When the chips are down, who’s ahead?
Singapore’s two integrated resorts will be hoping for a pickup of Chinese custom in 2017, following what can only be called a dismal 2016. Last year saw gaming revenues drop 12% from $4.8b to $4.2b, which was bad even compared to bellwether Macau, whose gaming revenues fell just 3% to $40b.
Marina Bay Sands is still the winner in the gaming turnover stakes, taking in 6 of every 10 dollars and leaving 4 to Genting. But the gambling gods may have more to contend with than just bad luck as China, a large source of gamers in Singapore, continues its crackdown on money leaving the country.
Use of Unionpay cards
One way mainlanders are getting money out of China is by using
China Unionpay cards overseas to make purchases, essentially bypassing restrictions on currency withdrawals. Nowhere has this been more evident than in Hong Kong where insurance agencies have set up in high streets to sell wealth protection products and have been known to swipe a card through dozens of times to affect a large transfer.
In Singapore, Marina Bay
Sands launched a programme in
2015 to enable customers to use their Unionpay cards to purchase vouchers that then could be used to buy gaming chips. MBS says it operates the voucher programme in accordance with the terms and conditions of China Unionpay cards. In Macau, it is understood the casinos have stopped accepting Unionpay cards for the purchase of betting chips but so far, Singapore is yet to be affected.
Implications of Japan’s entry
But even if the local players overcome their China syndrome, a new headache is looking on the horizon as Japan opens its first casinos in 2022. The land of the rising sun would likely dwarf Singapore in the size of its gaming market, with analyst firm CLSA estimating it could eventually end up to be a $25b market given its proximity to China and attractiveness as a tourist destination. Singapore’s integrated resorts will be hoping that if their headwinds don’t ease this year, at least they can stabilise their businesses and client base.
The gambling gods may have more to contend with than just bad luck