR to have expanded by at least 19 percent year-on-year, or to at least MOP266.24 billion (US$33.06 billion). Full-year 2017 is set to be the first time since 2014 that Macau’s casino industry will report full-year GGR year-on-year growth. In 2014, market-wide GGR declined by 2.6 percent, decreasing further by 34.3 percent and 3.3 percent in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Grant Govertsen, managing director of brokerage Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd, told GGRAsia in an emailed commentary: “Clearly VIP has re-emerged as the driving force behind what should be approximately 20 percent GGR growth in Macau in 2017.”

It has become a truism of the Macau casino scene that new non-gaming products can sometimes struggle to find a role and a market. Not if the product is right, suggested Mr Govertsen, giving as an example the food and drink offerings of Galaxy Entertainment.

“Simply put the company has instituted significant changes and additions to its F&B [food and beverage] offerings at what feels like a lightning pace,” said the analyst.

“Well-known brands, concepts that mainland [Chinese] visitors enjoy, reasonable price points, and easy access have played a part in driving incremental foot traffic to Galaxy Macau (and to a lesser extent to StarWorld too),” he added, referring first to the casino group’s Cotai flagship, and second to its main Macau peninsula property.

Boracay blue skies?

In the Philippines, Joe Pisano, chief executive and founder of Jade Entertainment and Gaming Technologies Inc, a Manila-based distributor and operator of casino gaming machines, told GGRAsia regarding the prospects for Galaxy Entertainment’s Boracay project: “Of the local tourists that go to Boracay they are not of the demographic that would frequent casinos: basically they are millennials going to the beach to party.” The latter was a reference to young adults born at the turn of the current century.

“If Galaxy [Entertainment] has an airstrip in their plans and they are able to bring players directly from China then they could make it work,” added Mr Pisano.

Referring to another holiday island destination in the Philippines were several casino resort schemes have been proposed, the gaming entrepreneur added: “The new Cebu properties have a lot of advantages over the Boracay developments – an international airport, local customer base, and several established five-star resorts.”

Galaxy Entertainment has also expressed interest in obtaining a casino licence in Japan, as have many other international casino operators. But the arrival of year-end without the passage in Japan of an anti-gambling addiction bill – a statute seen as a precondition of casino industry legalisation – only pushes the request for proposal stage further down the track, a number of industry commentators have said.

Supplier M&A

In the casino equipment supply sector, 2017 saw a continuation of the merger and acquisition trend that started earlier in the decade. In the latest round, a predominant theme was acquisition – by traditional casino slot machine and electronic table games makers – of new technology firms involved in either so-called social casino games or online sports betting.

In October, Aristocrat announced it had completed the takeover of social gaming company Plarium Global Ltd, for US$500 million, after receiving all relevant regulatory and other approvals.

In late November, the firm also announced a US$990-million cash bid for social casino brand Big Fish Games Inc, a U.S.-based, wholly-owned unit of horse racetrack operator Churchill Downs Inc. Aristocrat said that deal would make its digital business the “second-largest social casino publisher globally by revenue”, citing research from Eilers and Krejcik Gaming LLC.

On December 20, Scientific Games announced the acquisition of Canada-listed sports betting firm NYX Gaming Group Ltd would close on January 5 after being approved “by an overwhelming vote of NYX shareholders”. In September, Scientific Games said it wanted to expand its existing digital gaming and online gambling portfolio by acquiring NYX Gaming for approximately CAD775 million (US$604.3 million), including debt.

At the end of September, Scientific Games had total net debt of US$7.98 billion, according to its third-quarter earnings statement issued on November 1.

‘Aggressive’ expansion

“I was really surprised how aggressive Scientific Games have remained despite high debt; but you have to remember they have a couple of very large shareholders, [a scenario] which always tends to result in more aggressive management,” the casino technology sector industry veteran – who asked not to be identified by name – told GGRAsia. “I see this continuing unless we have a serious economic bump in the road,” the person added.

The industry source said, asserting no commercial interest in the topic: “Aristocrat in particular are being very smart in pursuing acquisitions but not ‘absorbing’ them in the core business. They are running them as virtually independent business which seems to be working very successfully.”

The person further stated: “This worked for them very well with the acquisition of Product Madness and they seem to be continuing that trend.”

Aristocrat acquired Product Madness Inc, an online social casino games developer, in 2012. The consideration involved was not declared at the time.

Referring to the conventional slot games segment for land-based casinos, the industry commentator told us: “For Asia, I don’t think we will see a substantial weakening of Aristocrat as they are looking after their core games and trying to establish and expand the business with a premier portfolio. Yes, compared to 10 years ago, they do have a good competitor in Scientific Games, but this really made sure they didn’t get complacent. Top line growth for Aristocrat [in Asia Pacific] will remain difficult with the market share they [already] possess,” said the person.

At the MGS Entertainment show in November, the Macau regulator revealed that in the city’s casino market, Aristocrat had a market share of 48 percent of the total number of EGMs in the market as of July, while Scientific Games was some way behind, with a market share of 17 percent.

Ionut Rusu

Cash-strapped Kentucky takes another look at legalizing casinos

Casino – CalvinAyre.com
Cash-strapped Kentucky takes another look at legalizing casinos

Kentucky lawmakers are now studying proposals that will amend their constitution in a bid to accommodate four casinosacross the Bluegrass State.

Cash-strapped Kentucky takes another look at legalizing casinosWCPO TV 9 reported that State Reps. Dennis Keene and Rick Rand have pre-filed BR-197, which seeks to legalize casinos and at the same time expand pari-mutuel gambling, in the first week of December.

Kentucky, currently one of the 10 U.S. states that does not have a casino offering, is becoming more receptive to the measure compared to the previous years, according to Keene.

Aside from allowing casinos in the state, Keene’s bill also opened the possibility of allowing sports betting in Kentucky.

The cash-strapped state is now pushing for the legalization of casinos because it needs new revenue streams to straighten its budget and salvage the state pension plan. Kentucky wants to recapture the money that its residents spend in neighboring gambling venues, according to the report.

In the historic coal town of Jenkins, Kentucky, residents are already throwing their support for the opening of casinos in the wake of high unemployment rate, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.

Meanwhile, lobby group Jobs 4 Kentucky has already gather signatures of Jenkins residents supporting the initiative.

“Responsible gaming is the pride of the modern gaming entertainment industry,” the pro-casino group said in a statement posted on its website. “The Citizens of Kentucky can count on an expanded gaming community to operate responsibly and with care for our people.”

Despite the growing support, several lawmakers believe that BR-197 faces a steep uphill climb in the Congress.

One of the factors why the casino measure has not moved forward in Kentucky is the disagreements over the casinos’ location. Social conservatives are exerting pressure on Congress not to allow gambling expansion in the state, while the Kentucky’s influential horse industry wants casinos confined in the tracks.

There were casino bills that had been filed over the past years, but Keene said these measures met their untimely demise in the Congress because “there’s not been the political courage to pass it.”

The post Cash-strapped Kentucky takes another look at legalizing casinos appeared first on CalvinAyre.com.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Ionut Rusu

GGRAsia wishes all readers a Merry Festive Season

GGRAsia
GGRAsia wishes all readers a Merry Festive Season

Due to the Christmas holiday, the GGRAsia team will be off until December 26. We will be back on December 27. We wish all our readers a happy festive season!

Ionut Rusu

A look inside: Strip’s glamour infuses UNLV’s new $60 million hotel college

Las Vegas Sun Stories: Gaming
A look inside: Strip’s glamour infuses UNLV’s new $60 million hotel college
The modern-industrial style interior is designed to feel like you are in one of the properties on the Las Vegas Strip because university officials wanted students to ...

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Ionut Rusu

Nepal Tiger Palace gets pre-approval for casino ops: firm

GGRAsia
Nepal Tiger Palace gets pre-approval for casino ops: firm

Boutique Asian casino operator and developer Silver Heritage Group Ltd says it has received a pre-approval letter from the Nepalese government granting it a licence to operate a casino at Tiger Palace Resort Bhairahawa, a new property near the country’s border with the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

The announcement was made in a Friday filing to the Australian Securities Exchange. No tentative schedule for the casino opening was mentioned in the document.

Silver Heritage had stated late last month that it was waiting for regulatory approval in order to open the casino at Tiger Palace.

In the latest filing, the firm said that, in accordance with the Nepal casino regulations, “payment is now due to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation for the initial casino licence fee of NPR20 million (approximately US$194,000), and the casino royalty fee of NPR30 million (approximately US$291,000) for the Nepal fiscal year, which runs from mid-July to mid-July the following year.”

Silver Heritage stated it would now make the necessary payments; “upon receipt of the payment, it is expected that the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation will issue the formal casino licence, allowing casino gaming to take place at Tiger Palace immediately.”

The firm added that a new announcement would be made upon the issuance of the formal casino licence by the Nepalese authorities.

Silver Heritage had stated last month that Tiger Palace remained “on budget [for completion] at less than the revised budget amount of US$51.8 million, and for the casino to open by November 30”.

A soft opening of the property’s hotel facilities, offering 100 rooms, was held on September 20.

Silver Heritage runs the Millionaire’s Club and Casino in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, and the Phoenix International Club, near Hanoi, in Vietnam.

The firm hinted in a September business update that it had identified another site in Nepal for a potential second new resort following the opening of Tiger Palace. According to that company update, the second site would be further east, near Nepal’s border with the Indian states of Bihar and Sikkim, and a relatively short distance from India’s contiguous border with Bangladesh.

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Goa casino that ran aground relaunching on different ship

Casino – CalvinAyre.com
Goa casino that ran aground relaunching on different ship

goa-golden-globe-floating-casinoDon’t look now, but the operator of the Goa floating casino that ran aground earlier this year has struck a deal to set sail on another vessel.

This week, the Times of India reported that Golden Globe Hotels Pvt Ltd would be transferring its gaming operations from the currently unseaworthy MV Lucky 7 to the MV San Domino, a vessel that has been moored for the last eight years awaiting a casino license.

If you’re just joining us, the MV Lucky 7 ran aground in July after Golden Globe ignored warnings about launching the vessel during monsoon season. Goa officials had only just approved the MV Lucky 7’s license in March, allowing it to join the other floating casinos plying their trade on the Mandovi River.

It took several months, but the MV Lucky 7 was finally shifted from its sandbar and is currently under repair. Rather than let its license sit idle, Golden Globe has applied to shift its operations to the MV San Domino.

The San Domino is owned by the Essel Group, which had hoped to launch gaming operations aboard the ship under the Casino Maharaja brand. However, while the ship is already kitted out for casino operations, it has yet to take a single wager due to Essel Group’s inability to secure a Goa gaming license.

An unidentified Golden Globe director (hopefully not the one pictured in red) told the Times that the company had leased the San Domino for one year, and the plan was to launch operations “sometime in mid-January 2018, probably after we compete the interiors.” The state government has been asked to approve Golden Globe using the MV Lucky 7’s jetty as a mooring point.

The MV Lucky 7’s launch was highly controversial, given that Goa’s government has been trying to run all six floating casinos permanently aground, as part of the state’s plan to transition to an all land-based gaming market by 2020.

The state had promised to reveal its new casino policy this month, but Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said Thursday that, while the amended Goa Gambling Act is done, it now won’t be issued until the new year, apparently due to the need to run it by his cabinet ministers.

The shift onshore will only grow the local casino industry, according to Anil Malani, CEO of Delta Corp, which operates four Goa casinos (three floating, one land-based). Local media quoted Malani saying (essentially) that shipboard casinos were a pain in the ass to operate and that he was looking forward to the landward journey.

Malani said Delta’s current Goa operations were “completely strained for capacity” but the water-borne constraints “will eventually fall” once the move onshore is complete. In the meantime, Malani is excited at the possibility that Delta “could be building maybe, five times, 10 times next year. So we can actually plan for years to come.”

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China restricts package tours to South Korea anew: report

Casino – CalvinAyre.com
China restricts package tours to South Korea anew: report

The Chinese government has reportedly changed its mind about loosening restrictions on package tours to South Korea.

China restricts package tours to South Korea anew: reportKorea JoongAng Daily reported that China’s tourism authority has rejected recent applications for group tour visas following the recent state visit of South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Beijing.

Citing tourism industry sources, the Korean news outlet reported that tour operators in Beijing and Shandong Province were told by the Chinese government that group tourist visas to Korea will be blocked again, effective December 20.

The Chinese authorities did not provide any explanation for the resumption of blocking package tours. The rejections came as a surprise to tour operators since this was the same Chinese government agency that lifted the ban in November.

South Korea, particularly Jeju Island, relies on mainland China for their inbound tourists. Data from Jeju Tourism Organization (JTO) showed that China accounted for 84 percent of the island’s international tourists in 2016.

But things changed after South Korea’s former administration allowed the deployment of additional U.S. anti-missile missile systems. Beijing retaliated by imposing a blanket ban on group tours to the country.

Jeju’s Chinese tourist numbers fell by 56.2% in March, rising to 89% by the end of June, according to JTO data.

Travel agencies had hoped that the icy relationship between Beijing and Seoul would thaw following the election of Moon and the scrapping of further missile deployment plans in the country.

Kim Jong-taek, secretary general of the Asia Inbound Tourism Association, was in disbelief upon hearing the news that Beijing re-imposed its ban, especially since he was expecting that the tour ban will be completely lifted in February.

However, he pointed out that “the Chinese government has never made any official statement on the matter.”

“I still don’t know why it’s turning down the visa applications, but I hope it has to do with some sort of an administrative lapse,” Kim told the news outlet.

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Despite Wynn’s move, gaming grows slowly on north Strip

Las Vegas Sun Stories: Gaming
Despite Wynn’s move, gaming grows slowly on north Strip
Whether Wynn Resorts’ purchase of the site where the New Frontier was located will be the spark that ignites development on the northern stretch of the Las Vegas Strip remains to be seen since many proposed projects have significant issues that could delay or even prevent them from coming to fruition. ...

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

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China’s ban on group tours to S. Korea back in place: reports

GGRAsia
China’s ban on group tours to S. Korea back in place: reports

China has reportedly brought back a ban on group tours to South Korea. That was after having partially lifted the ban for three weeks.

In a report on Thursday, Korea JoongAng Daily – the English language version of South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo – said that China’s tourism authorities had rejected recent applications for group tour visas to South Korea without providing clear explanation. It cited tourism industry sources in Beijing and the Chinese province of Sangdong.

An employee of a tour agency in Beijing told the South Korean newspaper that the ban on Chinese group tours to South Korea would be reinstated on Friday, with at least five companies in Beijing so far already having their visa requests rejected.

Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday that a travel agent in Beijing said that South Korea-bound group tours “remain unavailable”.

The return of a full ban on group tours to South Korea comes after South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited Beijing last week. Several analysts expected that the relationship between the two countries would improve following the visit.

In a regular press conference on Wednesday, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying was asked about the media reports on the reinstatement of the ban on group tours to South Korea.

“I haven’t heard of the information mentioned,” she replied. “The Chinese side holds an open and positive attitude towards the exchanges and cooperation conducted by China and the Ropublic of Korea in various areas,” Ms Hua added.

China’s ban on South Korea-bound group tours reportedly started in the autumn of 2016 in retaliation for South Korea’s decision to install the U.S.-supplied Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system close to Chinese territory as a counter to North Korean missile tests.

It was reported that the ban was partially lifted at the end of November this year.

Despite a slump in the number of mainland Chinese visitors to South Korea after the ban was initiated, Paradise Co Ltd, an operator of several foreigner-only casino properties in South Korea, still reported a 5.3 percent year-on-year growth in casino sales in the third quarter of 2017. The firm said casino sales were up due to “recovery in Chinese VIP [play] and solid growth from Japanese VIP [play]”.

Another South Korean foreigner-only-casinos operator, Grand Korea Leisure Co Ltd, also said in its third-quarter earnings announcement that the company had recorded a 3.5 percent year-on-year increase in revenue.

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Foxwoods latest casino to add ‘stadium’ electronic table games

Casino – CalvinAyre.com
Foxwoods latest casino to add ‘stadium’ electronic table games

foxwoods-rainmaker-stadium-electronic-table-gamesConnecticut’s Foxwoods Resort Casino has become the latest US gaming venue to incorporate ‘stadium’ gambling positions into its offering.

This week, Foxwoods announced that its Rainmaker Casino – one of six gaming venues on the property – had added a new Rainmaker Stadium hybrid electronic gaming set-up, featuring 30 play terminals and three live dealers, allowing players simultaneous access to both blackjack and mini-baccarat games.

The new Rainmaker Stadium set-up comes courtesy of a partnership with the US division of gaming technology provider Novomatic. Connecticut’s other tribal casino, the Mohegan Sun, launched its own 41-seat stadium blackjack set-up last year following a deal with tech provider Shuffle Master.

Foxwoods plans to add a similar stadium set-up at its Fox Tower in 2018 that will feature 24 play terminals and three additional games. The plan is to link up the two systems so that players at either venue can play any of the different games without leaving their seat.

Stadium-style electronic table games first became popular in Asian casinos, particularly in Macau, where they were seen as a way of circumventing the restrictive cap on the number of live gaming tables. Las Vegas Sands brought the product to its Sands Bethlehem casino in Pennsylvania last summer and other US casinos have been quick to follow suit.

Foxwoods’ own marketing material for the new Rainmaker Stadium product includes text in both English and Mandarin, and depicts four happy young Asian faces, underscoring the importance of the Asian audience for casinos in pretty much all markets.

On a related note, Foxwoods announced Tuesday that it had just hired Ming Mak as its new VP of Asian Marketing. Mak, who most recently served in a similar capacity at Pennsylvania’s market-leading Parx Casino, has also performed similar functions at casinos in Atlantic City.

Foxwoods CEO Felix Rappaport called Mak an “ideal fit’ for the casino due to his “outstanding track record in not only the gaming resort industry, but in driving the Asian consumer demographic to casino properties.”

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

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Lawrence Ho honoured by Macau govt for tourism work

GGRAsia
Lawrence Ho honoured by Macau govt for tourism work

Casino entrepreneur Lawrence Ho Yau Lung has been honoured by the Macau government for his contribution to the city’s tourism sector.

Mr Ho (pictured) is chairman of Hong Kong-listed Melco International Development Ltd, the parent of Macau and Philippines casino operator Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd.

Tuesday’s announcement – on the eve of the 18th anniversary of the handover of Macau from Portuguese administration to that of China – said that the businessman was among 42 individuals or organisations recognised by Macau for “achievements, outstanding contributions and distinguished services”.

The award of the “Medal of Merit – Tourism” followed a recommendation from a Macau government committee.

Melco Resorts’ majority-owned Cotai gaming resort Studio City opened in October 2015 with a range of non-gaming facilities and without VIP gambling – the latter a move Mr Ho said at the time was a “business decision” and not a political one.

It is the stated policy of the Macau government and China’s central government to broaden the base of Macau’s whole economy beyond its traditional focus on high-stakes – credit-based gambling by VIPs – and to have more non-gaming attractions in the city’s tourism sector.

“We really understood what the government wanted in terms of more diversification in the market,” said Mr Ho in a press conference at the time of Studio City’s opening.

After some market criticism of a slow ramp up of gaming revenue at Studio City, the operator applied for and was given permission to introduce such high roller business with effect from November 2016.

In the first half next year, Melco Resorts’ first and flagship Cotai resort, City of Dreams Macau, is to open a new hotel tower called Morpheus, designed by award-winning architect the late Dame Zaha Hadid.

Mr Ho’s father, Stanley Ho Hung Sun, had a business monopoly in the Macau casino market between 1962 and 2002.

Ionut Rusu

NJ lawmakers: North Jersey casino referendum not happening anytime soon

Casino – CalvinAyre.com
NJ lawmakers: North Jersey casino referendum not happening anytime soon

New Jersey lawmakers have finally decided to take a break from pushing for a referendum that would have paved the way for the opening of casinos in North Jersey.

NJ lawmakers: North Jersey casino referendum not happening anytime soonThe Associated Press reported that it is unlikely for New Jersey lawmakers to revive a ballot question that will authorize casino projects near New York City, especially after the electorate overwhelmingly rejected the idea last year.

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney said proponents of North Jersey casinos could once again attempt to bring the ballot question to the fore next year, although he believes that it is unlikely for the Senate to tackle the issue even after 2019.

“I don’t see it anytime soon, if ever,” Sweeney said, according to the news agency.

Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, whose district includes the Meadowlands Racetrack, agreed that perfect timing is needed before they peddle the referendum to voters for the second time.

Proponents of North Jersey casinos are also cautious of bringing back the issue to the table in the near future. Meadowlands Racetrack owner and North Jersey casino supporter Jeff Gural said he is willing to wait for five years before attempting to revive the issue.

Gural pointed out that the North Jersey casino plan will never happen in the future if it suffers another landslide defeat. Gural said he will only revive the call for a referendum on North Jersey casino once he is certain that they already have the majority votes to win.

The state, according to Gural, should also wait for the opening of three casinos in New York before reviving the casino ballot question.

“However long I have to wait, I’ll wait,” Gural told the news agency. “As soon as New York opens the three downstate casinos, the argument will no longer be about saving Atlantic City. New York and New Jersey will need revenue after this federal tax bill passes, and the one thing a Meadowlands casino would do is send $500 million a year to the state.”

In November 2016, 80 percent of New Jersey voters thumbed down a ballot proposal to allow casinos outside Atlantic City. Proponents of the ballot questioned the outcome of the polls, lamenting that New Jersey will miss the chance to generate millions of dollars in tax revenues for the state and to produce thousands of jobs.

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Monday, December 18, 2017

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Hard Rock Hotel agrees to settle Culinary charges

Las Vegas Sun Stories: Gaming
Hard Rock Hotel agrees to settle Culinary charges
Management at the Hard Rock Hotel agreed today to settle with the National Labor Relations Board charges that the company engaged in unfair labor practices to ...
Ionut Rusu

Penn, Pinnacle and Boyd in US regional casino three-way deal

Casino – CalvinAyre.com
Penn, Pinnacle and Boyd in US regional casino three-way deal

penn-natonal-pinnacle-boyd-casino-dealMonday was a big day in the US regional casino sector, with three-way deal-making involving Penn National Gaming (PNG), Pinnacle Entertainment and Boyd Gaming.

The day’s major announcement came as PNG confirmed it had reached a $2.8b cash-and-shares deal to acquire Pinnacle, cementing PNG’s status as the nation’s biggest regional gaming operator. Rumors of such a deal had been circulating since October.

Pinnacle owns and operates 16 gaming venues, but PNG will only be absorbing 12 of these properties. PNG reached a separate all-cash $575m deal that will see Boyd Gaming assume control over four Pinnacle venues: Ameristar St. Charles (Missouri); Ameristar Kansas City (Missouri); Belterra Casino Resort in Florence, Indiana; and Belterra Park in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The enlarged PNG will operate a total of 41 gaming venues in North America, which offer a combined 53k slot machines, 1,300 gaming tables, 8,300 hotel rooms and roughly 35k employees. The deal is expected to be complete sometime in H2 2018, subject to approval by regulators in the states in which the companies operate.

PNG CEO Timothy J. Wilmott said PNG and Pinnacle had “highly complementary portfolios and similar operating philosophies” and the enlarged PNG would benefit from “additional growth opportunities, including both real-money and free-play online gaming.

Pinnacle CEO Anthony Sanfilippo said he was looking forward to working with both PNG and Boyd to ensure a seamless ownership transition. Sanfilippo said the Pinnacle deal would “produce an even stronger gaming entertainment platform that builds on the individual accomplishments of both companies and benefits our collective team members, shareholders and guests.”

Boyd CEO Keith Smith was equally bullish on the deal’s potential, saying his company had gained “strong positions in three of the largest metropolitan areas in the Midwest” that would help “expand our company’s size and scale, grow our customer base, and further enhance our substantial free cash flow profile.”

Both PNG and Pinnacle share a landlord in real estate investment trust Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc (GLPI). Boyd has entered into a master lease agreement with GLPI for the four Pinnacle properties Boyd is acquiring under terms that Boyd says “will be substantially similar” to Pinnacle’s existing master lease.

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South Korean revenue cap policy to hit Kangwon Land: JP Morgan

Casino – CalvinAyre.com
South Korean revenue cap policy to hit Kangwon Land: JP Morgan

International brokerage JP Morgan Chase & Co. is feeling bearish on the prospects of South Korean casino operator Kangwon Land Inc. next year, when the government will reportedly start implementing a revenue cap for all forms of locals-focused gambling.

South Korean revenue cap policy to hit Kangwon Land: JP MorganJP Morgan analysts warned on Sunday that the already-burdened Kangwon Land will face additional pressure from the government’s Gambling Industry Reform Plan.

“The plan includes four major initiatives, one of which effectively targets Kangwon Land by redesigning the revenue cap policy (RCP) with heavier penalties and stricter legal enforcement,” analysts DS Kim and Sean Zhuang said, according to GGRAsia.

South Korea’s revenue cap isn’t really a new policy, according to JP Morgan. The plan was first introduced by the country’s National Gambling Control Commission in order to regulate legal gambling industries available to locals.

In a nutshell, the revenue cap is based on a proportion of the country’s gross domestic product. Since 2014, this cap has held firm at 0.54 percent of GDP.

Interestingly, Kangwon has been able to ignore the revenue cap. JP Morgan pointed out that Kangwon’s actual 2016 revenue of KRW1.63 trillion (US$1.5 billion) surpassed the KRW1.44 trillion ($1.3 billion) revenue cap set by the government that year.

The international brokerage believes that Kangwon will be forced to curb its revenue even further to avoid further scrutiny from the government.

“Even in a bull-case scenario of the plan failing to pass the National Assembly, we believe Kangwon Land would still try to lay low and curb revenue to avoid further regulatory reaction, basically repeating what it’s done this year,” JP Morgan said.

Kangwon had been in the government’s radar for the past three months after its name was dragged into a corruption scandal over reports that 95 percent of its staff were hired due to their political connections.

Early this month, ex-Kangwon Land CEO Choi Heung-jip was arrested on charges of influence peddling in connection with the hiring of certain people at the request of politicians and local bigwigs, including Rep. Yeom Dong-yeol and Rep. Kweon Seong-dong of the conservative Liberty Korea Party.

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Lawrence Ho sells entire Summit Ascent stake

Casino – CalvinAyre.com
Lawrence Ho sells entire Summit Ascent stake

Casino mogul Lawrence Ho is divesting the remainder of his stake in casino operator Summit Ascent Holdings Ltd. as he looks for other opportunities elsewhere.

Lawrence Ho sells entire Summit Ascent stakeIn a disclosure to the HongKong Stock Exchange, casino operator Summit Ascent announced that Ho is selling 20 million share in the company that runs the Tigre de Cristal casino resort in Russia’s Far East.

Quick Glitter Ltd., a company wholly owned by Ho, also unloaded 238.6 million shares, representing 16.03 percent of Summit Ascent’s issued share capital.

Both Ho and Quick Glitter entered into a placing agreement with Hong Kong-based brokerage Sun Hung Kai Investment Services Ltd, who will procure the shares at a price of HK$1.05 (US$0.13) per placing share.

“The Company is owned by Mr. Ho as to approximately 1.34% and by Quick Glitter as to approximately 16.03%,” Summit Ascent reported. “Immediately following completion of the Placing, Mr. Ho and Quick Glitter will cease to hold any Shares in the Company.”

The transaction is expected to be completed on or before Dec. 20, 2017, according to Summit Ascent.

International brokerage Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd. believes that Ho must have seen better opportunities outside Vladivostok, which is facing stricter tax regulations soon.

Union Gaming noted that Russia will soon impose a gaming tax hike by early next year, making the prospect in the region more unattractive. Under the Russian law, the government only imposes monthly flat taxes on gaming devices and not on gross gaming revenues.

The international brokerage also noted that Tigre de Cristal’s Phase 2 project has “diminished by the day” especially after Ho has divested his shares in Summit Ascent.

Union Gaming also believes that “the numerous illegal venues” near Tigre de Cristal, which remains to be “an impediment to high margin mass market story,” are additional factors why Ho decided to sell his shares in Summit Ascent.

Despite the bearish outlook for the casino operator, Union Gaming said Summit Ascent isn’t “dead in the water” just yet.

“There exists an opportunity to roll-up (or roll-out) gaming venues across markets like Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, the Philippines, and Vietnam, as well as third-party (aka service provider) casinos in Macau,” said Grant Govertsen, analyst of Union Gaming, in a note.

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

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G2E Asia 2018 to debut Asia Lottery Expo and Forum

GGRAsia
G2E Asia 2018 to debut Asia Lottery Expo and Forum

The “Asia Lottery Expo and Forum” is set to debut at Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Asia 2018, the next edition of a casino industry trade show and exhibition held annually in Macau in May. The new three-day sub-event covering lottery product displays as well as a conference element is being marketed as a “business, learning and networking platform” for lottery industry professionals, according to a press release from G2E Asia’s organisers.

The Asia Lottery Expo and Forum 2018 will feature seminars led by members of China Lottery Industry Salon Experts Committee and other industry representatives.

In some Asian markets regulated lotteries are big business. In mainland China, combined sales for the two lottery systems – the welfare lottery and the sports lottery – during the first 10 months of this year amounted to CNY348.43 billion (US$52.74 billion), a year-on-year increase of 7.7 percent. A number of overseas and regional listed companies have sought to supply technology to China’s lottery sector, with varying degrees of success.

In April 2015, eight Chinese central government agencies issued a joint public announcement that “unauthorised” online sales of lottery tickets would be suspended. The suspension is understood still to be in place. Nonetheless a variety of businesses has prepared to serve that market in the future.

In March 2016 it was announced that Alibaba Group Holding Ltd – an investor in taobao.com, mainland China’s largest online shopping portal – was linking with an affiliate to take a majority stake in AGTech Holdings Ltd, a Hong Kong-listed supplier of equipment, software and services to mainland China’s regulated lottery market.

In 2013, Shenzhen-based 500.com launched an initial public offering on Nasdaq of American Depositary Receipts on the strength of what it said was permission for a pilot scheme agreed by China’s Ministry of Finance to sell tickets for the China sports lottery via an online platform.

At G2E Asia 2018, three topics will be covered by the Asia Lottery Expo and Forum: “Asian Lottery Market Trends and Dynamics”; “Opportunities, Challenges of the Asia Lottery Industry and the Era of Big Data”; and “Accelerating the Asia Lottery Industry – Corporate Social Responsibility and Technology Innovation Development”. G2E Asia 2018 will take place between May 15 and 17, 2018 at the Venetian Macao casino resort.

According to a November statement from the G2E Asia’s organisers, more than 90 percent of the floor space for the 2018 trade show has already been sold. G2E Asia 2018 is also set to feature a Lottery Pavilion, a Parts and Components Pavilion and an area called the Integrated Resorts Experience.

At G2E Asia 2017, a talking shop event called the Asia Lottery Forum was co-hosted by – on one side, China Lottery Salon and the Asian Responsible Gaming Alliance – and on the other, the G2E Asia organisers, the American Gaming Association and Reed Exhibitions.

Friday, December 15, 2017

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Room rates, table game prices on the Strip fluctuate widely during holidays

Las Vegas Sun Stories: Gaming
Room rates, table game prices on the Strip fluctuate widely during holidays
Prices for hotel rooms and at casino tables in Las Vegas traditionally surge and recede during the holidays, but at least one pricing expert says technology may eventually ...
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PAGCOR: Casinos may face closure for letting minors in their facilities

Casino – CalvinAyre.com
PAGCOR: Casinos may face closure for letting minors in their facilities

State regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has warned casino operators to not let minors inside their gambling facilities if they don’t want their casinos to be shuttered for good.

PAGCOR: Casinos may face closure for letting minors in their facilitiesIn a memorandum posted on its website, PAGCOR reminded casino operators to forbid guests below 21 years old from entering the gambling area of their integrated resorts. The penalty set by PAGCOR for erring casinos was the closure of the gaming site.

The state regulator also reiterated its long-standing prohibition on all government officials and employees, as well as their immediate relatives; members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP); Gaming Employment License holders; and persons included in the National Database of Restricted Persons from setting foot in any casino in the country.

Casino operators that will violate the directive will face a penalty of PHP100,000 (US$1,980) per entry per individual classified as a “prohibited person,” according to PAGCOR.

The guidelines stemmed from Memorandum Circular No. 6, which was signed in 2016 after the Philippine government received reports that many government officials and employees, and even members of the AFP and PNP, have been frequenting the casinos.

The prohibition on government officials inside casinos was also Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s way “to promote a high standard of ethics in public service.”If any government official or personnel enters a casino, it would be considered “conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service,” according to the regulator.

PAGCOR, however, failed to clarify yet again whether elected government officials were also prohibited from gambling in casinos. At the height of the House of Representatives’ investigation into the Resorts World Manila arson attack, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano declared that elected government officials were exempted from PAGCOR’s prohibition from gambling in casinos.

The legislator pointed out that PAGCOR couldn’t bar them from gambling in casinos because the electorate already knew they gamble a lot but they still chose to vote for them anyway.

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