When the chips are down, who’s ahead?

Singapore Business Review - - FIRST -

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Singapore

© PressReader. All rights reserved.