Over­seas casi­nos clean up de­spite China’s cash curbs

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

For ev­i­dence of the odds stacked against China’s bat­tle to stop the flight of cash bat­ter­ing its cur­rency and drain­ing its re­serves, look no fur­ther than the tiny Pa­cific is­land of Saipan, which has hit the jack­pot with a flood of Chi­nese money at its new casino.

Thou­sands of miles from the Chi­nese main­land, the US-ad­min­is­tered is­land of 50,000 peo­ple is fes­tooned with signs writ­ten in Chi­nese and stuffed with Chi­nese su­per­mar­kets, restau­rants and karaoke par­lors serv­ing the 200,000 Chi­nese vis­i­tors that ar­rived this year. Pri­vate jets bring big spenders so free with their cash - and $100 mil­lion credit lines - that the modest Best Sun­shine casino, owned by Hong-Kong listed Im­pe­rial Pa­cific, wildly out­per­forms the top casi­nos in Ma­cau, the world’s big­gest gam­bling hub. Best Sun­shine’s 16 VIP ta­bles can turn over $3.9 bil­lion a month, while the world’s big­gest, the Vene­tian Ma­cao, man­ages about $2.5 bil­lion per month on 102 VIP ta­bles, and the MGM around $2.9 bil­lion on 161. “Never have I dealt with so much money in 36 years in casi­nos,” said one ex­ec­u­tive work­ing in the casino, who could not be named due to com­pany pol­icy.

Back in Bei­jing, pol­i­cy­mak­ers are try­ing to keep that money on the main­land. Cap­i­tal out­flows, both le­gal and il­le­gal, have dragged the yuan to eight-year lows this year, prompt­ing China to eat through more than a fifth of its foreign cur­rency re­serves since mid-2014 and im­pose a se­ries of mea­sures to stem the out­flows.

Such mea­sures, plus an anti-cor­rup­tion crack­down that be­gan in early 2014, has dealt a blow to Ma­cau, the self­gov­ern­ing Chi­nese ter­ri­tory linked by a thread to the main­land prov­ince of Guang­dong. Ma­cau’s gam­ing rev­enues have more than halved since then, as high rollers from the main­land gave it a wide berth. But whack­ing the mole in Ma­cau has made it pop up else­where, where China’s writ doesn’t run; in Saipan, the Philip­pines, Cam­bo­dia and Aus­tralia.

Manila’s So­laire casino reg­is­tered a 61 per­cent in­crease in VIP turnover in the third quar­ter, while the num­ber of jun­ket op­er­a­tors bring­ing in foreign high rollers has more than dou­bled. Half of its VIP gam­blers come from China. Na­gaCorp in Ph­nom Penh has seen a 13 per­cent in­crease in Chi­nese vis­i­tors in the first half of 2016, with VIP turnover up 11 per­cent for the first nine months.

House wins

China has fought to sup­press the de­mand, de­tain­ing mar­ket­ing em­ploy­ees from Aus­tralia’s Crown Re­sorts in Oc­to­ber for “gam­bling of­fences”, and ar­rest­ing South Korean casino man­agers last year for “en­tic­ing” Chi­nese to gam­ble over­seas. “We have al­ways asked that Chi­nese cit­i­zens leav­ing the bor­ders re­spect the laws and rules of rel­e­vant coun­tries, and not get in­volved in gam­bling or gam­ble them­selves,” Chi­nese foreign min­istry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news brief­ing in Bei­jing. But the casi­nos are get­ting ready for more.

Na­gaCorp is build­ing ad­di­tional fa­cil­i­ties and a lux­ury re­tail com­plex, while So­laire, where VIPs play in op­u­lent ocean-front rooms, is also un­rolling new ameni­ties to lure VIPs. Im­pe­rial is spend­ing $3 bil­lion to build a 14-storey re­sort in Saipan af­ter win­ning a 40-year exclusive monopoly li­cense. Its tow­er­ing bam­boo scaf­fold­ing al­ready dwarfs the low-rise lo­cal build­ings. — Reuters


NEW DELHI: In­dian chil­dren’s right ac­tivist and No­bel Lau­re­ate, Kailash Sat­yarthi (C) ges­tures to­wards chil­dren at an event in New Delhi yes­ter­day.

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