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JURISDICTION UPDATES November 2021 Edition

In focus pg.20

Macau Building on success


SkyWorlds opening to spur growth pg.12


Capital rules seen as boon for suppliers pg.14


Okada SPAC deal signals market confidence pg.10


Tigre de Cristal GGR roars ahead on local support pg.38



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Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021

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ack of detail in the proposed amendments to Macau’s

Across to The Philippines, Okada Manila is going public in

gaming legislation left the market to speculate on the

the U.S. through a merger with a special purpose acquisition

government’s intentions, with disastrous effects.

company in a major vote of confidence in the potential for the

The subsequent round of public consultation came

gambling industry in the country.

and went leaving the industry with even more questions

In Malaysia, Genting’s long-awaited outdoor theme park is

and few answers.

likely to open in the fourth quarter, providing a boost to the

In the focus section of this November edition of AGBriefings’

company’s recovery prospects. Analysts argue the park will

magazine, we take the opportunity to gather some views and

complete the resort’s offering and generate solid demand.

opinions on the potential changes in Macau and the future

From Russia, we hear from Stelios Tsifetakis, CEO of G1

evolution of the world’s largest gambling hub.

Entertainment, the managing entity of Tigre de Cristal,

We start by sharing with you the results of an AGB survey

on how the property has recovered to pre-Covid level

of industry stakeholders: operators, suppliers, consultants

monthly revenues due to strong support from the local

and academics, among others. The results were surprising!

Russian market.

Among other takeaways, GGR levels are not expected to

While Asia has yet to be able to host a major gaming event,

ever return to where they were before as China keeps up the

elsewhere the foot is back full on the throttle with Europe

pressure on Macau to diversify and internal crackdowns.

and Las Vegas hosting face-to-face meetings. In this edition

We also asked Wang Changbin, director of the Centre for

of the Special Report, suppliers tell us about their experience

Gaming and Tourism Studies at the Macau Polytechnic

of the live events and what was on offer. They also detail

Institute, how he views the proposed amendments to the

their new and upcoming product launches and the latest

gaming law and what the likely impact will be on the industry.

happenings in their respective companies.

Antonio Vilela Lobo, a lawyer who has written a four-volume

Asia Gaming Brief will be live again in March 2022 with

treatise on Macau gaming law and who is a former senior

another edition of the ASEAN Gaming Summit in Manila. We

legal adviser to the Macau Casino Commission, writes on how

may very well be the first to brave the industry events market

he sees the concession retendering process playing out. He

in Asia and we’re confident that there is significant pent up

argues the merits of a direct award over a tender. Meanwhile,

demand and enthusiasm to get together once again!

Rosalind Wade

Luis Pereira

the operators have publicly requested an extension of the See you then, meanwhile, stay safe!

concessions contracts given the short timeframe remaining before the June deadline. In these pages you will also find the most relevant updates

On behalf of Asia Gaming Brief

across the Asian gaming jurisdictions.

Rosalind Wade & Luis Pereira

In Macau, gross gambling revenue is beginning to show signs


of recovery following the latest round of lockdowns, though it’s now clear it won’t reach anywhere near the levels that

Connect with us:

had been expected at the beginning of the year. Over to Australia, David Green challenges the suitability of the


appointment of an ‘omnipotent’ special manager to oversee

Asia Gaming Brief

Asia Gaming Brief

operations following Crown’s Royal Commission enquiry.


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Macau recovery lags, with 3Q worst so far Macau gross gambling revenue is beginning to show signs of recovery following the latest round of lockdowns, though it’s now clear the city won’t reach anywhere near the levels that had been expected at the beginning of the year.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021




he government’s insistence on a zero tolerance policy, coupled with a continuing low rate of vaccination also means any rebound is vulnerable to new outbreaks. While the situation has normalized in Macau, China is continuing to battle Covid clusters in some of its cities, although so far none have affected Guangdong, Macau’s largest feeder market. Morgan Stanley is expecting the six operators to have posted an industry-wide EBITDA loss of $23 million in 3Q21, while Bloomberg predicts it will have been the worst quarter of the year so far due to the disruptions in August and September. The loss figure would be a 108 percent decline from the prior quarter. A bigger decline in the higher margin mass market business may have tipped the operators into the red, the firm said. It estimates that industrywide, mass revenue may have dropped by 28 percent from 2Q21 to $1.7 billion, which would be 31 percent of 2019 levels. It says mass revenue needs to be at 35 percent of where it was prior to the pandemic for the operators to remain profitable. VIP revenue was likely down 23 percent to $0.6 billion. Visitation was crushed in August after


Macau recorded its first Covid cases in more than 500 days. It was beginning to improve into September when a second outbreak triggered a new round of travel restrictions heading into the Golden Week holidays. Chinese visitation in 3Q21 was down 18 percent quarter-on-quarter, with the occupancy rate for five-star hotels at 47 percent in July and August. Morgan Stanley says its view is below the consensus estimates of eight analysts for a quarterly decline in EBITDA of just 50 percent, which it says is “overly optimistic.” “We expect a further 40-50 percent drop in 2021 EBITDA estimates due to recent Covid outbreaks,” it said. “Over 2022 GGR and mass revenue expectation is 61 percent and 77 percent of 2019 levels respectively.” On a company specific basis, Morgan Stanley says it expects Galaxy Entertainment to be the only operator with positive free cash flow in the period. However, it also said Sands China is likely to decline less than the peer average. Both of these two operators are helped by a sizable retail rental segment. Sands China posted total net revenues of $611 million for the quarter, compared to $167 million in the third quarter of 2020. The net loss was $423 million, compared to $562 million in the third quarter of 2020 and $166 million in 2Q21.



“Local Covid-19 flare ups driven by the Delta variant and the government’s proposal to tighten its grip over gaming companies have combined to make the third quarter one of the most volatile since the virus first battered Macau’s tourism-reliant industry,” Bloomberg analysts wrote in a report. The struggles in the gaming sector are feeding through into the economy and the Macau government’s budget. Revenue from gaming taxes has reached only 54.5 percent of the government’s budget forecast in the nine months through to the end of September. Gaming revenue came to MOP27.2 billion, compared with a projection of MOP50.0 billion and only marginally higher than the MOP23.4 billion recorded in the same period last year. Revenue from the six gaming operators is by far the largest contributor to Macau’s tax base, accounting for 70 percent of the total in the latest period. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has significantly downgraded its forecast for Macau’s gross domestic product growth in 2021 to 20.4 percent. In its latest World Economic Outlook, the fund said it is also expecting consumer price deflation of -0.3 percent this year. In its prior forecast in April, the IMF had expected the economy to rebound by 61 percent this year.

(units in MOP million)

25,000 20,000 15,000 10,000 5,000 0










(Source: DICJ)

Sands CEO says no chance of license not being renewed Las Vegas Sands CEO Rob Goldstein says he sees “no chance whatsoever” of the company not being given another gaming license in the concession renewals and said the company is ready and willing to invest more in Macau. China’s clampdown this year on sectors ranging from technology to private education, coupled with proposed amendments to Macau’s gaming law have spooked investors and raised questions over just what Beijing might be prepared to do. “I do not. I see no chance of that whatsoever,” he said when asked if there is a chance of the company losing its license. “We’ve been doing this for a couple of decades, we have an unparalleled track record.” Goldstein pointed to Sheldon Adelson’s vision for the Cotai Strip and the $15 billion the company has invested in developing its Macau assets. “So I remain beyond confident that we’ll be operating in Macau. I don’t think there’s any chance whatsoever that we wouldn’t be.”

Budget hotel law to come into effect in 2022 A new law aimed at creating more affordable hotel accommodation in Macau is set to come into effect on January 1st, 2022, according to a press release from the MGTO, which held a number of online introduction seminars about the new law. The Law No. 8/2021 on the Operation of Hotel Establishments was first proposed in the Legislative Assembly some two years ago. It’s main feature is the introduction of budget and low-cost accommodation in Macau – as part of the city’s goals of diversifying its tourism base. Under the law, there will be a new category of economic accommodation establishments, which allows for shared rooms and the offering of bed rentals. “These new measures will support development of more diverse lodgings for travellers,” said the MGTO.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021



New Macau traveller less likely to gamble Macau observers are noting an increasing disconnect between the number of incoming tourists and gross gambling revenue, pointing to a changing demographic in those visiting Macau.


he big question is what’s driving this change and is it here to stay? “There is a changing demographic amongst the Mainland Chinese visitor,” said gaming consultant Ben Lee, managing partner of IGamiX Management & Consulting. “They are younger and there are more females.” “About 30 to 40 percent of them are young women and they do not gamble,” he said. Lee’s comments on the demographics stem from observations on the ground, which have been backed up by talks with casino operators. Analysts who follow the sector closely have also said that gains in visitation this year have not always translated into what they would have expected to see in terms of GGR. Bernstein Research noted in September last year that there was a divergence between arrivals and GGR, with a follow up report in April suggesting that the reason was a “lower value customer pick up” as VIPs stayed away. “Is this market dynamics because of big discounts being offered on rooms to a demographic that doesn’t mind the tests and questions about whether they are coming to gamble?” said Lee. “Or is that that China is deciding which people can come?” He adds there is anecdotal evidence of China refusing to renew the passports of some

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021

premium mass and VIP gamblers in a deliberate manipulation of the visitor profile. The Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO) has certainly been stepping up its efforts on the Mainland to market Macau’s nongaming attractions, along with the six operators.

There is “a changing

demographic amongst the Mainland Chinese visitor.

At a recent event in Chengdu, the MGTO was advertising some $17 million in discounts and incentives to encourage people to visit over the Golden Week holiday. In 2Q21, Macau welcomed 2,189,401 visitors, up 4,302.6 percent year-on-year, although the average length of stay shortened by 2.3 days year-on-year to 1.5 days. The increased visitation this year has

fuelled retail spending which soared 200 percent in 2Q21 to MOP20.7 billion, above its pre-pandemic levels of MOP17.86 billion. Jewellery and watches led the gains, up 958 percent, while other high-end items, such as leather goods and consumer electronics were also sharply higher. Supermarket sales declined. In comparison, gross gambling revenue in the second quarter surged from 2020’s Covid-affected base to MOP25.75 billion, but it was still far short of the MOP73.55 billion reported in 2Q19. As for Golden Week, Lee said it’s now likely to be a write-off. On a recent visit to a major casino floor, he said it was possible to count the number of players on one hand, although a “fair” number of tables were open. Macau has now completed its second round of mass testing of residents in two months, finding no further local cases. However, Zhuhai authorities have extended the deadline to lift its quarantine requirements for anyone coming from Macau until at least Thursday night, the eve of the start of Golden Week. Macau had been hoping to attract at least 35,000 visitors a day over the period, which is the last major holiday this year for the Mainland Chinese. They had foreseen hotel occupancy at about 80 percent.



Golden Week loses lustre as Chinese stay at home Domestic travel during Golden Week fell short of expectations this year, partly as a result of an outbreak of Covid-19’s delta strain starting in July, and partly as a result of government policies that have stunted economic growth.


ccording to China’s Ministry of Transport, domestic trips fell around 34.1 percent from pre-pandemic levels, with 515 million domestic tourists travelling nationwide between the October 1-7 period. In 2020, this number was substantially higher at 637 million. Industry observers say that this was a result of travel curbs on certain regions within China, as well as an overall discouragement of unnecessary travel and gatherings during the Golden Week holiday. Thus, Chinese holiday makers instead opted for leisure activities closer to home. Cinema ticket sales grew by around CNY300 million compared to 2020. According to COTRI, there was another increase in the hiring of rental cars during the period, and staycations surged in popularity. Rail passengers fell nearly 20 percent, as did air travel. Unfortunately, the results were even worse for international travel. China’s only international travel destination (which normally did not require quarantine), Macau, saw its Golden Week visitation falling around 99 percent below pre-pandemic levels. Instead, Beijing became China’s number one destination during the holidays, thanks to the opening of Universal Studios Beijing on September 20, 2021. Tickets to the theme park sold out around 30 minutes after coming online ahead of the mid-Autumn Festival.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021




Okada Manila SPAC deal a vote of confidence in Philippines Okada Manila is going public in the U.S. through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company in a major vote of confidence in the potential for the gambling industry in the Philippines.




expected from domestic and tourist gaming visitors, Okada Manila will also benefit from the newly regulated online domestic gaming market, the opportunity to potentially expand through utilization of excess land in the Philippines, and potential participation in a future integrated resort development in Japan,” it said. Ader is an industry veteran who was an independent director of Las Vegas Sands from 2009-2016 and who has also worked with IGT, The Stars Group and Playtech, intends to leverage his experience in internet commerce and gaming technology, among other areas. On completion, Okada’s parent company Universal Entertainment will own 88 percent of the merged entity, which will be listed on the Nasdaq. Okada Manila will continue to be led by President Byron Yip and Chief Financial Officer Hans Van Der Sande. Okada Manila is the largest IR in the Philippines on 50 acres of real estate in Entertainment City. It has 35,000 square meters of gaming space and capacity to operate 599 gaming tables and 4,263 electronic gaming machines. Upon full completion in 2022, that will rise to 974 tables and 6,890 machines. Ader has also said he doesn’t intend for Okada to be a one asset company and will look for expansion opportunities overseas. In an interview with Bloomberg, Ader sees

he merger with 26 Capital gives Okada an enterprise value of $2.6 billion and will provide it with $275 million in cash for further expansion. “Okada Manila is the future of the gaming market in Asia and poised for tremendous growth,” said Jason Ader, chairman and CEO of 26 Capital. “With its beautiful new facility, a desirable location in one of the fastest growing gaming markets in the world and potential for industry leading margins and cash flow conversion, I believe Okada Manila is an extremely compelling investment.” The gambling market in the Philippines has been hard hit by Covid, with lengthy closures this year and strict operating restrictions when the casinos have been open. However, prior to the pandemic, the market was one of the fastest-growing in Asia, vying with Singapore to become the second-largest in the region. According to 26 Capital figures, Entertainment City grew by 24 percent annually between 2013 and 2019 and achieved gross gaming revenue (GGR) in 2019 of over $3.3 billion. The SPAC says the Philippines provides a very favorable environment for gaming businesses relative to competing geographies due to competitive labor costs, no corporate tax for gaming revenue, and with a franchise that is renewable indefinitely. “In addition to significant future growth

LICENSED CASINOS GGR Entertainment City Fiesta



Junket controls remain area of concern for FATF

(units in million) 21,116

14,667 271 87

Clark Total Licensed Casinos

Okada Manila as being in a strong position to take up any potential opportunities in Japan. “We like the market and think we’re well positioned should something come up,” he said. Manila’s casinos, which had been operating on an invited guest only basis, closed in early August as the government tried to battle another wave of Covid infections. They were allowed to reopen at limited capacity from October 15th and the hotels were allowed to resume staycation packages. The Philippines does allow locals to gamble and the country’s casinos enjoy strong support from the domestic market. For the three months to end-September, Okada reported that gross gambling revenue jumped to PHP4.17 billion in the three months from PHP2.61 billion in the prior quarter. It gave no explanation for the gains during the period. VIP table games and electronic gaming machines saw strong growth, with GGR of PHP2.22 billion and PHP1.09 billion respectively. Mass market table games recorded a drop in revenue to PHP848 million. Universal said the hotel occupancy rate during the period had been 68.6 percent, while it welcomed a total of 304,250 visitors. That compares with a rate of 63.7 percent and 208,024 visitors in the prior threemonth period.

1,881 2,241 23,269 16,995 (Source: PAGCOR)

DFNN PIGO revenue “on upward trajectory” DFNN said gross bets on its local online gaming platform surged 64.56 percent in 3Q21, fuelled by Covid lockdowns in the Philippines. The company said gross bets on its InPlay. ph unit reached PHP1.43 billion ($28.2 million) in the quarter, up from PHP869 million in the prior quarter. For the nine months to end-September, gross bets were PHP6 billion. 3Q21 gross gambling revenue was up 60.8 percent at PHP64.3 million, up from PHP40 million in 2Q21. The company said revenue from the unit, which is offering online games to local Filipinos through a so-called PIGO license, had been on an upward trajectory since its launch. “As lockdown measures ease and more gaming outlets reopen, it is projected that revenue from these outlets will start to improve and thus consolidated revenue figures at year-end are seen to be positive for the first time since March 2020.”

The Philippines has taken steps to improve its AML/CFT procedures, but more needs to be done and the country remains on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list. The global money laundering and anti terrorist financing body said the Philippines had made a high-level political commitment in June this year to work with the FATF to improve its controls. Since then it had developed and implemented guidance on delistings and unfreezing of assets for targeted financial sanctions. Nevertheless it remains on the list of countries subject to increased supervision. Grey list countries need to submit more frequent reports to the organization. They also need to commit to deadlines to quickly resolve the deficiencies that have been identified. The FATF October report said the Philippines needs to work on implementing its action plan, including demonstrating that effective risk-based supervision is being carried out of “designated non banking and business professionals,” which includes casinos.It also needs to show that supervisors are using AML/ CFT controls to mitigate the risks associated with casino junkets.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021



Theme park opening completes revamp, to drive visitation Genting Malaysia’s long-awaited outdoor theme park is likely to open late in the fourth quarter, providing a boost to the company’s recovery prospects.


ccording to Tushar Mohata, head of Malaysian equity research at Nomura, the park is now largely completed and the company is looking for the optimal timing to make its debut. “The constraint is when they see a critical mass that justifies the opening,” he said. “They are ready but they want to make sure there is demand for people who want to see the new attraction. End of the fourth quarter during the school holidays might be the right time to open up.” The Genting SkyWorlds attraction, which features 26 rides spread over 26 acres, was designed to be the centerpiece of a major revamp of Resorts World Genting, which began in 2013. The Genting Integrated Tourism Plan involved investment of MYR10.38 billion ($2.5 billion) to add new hotels, a casino, an indoor theme park, restaurants and retail. The park was originally conceived as a joint venture with 20th Century Fox, which pulled out saying it didn’t want its family friendly brand connected with a casino. The withdrawal resulted in a legal spat between the two companies and a redesign of the concept from Genting. The legal dispute was settled in July 2019. “The theme park was the missing part of the puzzle and that is about to open. They can market this resort as a complete offering again,” said Mohata, who sees the Malaysian expansion as a major catalyst for the growth of the company. Resorts World Genting, in the Genting Highlands, reopened at the end of September after a four-month Covid lockdown. Shortly thereafter, the government also relaxed rules on interstate travel allowing Malaysians to move more freely around the country. Mohata expects strong pent up demand to help the group’s earnings in the final quarter after a “washout” in September due to the closure and a slow June quarter. “Resorts World Genting has always been a

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021

very local casino, so once this pent up demand returns there should be a good jump,” he said, pointing out that after reopening last year the company reported about MYR1 billion in revenue and MYR400 million in EBITDA. “We don’t expect that good because it’s a

more gradual ramp up but it should be good,” he said in a recent interview. While Malaysia’s Muslim population is forbidden from gambling, other sectors of the community, such as the sizeable number of Chinese are free to enter the casinos. According


to the Malaysian government, out of the 28.3 million population, 24.6 percent are Chinese and 7.3 percent are Indian. As a result, about 70 percent of visitors to the resort are locals, making its recovery prospects far less dependent on the reopening of borders than for sister company Genting Singapore. Nomura has a “buy” rating on the stock of both Genting Malaysia and Genting Singapore and believes investors have not yet begun to price in the recovery prospects of the two operators. Genting Singapore also has a significant potential driver for growth in its own $4.5 billion expansion plan, which will add more non-gaming attractions as well as more gaming space. The project has been delayed due to construction difficulties during Covid and Mohata now expects the timeline to be at least two years further out than the original plan for opening in 2024/2025. Some designs are also being reworked to take account of the “new normal”

in social distancing requirements post-Covid. For the first half, Genting Malaysia’s leisure and hospitality segment in Malaysia recorded a 59 percent drop in revenue to MYR536.9 million and an adjusted LBITDA of MYR177.8 million due to strict travel restrictions across the country. However, the continued drag from Asia was offset by a recovery elsewhere, especially from the group’s U.S. operations. In the US and Bahamas, revenue from the group’s leisure and hospitality business more than doubled to MYR609.2 million with adjusted EBITDA of RM177.9 million. The rebound in earnings was primarily attributable to the increase in volume of business at RWNYC as limits on capacity and operating hours were progressively eased throughout the period, with all restrictions lifted by June 2021. The Genting Group opened its integrated resort in Las Vegas in June and early indications from that resort were also positive.

VACCINATION RATE APROX. VACCINATIONS DOSES 50,267,360 % of population completely vaccinated 77.82%


Genting injects more capital into Empire Resorts Genting Malaysia in October said it has injected another $150 million of equity into its U.S.-based Empire Resorts. Empire Resorts owns and operates Resorts World Catskills, a casino resort which is located in Sullivan County, New York, approximately 90 miles from New York City, as well as the Monticello Raceway, a horse racing facility located in Monticello, New York. Genting said it has injected funds via a subscription agreement to subscribe up to US$150 million of additional Series L. It said the proceeds from the Series L will be utilized by Empire to facilitate its long-term financing plan. Genting’s latest injection follows similar capital injection moves in March 2020 of $40 million, September 2020 of $150 million and March 2021 of another $20 million.

Berjaya Sports 4Q revenue soars on increased draws Malaysia’s Berjaya Sports Toto said revenue in 4Q21 ending June 30th jumped 137.2 percent, helped by an increased number of draws for its Sports Toto unit. Revenue for the period was RM475.1 million ($113.5 million). During the quarter there were 28 draws in its 4-D numbers forecasting business, compared with only 6 in the prior year period, which was affected by the country’s first round of Covid lockdowns. The group reported a pre-tax profit of RM49.2 million in the current quarter as compared to a pre-tax loss of RM45.5 million in the corresponding quarter of the previous year.“The prolonged lockdown and irregular business disruptions had dampened consumer sentiments and excitement from the draws as well as caused a change in the punters’ spending behaviour,” it noted.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021





Capital rules may spur machine replacement boom The Cambodian government’s new minimum capital requirements for new and existing casinos may create a boom for suppliers as operators replace ageing stock. Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021




he new measures, announced in October, aim to improve management of the casino industry as well as boost economic growth. According to the Phnom Penh Post, SubDecree No. 166, which was signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on August 26, stipulates a minimum capital requirement for integrated commercial gambling centers of KHR800 billion (US$200 million), and KHR400 billion for other casinos. However, a grace period has been given to existing casinos to meet the minimum capital requirements – this grace period will include five phases over 15 years. This is as follows: KHR50 billion for Phase 1 (years 1-3), KHR100 billion in Phase 2 (years 4-6), KHR200 billion for phase 3 (years 7-10), 300 billion for phase 4 (years 11-14) and 400 billion for phase 5 (from year 15). Casinos that are not able to meet the new capital requirements will not be issued new business licenses. According to Loren Stout, the Phnom Penhbased CEO and co-founder of Dragons Point Live, the new requirements may prove a boon to gaming suppliers. “I think it’s a fairly good impact for slot machine suppliers and casino owners. If you

are a casino operator and you need to capitalize your property in order to fulfill a capitalization requirement, there are a couple of things you would look at. One is the land price and the buildings, but if you’re looking at a capital asset you will also be looking at slot machines and gaming equipment,” he said. Cambodia has 112 licensed casinos, the biggest number of any country in Asia. Apart from a few major developments, such as NagaWorld in Phnom Penh, many are small properties huddled along the borders with Thailand and Vietnam to cater for gamblers from those countries. As such, the value of the land and the buildings is unlikely to even meet the first phase of the new capital requirements, Stout said. “There are around 8000 machines here and about 6,000 are second hand and could be replaced. As you see these capitalization requirements come in you will see a lot of those machines go out and be replaced. It also extends to table equipment, shufflers, systems,” he said, adding that from a business perspective it makes sense to recapitalize with a revenue-generating asset. As the government moves to improve regulation of its land-based industry, there is still a question mark over its once thriving online business. Prime Minister Hun Sen announced

he would ban the industry from the beginning of 2020, causing a mass exodus of Chinese from the country, in particular from Sihanoukville. The southern town had become a hub for online gaming, with uncontrolled growth in live streaming operations, mostly to Mainland China. The once sleepy backpacker resort found itself in the global headlines due to rising crime and violence linked to the gaming industry and a boom in unregulated construction. Although online gambling is now technically banned it is still going on and China recently urged Cambodia to clamp down once again. Despite the pressure from Beijing, Stout said he thinks online gambling will ultimately be regulated. “What me and many of my colleagues think is that the Cambodian government is retracting. They will regulate and create a document that we can all follow and they will administer it and help to regulate that growth we were talking about.” “We had far too much growth far too quickly in the wrong sort of businesses. If we can regulate that and keep some of the tax revenue in the country it’s significant and it’s needed.” Stout also pointed out that many of the businesses operating in the country now have pivoted away from Mainland China to focus on other markets such as India.

VACCINATION RATE APROX. VACCINATIONS DOSES 20,086,920 % of population completely vaccinated 82.55%


Cambodia shortens quarantine for select travellers The Cambodian government has shortened the quarantine period for select fully vaccinated inbound travellers, a move that could prove positive for Cambodia-based casino operator NagaCorp. According to an announcement from the Ministry of Health, foreign investors, technical experts, diplomats, and cooperation project managers and coordinators, and returning Cambodian officials will only be required to serve three-days of quarantine instead of a full 14-day quarantine. Other inbound passengers – such as local Cambodians or foreigners will only need to serve 7 days of quarantine, though foreign travellers will need to present a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours prior to arrival. Nagacorp’s NagaWorld in Phnom Penh gets strong support from local expatriates and from business travellers.

China and Cambodia sign security enforcement accord China’s Minister of Public Security and Cambodia’s Minister of Interior have agreed to continue strengthening their existing cooperation to stamp out cross-border crimes, including illegal online gambling, online scams and drug trafficking. The cooperation agreement between the two countries was first signed in March 2019, which led to Cambodia announcing a ban on online gambling in the country only months after, and the extension was signed via video conference between the two ministers on September 28, according to local reports. “Both sides have agreed to continue promoting law enforcement cooperation to prevent transnational crimes of all kinds, especially organised crimes, online gambling, online money extortion and drug trafficking,” said a press statement from Cambodia’s Minister of Interior. The two ministers also reportedly praised the “excellent” relations between the two country’s leaders and the efforts of law enforcement in both countries amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021





David Green*

How suitable is the appointment of a special manager? Despite a litany of conduct described by Royal Commissioner Ray Finkelstein as “disgraceful”, and a resultant finding of unsuitability as a licensee, he has recommended that Crown Melbourne should retain its casino licence.


hile acknowledging that “whatever the decision, there will be legitimate criticism from those who would go the other way” and recommend cancellation of licence, his report says that what tipped the balance

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021

against cancellation was that “Crown Melbourne has, at great financial cost, embarked on a significant reform program led by people of good will and skill.” He concludes that if the reform program succeeds it will be to the benefit of its host State, Victoria.


Given the Commissioner’s assessment that Crown Melbourne has commenced implementation of its reform program, it is difficult to reconcile his endorsement of that program with the key recommendation arising from his report, being that the regulator be given a Ministerial direction to appoint a “Special Manager” to Crown Melbourne for a period of two years. Indeed, the Commissioner has said that if a Special Manager is appointed, which the State government has already indicated will happen, “Crown Melbourne will not be in control of its own destiny”. So, on the one hand Finkelstein favours not stripping Crown Melbourne of its licence because it has embarked on its reform agenda, yet on the other he has effectively neutered the “people of good will and skill” tasked with implementation by opting to appoint an omnipotent, potentially generically skilled third party as the Special Manager. How omnipotent? Aside from having the same powers as a director, but not being able to vote, Finkelstein envisages the Special Manager having the power to direct the board of Crown Melbourne to either take, or refrain from taking any particular action that it may specify. In addition, the Special Manager should be vested with the power to undertake its own investigations of the company and its casino operations, attend both board and management meetings, engage experts to assist it as required, and require any person working for the company, including its agents, to provide any information it may request, including confidential and privileged information. Liability for any failure to comply with a direction given by the Special Manager is proposed to be strict, meaning that fault for failure to comply is irrelevant to the establishment of an offence, and the applicable penalty. While those powers effectively render the board little more than ornamental, the real rub lies in the recommendation that the Special Manager has control of Crown Melbourne’s casino operations, and of all property used in those operations. The Special Manager will effectively be the agent of Crown Melbourne, with both the actual and ostensible authority to not just oversee casino operations, but to actually undertake them. So the bottom line is that while Crown Melbourne will retain its casino licence, it will cease to have operational or governance control of its business for the next two years. So who can discharge this all-encompassing mandate? The Commissioner has not specified

that the Special Manager need have any experience in either the conduct of gaming operations, or the regulation or oversight of a gaming business. Remarkably, there is no requirement for the Special Manager to be “suitable” to discharge the role. Perhaps that is implicit, but the appointment of an individual or firm with no profound gaming experience would scarcely pass any reasonable scrutiny as suitable to undertake those broad functions as a casino licensee. In fact, the envisaged role of the Special Manager is similar in nature to that of a corporate liquidator. It will act as an agent of Crown Melbourne, it will be required to comply with reporting and other obligations to the regulator, and it can deal in the property of the company. The only essential difference is that the task of the Special Manager is to report to the regulator, after its two year term has been completed as to the company’s compliance with the law, with its own Codes of conduct, policies and procedures and with the terms of its reform program. It is then a matter for the regulator to be satisfied that the casino licence should continue in force, and the Special Manager be discharged. Investing a position with such diverse powers will be fraught with potential issues. The Special Manager will at once be a fiduciary (as a director), an agent and an officer of the company. Each has particular functions and obligations, for example under Corporations Law, revenue law and occupational health and safety law. Just how these duties are to be apportioned between the Special Manager and directors and management of Crown Melbourne remains to be seen. Presumably the Special Manager will have indemnification from the State for whatever it may do, or not, pursuant to its role, but will the same be true for the directors of Crown Melbourne, who will apparently remain in situ as fiduciaries, notwithstanding they will likely have little influence? Finkelstein has broken what appears to be new ground in Australia by recommending such sweeping powers for the manager of a still solvent company. Unfortunately there was no light shed on the question whether it is in the public interest for Crown Melbourne to retain its licence? At best, that will be something considered by the regulator in two years’ time, after it has received the final report of the Special Manager. * David Green is a principal at Newpage Consulting, experts in gambling regulation. The company advises in the three key areas of regulatory frameworks, market analysis, and taxation regimes.


% of adults that gambled online




Most popular forms of online gambling among adults Lotteries 10.1% Race betting 5.9% Sports betting 5.8% (Source: Second National Study of Interactive Gambling in Australia)

Lasseters Hotel Casino to get $75m makeover The Lasseters Hotel Casino in Alice Springs, Australia will get a A$100 million ($75 million) facelift from new owners Iris Capital, including a new hotel and casino. The plans also include an upgrade to the Alice Springs Convention Centre and a residential offering. The company is planning to reposition the resort as a global tourism destination. “We are well advanced in discussions with the Northern Territory Government in relation to recapitalising the asset,” CEO Sam Arnaout said. “Our master plan for Lasseters incorporates a new hotel offering within a fully integrated resort and includes a repositioned casino floor with significantly expanded food and beverage offerings.

Aristocrat bids $3.7b for PlayTech in online expansion Aristocrat Leisure has proposed a A$5 billion ($3.7 billion) cash offer for the full acquisition of PlayTech plc, a move which will allow the supplier to enter the fast-growing online real money gaming segment. Playtech is a leading technology provider for the global gambling industry and one of the largest online gambling software providers in the world. Aristocrat said it believes the acquisition will accelerate its growth strategy and deliver strategic benefits, including providing material scale in the US$70 billion online RMG (real money games) segment – particularly in North America. Aristocrat in its investor presentation noted that online RMB has expanded dramatically over the past few years. Online RMG GGR is expected to reach US$80 billion in 2021 and US$112 billion by 2025.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021


Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021


21-23 March 2022 Shangri-La at the Fort Manila, Philippines

a sea n ga m in m

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021


Pivot point for Macau as concessions/changes loom Macau has just wrapped up its public consultation on proposed amendments to gaming legislation. This was a key step ahead of the retendering process for the casino concessions that expire in June next year.


Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021

he proposals put forward by the government were short on detail and some of the broad outlines have alarmed both the industry and investors alike. So much so that shares

in the six concessionaires had their biggest one-day fall on record after the document was published, wiping more than $18 billion off their market value. The consultation process has also failed to shed much


light on what the government intends when it says that there may be restrictions on the ability of companies to distribute capital to shareholders, or that there may be a government-appointee on the board of directors. In the focus section of the November edition of the magazine, we take the opportunity to gather some views and opinions on the potential changes in Macau and the future evolution of the world’s largest gambling hub. We start by bringing you the results of an anonymous survey of industry participants in Macau. The questionnaire was sent to operators, suppliers, consultants and academics among others, and asked for views on some of these key issues. For October, Macau’s gross gambling revenue

(GGR) was down more than 80 percent from its pre-pandemic levels and the recovery will not be anywhere near as strong as originally forecast at the beginning of 2021. However, one surprising element in our survey was that many in Macau don’t expect GGR levels to ever return to where they were before as China keeps up the pressure on Macau to diversify and on its people not to gamble. Also in this section we ask a series of experts for their views on the evolution of Macau. Matt Ossolinski, CEO of GW Investment Consulting, delves into the recent proposals for the development of an economic and tourism hub on Hengqin. The plan pushes the level of cooperation between Macau and Mainland China to

new levels and is designed to create new industries focused on sectors such as Chinese medicine and finance. We also asked Wang Changbin, director of the Centre for Gaming and Tourism Studies at the Macau Polytechnic Institute, how he views the proposed amendments to the gaming law and what the likely impact will be on the industry. Antonio Vilela Lobo, a lawyer who has written a four-volume treatise on Macau gaming law and who is a former senior legal adviser to the Macau Casino Commission, writes on how he sees the concession retendering process playing out. The operators have publicly said they want the government to extend the deadline given the short timeframe remaining before the June deadline.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021


Covid recovery - is pre-pandemic GGR a pipedream? More than a third of respondents to a recent survey by Asia Gaming Brief said they don’t expect Macau to ever return to its 2019 pre-pandemic GGR.


n 2019, Macau casino gross gaming revenue reached US$36 billion, falling 3.4 percent year-on-year due mainly to a VIP decline in December as a result of a three-day visit by Chinese president Xi Jinping to Macau. In 2020, the full-year GGR number fell to $7.6 billion, due mainly to pandemic-related border closures and travel restrictions. Analysts have tipped Macau GGR to reach around $12 billion this year, as more quarantine restrictions have eased over the course of the year. When respondents were asked where they thought 2022 full-year GGR will land - these answers ranged from between $8 to $24 billion, with most respondents marking $20 billion as their tip, indicating a healthy, but not rapid rebound

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021

towards 2019 revenue. However, when respondents were asked what year they expect Macau to return to its pre-pandemic GGR, at least 36 percent of respondents answered with “Never”. Though not included within the scope of the survey, the negative sentiment is likely a result of the increased pressure from the Chinese government to reign in VIP and junket play over the past few years. In August, Macau lawmakers appeared to have recognized that China’s new policies penalizing gambling and attempting to stop its citizens from gambling abroad will have a direct impact on how much revenue the government receives from its largest tax-contributing industry. Back then, the committee of the Special Administrative Region’s (SAR) lawmaking body admitted that recent


changes to the Mainland Chinese penal code could make it “difficult for VIP rooms to continue their operations“. It begs the question of how Macau will be able to fill its coffers with such a sudden loss of VIP revenue. Last month, Alidad Tash and fellow panelists speaking at the “MBtv/FRC Debates” online conference said that it was likely that the gaming tax would increase, given that the Macau authorities have been hemorrhaging money over the past two years. However, only 29 percent of respondents in AGB’s survey said they expected Macau GGR tax to increase following publishing of Macau’s draft gaming law amendments, with those respondents expecting somewhere between a 1-5 percent increase if so. That would mean only mass gaming and non-gaming revenue could be used to make up for the GGR shortfall. That being said, there was also a sizable group of respondents who pegged 2024 as the year of GGR recovery, showing that sentiments about the future of the industry are still quite polarising. This expectation is more closely in-line with analysts’ estimates. In September, Fitch Ratings forecasted gaming revenues to be nearly 65 percent below 2019 levels in 2021, recovering to 35 percent below 2019 by 2022, and then fully recovering in 2024. Many observers in the industry, including one survey respondent, noted that Macau’s return to pre-pandemic GGR will be reliant on Macau reaching herd-immunity through vaccinations and eventually shedding its zero-covid policy. Las Vegas Sands chairman and CEO Robert Goldstein in an earnings call in October said that the combination of easing restrictions and pent-up gaming demand will see Macau witness the same-style recovery that Las Vegas has over the past year. “Las Vegas will be the blueprint for Asia in terms of recovery,” said Goldstein. “It’s the path. It’s the vaccination rate that is soaring, its open travel lanes, it’s opening the doors up and watching what happens in Vegas happen in Singapore… I think you’ll see a nice turn in 2022 and the same will happen in Macau when the government decides to open its borders up. Last month, Macau health authorities confirmed they will maintain a “zero-covid” policy until vaccination rates in the city reach 80 to 90 percent. As at October 25, 2021, only 52.1 percent of Macau’s population has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Pre-pandemic GGR a pipe dream for some

Respondents were more pessimistic than expected about Macau's GGR recovery.


2024 (over 1/3)

said they didn't expect Macau to ever return to its 2019 GGR of US$36 billion.



2025 "What year will Macau reach pre-pandemic GGR?"



said they expected 2024-25 to be the years it gets back to 2019 levels.


Macau GGR tax not expected to increase

We asked our respondents whether they expected gaming taxes to increase.





2022 will be better... I promise

Easing travel restrictions and increasing vaccinations are expected to bring visitors and revenue back to Macau.

$5-10 billion

$11-15 billion

$16-20 billion

$21-25 billion

Asia Gaming Briefings | October 2021


Thumbs down given to supervision/ capital distribution changes Proposals to increase operational supervision over the six operators, as well as suggestions for restrictions on capital distribution were two of the proposals that sent investors running for the exits once the gaming law amendments were published.


he proposals triggered a record sell off in the stocks, wiping about $18 billion in value in a single day. However, just how negative were the amendments seen by people on the ground in Macau? Part of the issue was the lack of clarity offered up by the government as to what they actually intend and this left a lot of scope for the assumption of worst-case scenarios.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021

Responses to our poll reflected this uncertainty, with about a third saying they had a neutral view, although the majority of respondents did not like what they had heard so far. About 32.1 percent said they were negative, with 8.9 percent seeing the amendments as very negative. Only 19.6 percent saw them as positive and 5.3 percent as highly positive.


Should we be worried? Maybe.

Sentiments regarding operational supervision and potential restrictions on capital distribution were mixed, though skewed toward the negative.

Very positive Positive Neutral Negative Very Negative

Commentators have said the government is seeking to ensure that profits made in Macau go back to the local community and that adequate investments are made into diversification efforts, rather than seeing funds go into the pockets of investors overseas. While the devil will be in the actual details, the initial reaction has made it extremely difficult for investors to take a view of the Macau market and of the valuation of the stocks. Following the announcement J.P. Morgan analysts called the market “uninvestable” for the time being. The firm has since struck a more upbeat note following the public consultation process. “While there was no clear evidence, we do think the government’s ‘tone’ was somewhat reasonable, in turn alleviating concerns on the worst-case scenarios to some extent,” the analysts wrote. “The very fact that officials are trying to reassure the public on these key concerns

Following the announcement J.P. Morgan analysts called the market “uninvestable” for the time being.

could indicate the government is approaching this process in a fair and reasonable way, we think (or hope), although the visibility on the final outcome still remains low.” On the issue of operational supervision, some observers note that too much may have

been read into this amendment. Changbin Wang, Director of the Centre for Tourism and Gaming at the Macau Polytechnic Institute writes in these pages that some of the operators already have such government representation. He also points out that these representatives have a supervisory and not a decision-making capacity. Others are more concerned, seeing the potential for more direct supervision as being an attempt to control marketing activities in China. Should Beijing be successful in stopping all forms of active promotion into China, Ben Lee, managing partner of IGamiX Management & Consulting, says he expects as much as 80 percent of premium mass to disappear. “Basically they’ll have to rely on them coming into Macau under their own steam, no encouragement, no solicitation, they come when they want to. You can probably rule out 80 percent of their business.”

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021


License status quo most likely, but doubts linger Amendments to Macau’s draft gaming law suggest that the government is planning to do away with the current sub-concession system, but doesn’t clarify just how many licenses will be up for tender.


hen the gaming concession system was first introduced to open up Macau’s gaming industry, only three licenses were on offer. That morphed into six, allowing for the entrance of Melco Resorts & Entertainment, Sands China and MGM China. With the government now putting emphasis on a suitable and sustainable size for the industry, there has been considerable discussion over how the retendering process may shake out. In our survey, we asked respondents how many concessionaires they expect to see in Macau and how likely it is that a new entrant will come into the market, or that one of the existing six will lose their license to operate. All but 15 of the 56 respondents said they don’t believe there will be any change in the number of licenses. A few outliers said they only see scope for three, mirroring the original intentions for the market. “I think six will be the upper limit,” Ben Lee, managing partner of IGamiX Management & Consulting said in a recent interview on the topic. “There may actually be fewer than this as far as Beijing is concerned, as they still

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021

don’t understand how three became six.” A handful of respondents to the survey said they expect another license to be added. There has been pressure in the past to open the market further to local operators, who were not able to compete with the financial muscle and expertise of the U.S. bidders in the first round of tendering. While six appears to be the magic number, the picture became blurred when we asked whether a current operator will lose a license, or whether there will be a new entrant. The answers suggest that there is more divergence of opinion. In the survey choices, respondents were given the choice of very likely, very unlikely, neutral, likely and very likely. Very likely meant there was a 90 percent chance or higher, with likely being between 70 percent and 89 percent. Very unlikely was 10 percent or lower, unlikely was between 11 percent and 30 percent. The majority skewed towards there being little change in the status quo. When asked how likely it is that one operator loses a license, 46.5 percent of respondents said it was highly unlikely, while a further 24.1 percent feel that it’s unlikely.

Six concessionaires remain... On the negative side, 10.3 percent of respondents said it was highly likely that one of the current six would be out, while 10.3 percent also said it was likely. On this question 8.6 percent were neutral. Among respondents, 8.6 percent thought it very likely that a new entrant will come in with 17.2 percent seeing it as a likely scenario. Again, the majority of respondents skewed towards the likelihood that the status quo will be maintained, with 34.4 percent seeing a new entrant as highly unlikely and 18.9 percent saying it is unlikely. Lee suggests that if one or more of the current licensees lose out in this round, we could see a wave of mergers and acquisitions in the industry in Macau. In terms of a likely new entrant, the most often cited names were Suncity Holdings and the Genting Group. Suncity is linked to Macau’s largest junket operator, although in recent years the group has pushed to diversify and is now developing and operating its own integrated resorts. Genting is one of the world’s largest operators, but failed to gain a license when the market was originally opened up and has since said it would still be interested in entering the market should a possibility open up. Its Genting Hong Kong unit has been quietly building a new hotel in Macau, although it was forced to sell off a 50 percent stake in the project in November last year to keep its cash-strapped cruise business afloat.

75% of respondents expect Macau to keep the status quo and go forth with six gaming licenses.

Respondents also said it was unlikely that an operator would lose its license.

Very likely Likely Neutral Unlikely Very Unlikely

10% 10% 8% 24% 46%

... but possible newcomer? Views were polarized on whether a new operator would enter the market, but leaned towards it being unlikely.

Tak Chun


Macau Legend Development


Chan Meng Kam


Mark your calendars for the big reveal.

Respondents expect Macau's gaming concessionaires will know the results of the retendering process by Q1 or Q2, 2022.


2022 Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021



Wang Changbin*

Shining light on Macau’s proposed gaming law changes Macau began its public consultation on amendments to the Legal Framework for the Operations of Casino Games of Fortune (Law No. 16/2001) in September, with proposals that could have a far-reaching impact on the industry. he amendment of the law is for the purpose of rebidding for the casino gaming concessions after June 26, 2022, the expiry date of the current license. The consultation document, issued by the government, puts forward nine key points, which shed light on how the law might be revised.


more due to the limited land resources. Therefore, I believe that 10 years with 2-3 years of possible extension would most likely happen. If the period is reduced to less than 10 years, the gaming market may suffer too frequent disruption which will hinder the concessionaires from investing in long-term projects.

Number of licenses?

Enhancing regulation

The document does not indicate a specific number of new concessions that the government intends to grant. However, several principles are outlined. First, it emphasizes that, despite plenty of desirable results from the booming of gaming, the rapid expansion has squeezed the developmental space for other industries in Macau and more efforts should be made for economic diversification in the future. Therefore it’s unlikely there will be a significant increase in the number of concessions. Second, the document states that the stability of the market size should be considered when granting the concessions. At the news conference launching the public consultation, the Secretary for Economics and Finance, Lei Wai Nong, also said a certain level of market size needed to be maintained to meet the international competition. Based on the document and speech, there’s also unlikely to be a significant decrease in the number of operators. Third, sub-concessions will not be allowed in the new law. However, to maintain the stability of the economy, it is unlikely the sub-concessionaires will be driven out of Macau’s market. Considering all the factors above and three concessions and three sub-concessions extant in the market, the target number of concessions would most likely be six.

The document recommends increasing the minimum capital of the gaming companies. It suggests the MOP200 million ($25 million) required by the current law no longer

Concession period Law No. 16/2001 sets the concession period as 20 years, which can be extended up to 25 years. The document suggests reducing the concession period because the gaming operators may lose momentum to make progress if they are given an excessively long monopoly or oligopoly. In addition, the operators will be unable to build large integrated resorts any

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021


seems to be sufficient due to the large amount of capital involved in the gaming operation, coupled with factors such as inflation. I believe that increasing the minimum capital is not as useful as the government expects. The capital requirement may be useful to prevent small companies from participating in the re-tendering process, but will not result in the sound operation of a company as more capital does not mean better financial capacity. Another proposal to introduce government representatives and to increase the shareholding ratio of the managing director are believed to be the two critical factors that caused the stock prices in Macau’s gaming companies to plunge in September, after the document was published. Many considered that the government would interfere heavily with the gaming companies with the two proposals. However, the measures might be misread or over evaluated. According to Macau law, government representatives are supposed to play a supervisory, rather than decision-making, role. A government representative has long been

present in many of Macau’s concessionaires. Law No. 16/2001 requires that a managing director be a permanent resident of Macau and hold no less than 10 percent of the corporate capital. The document recommends increasing the shareholding ratio to facilitate the enhanced control by the government. The relevancy of this measure is questionable since the concessionaires can easily find an individual with such qualifications solely to meet the requirement. The document also suggests imposing more control over dividend payments. Measures such as setting up a maximum debt-asset ratio may likely be integrated into the new law to ensure the financial stability of the concessionaires. According to the document, suitability checks should be strengthened by applying the mechanism to lower-rank employees. Although the proposal is desirable, the government should undertake effective investigations rather than merely checking submitted dossiers by applicants. A new crime of illegal deposits has been

introduced to deter the gaming promoters from absorbing money from the public. The government should have approaches to prevent the gaming promoters from circumnavigating the law by means such as borrowing for consumption. Social responsibilities Certain interest groups have been urging the government to write social responsibilities into the gaming law. The document responds to the advocacy positively but rather in a general way. Since most of the social responsibilities are difficult to be made mandatory, they might appear in the new law as non-compulsory content with details being described in the concession contract. * Changbin Wang is Director of the Centre for Tourism and Gaming Studies at the Macau Polytechnic Institute. He has published more than 50 papers, including 20 in key academic journals.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021


Direct award a better option António Lobo Vilela*

As announced several times, at least since 2017,1 the Macau government will open a public (international) tender for the award of the casino gaming concessions expiring in June 2022.


s we advocated in the past,2 several factors seem to discourage opening a public tender at present. It is also the understanding of the Monitoring Committee for Land Affairs and Public Concessions of Macau’s Legislative Assembly.3 The short time4 (until the expiry of the current concessions and subconcessions) to deal with the formalities necessary to carry out a public tender, together with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, aggravated by the persistence of the COVID-zero policy, are clear examples of this. One of the main points of the Public Consultation5 Paper on the revision of the Macau Gaming Law6 refers

to the number of concessions.7 Although it is unclear its practical meaning8 and the Macau government’s intention, which proposes to “study and review the number of concessions,” 9 three hypotheses are possible: decreasing, increasing, or maintaining the current number of casino gaming operators. The option for a decrease has the immediate and inevitable consequence of a significant surge in the unemployment rate.10 Many people, the vast majority of which are Macau residents,11 would be unemployed, affecting directly or indirectly a universe of people and small and medium-sized enterprises. Furthermore, it is a working force that, at present, will hardly be absorbed

* Lawyer in Macau. Author of the Macau Gaming Law Book ( 1 See, inter alia, the response of the Macau government (signed by the DICJ acting-Director and dated 11-08-2017) to the written interpellation by the member of the Macau Legislative Assembly, Ng Kuok Cheong, dated 10-07-2017 (Order no. 859/VI/2017). 2 See our article Gaming in Macau after 2022: New Beginning or Mere Continuity?, IMGL Magazine, Summer 2021, p. 15-19, 3 See Report No. 1/VI/2021, of 02-08-2021, where the Monitoring Committee states “that the public tender does not necessarily have to take place before the end of the contracts [July 2022], that a relatively better date for its realization should be chosen, since, under the impact of factors such as economic uncertainties, it is possible that the Government is forced, with no other alternative, to admit some competitors with unsatisfactory conditions” (p. 9). 4 Not considering the time necessary to pass the amendments to the Gaming Law. 5 The public consultation began on 15 September 2021 and ended on 29 October 2021. 6 Law No. 16/2001. of 1 September.

There are currently three concessions granted and three sub-concessions authorized, one for each of the concessions. 8 A possible practical meaning would be the elimination of the legal restriction on the maximum number of concessions, which, according to the law, is three (see Gaming Law, Article 7(2)), or the alteration of this maximum number given the Macau government declared that the prohibition of subconcessions will be expressly stipulated in the law (see the Public Consultation Paper, p. 35, last paragraph). 9 See the Public Consultation Paper, p. 35, last paragraph. 10 According to the DSEC (Statistics and Census Service), the unemployment rate in the 2nd quarter of 2021 was 2.9%, the active population 387.000 people, and the employed population 375.900 people. In the 1st quarter of 2019, the unemployment rate was 1.7%, the active population 393.600 people, and the employed population 387.100 people. 11 In addition to dealers, a profession that only Macau residents can perform, a significant number of “not less than 85%” of holders of “high and medium level management and leadership positions” held by Macau residents would also be affected - see the 2021 Public Policy Address Report, p. 192, 12 One of the main and most important mandates of

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021



by the remaining casino gaming operators, a fact that can become an (undesirable) focus of social instability.12 In turn, the option for the increase would lead to the entry of new players into the market at an economically challenging time. The current levels of gross gaming revenue generated in the casinos are not (or may not be in the short run) sufficient13 to keep six operators operating indefinitely. Furthermore, geopolitical and other reasons14 may restrict the entry into the scene of (new) foreign players, the only ones endowed with experience in the operation of casino games of chance and with technical and financial capacity. Hence, and by exclusion, the maintenance of the number of casino gaming operators proves to be the only viable option given the current reality. And it is the logical consequence in line with the conclusions reached by the mid-term review report15 of the gaming industry commissioned

by the Macau government half a dozen years ago that all casino gaming operators had (more than) fulfilled their duties. If maintenance is the way forward, what public interest is there in opening a public tender to award the casino gaming concessions? In our view, none when compared to the public interest in granting the concessions by a direct award.16 Unlike all other types of permitted gambling in Macau, granting casino gaming concessions by a direct award is not allowed under the current legal and regulatory framework on casino gaming. Under the Gaming Law,17 such granting is (always) preceded by a public tender open for this purpose (principle of a public tender,)18 and the concessions awarded to the bidders “who present the most advantageous conditions for the Region in the proper operation of casino games of chance.”19

The difference between a public tender and a direct award is significant. While in a public tender, the Macau government plays a passive role, depending on the awarding proposals presented by the bidders, it plays an active role in the direct award, dictating the conditions under which it intends to contract. For illustrative purposes only, in the event of a public tender, nothing prevents, under the terms of the law currently drafted, bidders from offering a percentage as low as 0.1 percent for the contribution of up to 2 percent of gross gaming revenues to a public foundation, 20 whereas, in a scenario of a direct award, the government can impose the quantitative to be that 2 percent. In conclusion, the Macau government should consider an amendment to the Gaming Law to provide for the possibility to directly award the casino gaming concessions to the current casino operators. At present, the conditions for them to offer “the most advantageous conditions for the Region” are not met, particularly in a scenario where the estimated gaming gross revenue for 2021 is half of what was estimated by the Macau government in the 2020 budget. Whatever legislative policy choice, we can only hope that the unfolding of this entire process relating to the new casino gaming concessions, which began troubled,21 proceeds smoothly. It needs to be in the public interest and must safeguard the economy and image of Macau, to make sure it does not turn into a “Mak Mak”22 in the gaming industry. Faites vos jeux!

Macau’s chief executive is to ensure social stability. Promoting social stability in Macau was one of the purposes of creating the Macau Special Administrative Region – see Preamble of the Macau Basic Law, second paragraph. Social stability is also one of the specific objectives of the Gaming Law (see Article 1(2), subpar. 5). 13 The revenues from special gaming tax foreseen in the 2021 Macau SAR Budget is MOP 45.5 billion (equivalent to USD 5.69 billion). Considering that the special gaming tax is levied on gross gaming revenue and its rate is 35%, the Macau government predicts that gross gaming revenue for the year 2021 will be MOP 130 billion (equivalent to USD 16.25 billion). However, in the first ten months of this year only MOP 25.2 billion (equivalent to USD 3,15 billion) entered the public coffers, i.e., 55.45% of the budgeted amount, which turns impossible to reach the goal of USD 130 billion set by the Macau government (source: DICJ (Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau)). 14 The “development of Macau’s gaming sector

has implications for national security, namely in the economic, financial and public security areas” (see Report No. 1/VI/2021, above cited, p. 5). Furthermore, the need to achieve the desired (and always distant) “economic diversification” can also be indicated as a reason. Restrictions on the growth of gaming tables imposed since 2013 by the Macau government were reinforced by the Central government with the Master Plan of the Development of the Guangdong-Macao Intensive Cooperation Zone in Hengqin. 15 “Mid-term review of MSAR’s games of chance sector after its liberalization, and its impact on the economy, society, citizen’s quality of life and operation of concessionaires/subconcessionaires – Study Report,” dated May 2016, commissioned by the Macau government to the University of Macau. 16 A direct award is a form of public contracting in which the granting authority directly invites the entity with which it int ends to contract. 17 Article 8(1). 18 See, on the matter, António Lobo Vilela,

MACAU GAMING LAW, ANNOTATED WITH COMMENTS, Volume I – Articles 1 to 10, PC Consulting, 2002, p. 415 and ff. (www. 19 See Article 78 of Administrative Regulation No. 26/2001, of 29 October (Regulation of the public tender for granting casino gaming concessions). 20 See Gaming Law, Article 22, subpar. 7. 21 The “[s]hares of Macau casino operators on Wednesday [15-09-2021] shed as much as a third of their value, losing about $18 billion” – see, inter alia, the news item entitled Billions blown as Macau casino investors fold amid gambling review, by Farah Master and Donny Kwok, Reuters, 16-09-2021, macau-kicks-off-public-gaming-consultationahead-casino-rebidding-2021-09-15/. 22 “Mak Mak” is the name of the official tourism mascot of Macau, a “fresh and positive tourism image of the city” which combines a “blackfaced spoonbill and Guia Lighthouse” – see contents/1/871.html.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021


Hengqin buzzing with tourists and building out attractions It feels like Macau’s Wild West. A stone’s throw away and yet a world apart, Hengqin Island has been buzzing with tourists since May 2020.


f China’s government has its way, the island and the world’s largest gambling hub, will become an integrated tourism zone that will drive diversification of Macau’s economy. The operators are likely to play a key role. At present most tourists come for Chimelong’s theme park. Meanwhile second-tier tourism venues have sprouted around the island, albeit grindingly. Among them are a Lionsgate movie theme park, a family campground, Olympic-class stadiums, a vast manicured eco-park, and a museum modeled after Beijing’s Forbidden City. All are hoping to lure a little piece of Chimelong’s sweet pie. So far, they have only managed a few crumbs. ‘The future is bright,’ their operators insist, ‘and we’re in it for the long haul.’ They might just be right. Hengqin’s proximity to China’s casino gambling monopoly makes the region an enduring and unshakeable draw for the nation’s consumer class. Meanwhile, existing and future transportation links have capacity to deliver tens of millions more visitors to the island annually. Transportation Amid the pandemic and restricted borders, the new Hengqin Port’s opening in August 2020 was temporarily irrelevant and largely overlooked. The cavernous facility, still mostly empty, can handle 80 million border crossings per year. It sits atop China’s second largest underground train station, with a similar capacity to deliver 80 million passengers each year. Despite the pandemic, construction of an expanded transportation network barrels ahead, with the next milestone to be the completion of a road and rail bridge connecting Hengqin to Zhuhai’s airport. It will extend the high-speed rail line from Chimelong and Hengqin Port, effectively delivering another airport to Cotai’s doorstep. Construction commenced on the extension of Macau’s LRT to Hengqin Station this year. Unofficially construction of this line was already underway on the China side of the border. Looking further ahead, there are plans for a new tunnel between Hengqin and Macau’s Taipa district. Another link may be constructed connecting Chimelong to Macau’s Coloane district.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021

Chimelong In contrast to the cloistered mega-resorts across the river in Macau, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom’s visitation is back to pre-pandemic levels. With the first half of 2020 wiped out, it managed to eke out nearly 5 million visitors for the year—almost half its total 2019 visitation.


This made it Asia’s second (behind Shanghai Disneyland) most-visited theme park outside of Japan in 2020. Chimelong’s total resort area on Hengqin is around one-third built out. The company is aiming for a total annual visitation of 50 million after completing all phases. In the coming months we can expect to hear more about Chimelong’s US$540 million Marine Science Park, set to open before the Lunar New Year as the world’s largest facility of its kind. A cable-car attraction on Big Hengqin Mountain is also in Chimelong’s near-term pipeline. Tourism integration There are whispers of Hengqin’s incremental but imminent duty-free shopping status, to be based on the Hainan model. Such a move

would be game-changing. Furthermore, large-scale medical tourism, sports tourism, and yachting tourism projects are being developed on Hengqin to add to Macau’s tourism mix. There is however a fundamental obstacle: Macau and Hengqin are not yet integrated into a single tourism market. Tourism integration can only be achieved when policies change to allow millions of Chinese domestic tourists the ability to cross back and forth between Hengqin and Cotai. Over time, authorities are expected to incrementally loosen visa restrictions to make it easier for a Chinese tourist to experience an integrated Macau-Hengqin holiday with freedom of movement. For example, one iteration could be the introduction of a MacauHengqin entry permit for mainland tourists

who are confirmed guests of a Hengqin hotel, whereby they could have unlimited entries to Macau for a one-week period. Such moves could result in a meaningful increase in average length of stay—long the elusive white whale of Macau and its gaming companies. And Macau’s gaming companies might be moving into Hengqin themselves. A political push is underway to diversify Macau’s tourism mix with non-gaming projects, just as gaming concession renewals are around the corner. Following a September announcement of a restructured Hengqin government, it is now politically correct to say: Investing in Hengqin is the biggest action a concessionaire can take to diversify Macau’s economy. September’s Hengqin announcement September’s long-anticipated announcement of a restructured Hengqin government had been planned for August but was pushed back. The announcement served as an accelerator for the master plan that was already in place. It also served as a reaffirmation of support from the top. It cemented Hengqin’s place, arguably, as the central government’s highest-priority special zone in China. The announcement’s most significant component may be the crystallization of Macau’s authority over Hengqin’s commercial build-out. This comes during a period when the casino concessionaires are pursuing deals for non-gaming development projects on Hengqin. As a result Macau’s Chief Executive has been anointed to a position of power unseen since a previous chief executive divided up the land on Cotai. Similar to when two corporations merge under a power-sharing arrangement, organizational culture clashes, behind-the-scenes power struggles, and bureaucratic bungling in Hengqin’s new joint governing committee seem inevitable. While Beijing’s goals for Hengqin will probably be eventually achieved, the execution might be messy: Aside from obvious legal and structural differences between Macau and mainland governments, there is a vast cultural difference between the two styles of governance, communication, and execution. Like so much with Hengqin, it will be an experiment. * Matthew Ossolinski is CEO of GW Investment Consulting. The firm provides advisory and business brokering services to integrated resort operators and institutional investors on Hengqin Island. He also manages Macau Gaming Fund III.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021





Foreigner-only casinos face uncertain future, slow recovery South Korea’s foreigner-only casinos are struggling with slumping revenue, stalled projects and job losses, with immediate prospects for post-Covid recovery looking bleak.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021




VACCINATION RATE APROX. VACCINATIONS DOSES 79,845,800 % of population completely vaccinated 81%

(Source: (Credit: Yeo Khee)

ccording to figures from the Korea it had sold off its holding for the price of “some Casino Association, sales fell 73 barbecued pork,” leaving its partner without percent last year to KRW336.5 an experienced casino operator. The Hong billion ($286.6 million), with the Kong-listed property developer has since been caught up in China’s crackdown on real estate loss of 936 jobs in the sector. The situation has shown little improvement companies, creating a liquidity crisis. In September, Guangzhou R&F said two of this year, with the borders still mostly closed to international travel. The holiday island its main shareholders have agreed to support the of Jeju, where casinos have proliferated in company with financing of about HK$8 billion recent years to target Chinese tourists, has ($1 billion). However, it’s far from certain those funds will be deployed to advance the Midan been particularly hard hit. Jeju’s Shinhwa World Casino, owned by City Resort, as its Korea project is known. Another project in Incheon from U.S. Hong Kong-listed Landing International, recently said 100 of its workers had accepted operator Mohegan Sun has also been delayed. In August, CEO Bobby Soper described the Inspire a voluntary retirement offer. South Korea was seen as one of Asia’s most Korea project as having been a rollercoaster. promising destinations due to its proximity to He said the company is finalizing financing Mainland China, Japan and Taiwan. The popularity and is now aiming for a 2Q23 opening, pushed back from 2022. of its culture, fuelled by Lack of finance has K-pop, was seen as being also hit a planned IR on a strong draw across Asia Jeju island from Hong and particularly in China. The prospect Kong-listed New Silkroad However, an outof the business Culturaltainment, that was break of Middle Eastern known as Glorious Hill. Respiratory Syndrome, in South Korea is “The prospect of the a diplomatic spat with arduous. business in South Korea China and now Covid, is arduous. The Board have all highlighted the will continue to pay close extreme vulnerabilities attention and assess the of foreigner-only casinos, operational situation on the business and make especially those eyeing China. In 2017, China banned its nationals from timely adjustments and changes if necessary,” it visiting South Korea in retaliation for Seoul’s said after releasing its 1H21 results in August. Against this backdrop, the government is deployment of the U.S.Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system. Although considering a potential lifeline to the industry travel has resumed, the permission for group in the form of allowing proxy betting. Lee Sang-heon, a member of the National tours has never been officially reinstated and industry watchers expect China to keep up the Assembly Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee, and the Democratic Party of Korea, proposed a pressure on its neighbour. In August last year, Beijing said it had created “Partial Amendment to the Tourism Promotion a blacklist of countries thought to be targeting Act” earlier this year to allow “non-face-to-face” its nationals for gambling purposes. That list has casino services, local media reports said. “Proxy betting could be a boon,” Lee said. been expanded twice, although the jurisdictions “Foreigner-only casinos are languishing. It’s have not been named. “We believe South Korea is one of the a world of hurt and it’s likely to go on for countries on China’s blacklist,” said Ben Lee, several more years.” Lee said the big question will be whether managing partner of IGamiX Management the loss of tax revenue and jobs from the & Consulting. As a result, the outlook for South Korea’s gaming industry will be enough to outweigh casino sector is extremely uncertain even when the government’s sensitivities to strong antigambling sentiment in the country. international travel resumes. According to the local media reports one Several planned projects in the works in the country have stalled due to financing and of the main concerns about the proxy betting other issues. Caesars Entertainment had teamed proposal is that Koreans will find a way to with Guangzhou R&F properties to build bypass systems designed to block their access an integrated resort in Incheon, near Seoul’s to such services. The government would also have to address international airport. Caesars pulled out earlier this year, saying the issue of creating further friction with China.

GKL Sept. sales improve, Paradise Co. revenue plunges South Korea’s foreigner-only casinos reported mixed fortunes for September, with Grand Korea Leisure seeing a rise in casino sales from the prior month and Paradise Co. reporting revenue plunged. Paradise Co. reported an 84 percent drop in sales in September from the prior month, led by a decline in table games. Revenue for the month was KRW9.55 billion ($8 million), down from KRW59.68 billion in August and down 53.6 percent from the prior year. Revenue from table games plunged 86.4 percent while sales from machines were down 13.9 percent. Grand Korea Leisure posted a gain in net sales of 7 percent to KRW9.4 billion from KRW8.8 billion in August and flat on the prior year. Table games generated KRW7.9 billion, up from KRW7.2 billion in August, while slot machines showed a slight decline. The hold rate in the month improved to 13.4 percent from 12.3 percent in August.

Singapore/S.Korea travel corridor to open from Nov. 15 Singapore and South Korea have agreed to establish a quarantine-free travel corridor for fully vaccinated travellers from November 15. Visitors will be subject to PCR tests for Covid instead of serving quarantine, or stay-home notices, the Singapore government said in a news release. There will be no restrictions on the purpose of travel, or requirements for a controlled itinerary or sponsorship. Before the pandemic, Singapore and South Korea were among each other’s top travel destinations, with 64 weekly air passenger services carrying 1.6 million travellers.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021



Daniel Cheng*

Changing political winds pose risks for Clairvest’s Wakayama bid Caesars Entertainment has reemerged as a contender for an IR license in Japan, although it may face headwinds due to the shifting sands of Japanese politics.


he U.S. operator pulled out of the IR race in 2019 after a merger with Eldorado Resorts to focus on its U.S. operations. However in late September, it announced it was back, joining the Clairvest consortium for the proposed development of the Marina City integrated resort in Wakayama. It was no secret that Clairvest had long been seeking a casino operator partner, but had found few takers. All the major brands had fully invested their energies in metropolitan locations and Wakayama was only enough to whet the appetite of French casino outfit, Groupe Partouche, to join the Clairvest consortium.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021

The favorite had been Suncity Holdings, which ran a well-tuned PR ground campaign, which eventually saw it outscoring Clairvest in the formal evaluation process. Clairvest had looked to be heading out the door until Suncity’s unexplained abrupt withdrawal in May, leaving the Clairvest camp buoyant as it meant they were now the sole bidder. The revelation of Caesars’ entry creates confusion over Partouche’s future role in the consortium. Landing a catch like Caesars is no mean feat, plus the carefully curated timing of the announcement bore the fingerprints of Bill Weidner and Brad Stone, the two


Nagasaki IR to generate $2.9b for economy, Casinos Austria says

IR LICENSE BIDS Consortium: MGM Resorts/Orix Location: Osaka Investment: $10b Visitation: 20m Consortium: Casinos Austria Japan International Location: Nagasaki Investment: $3.2b Visitation: 8.4m

Consortium: Clairvest/Caesars Location: Wakayama Investment: $4.3b Visitors: 13m

Kishida election positive for Japan’s IR ambitions Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has won the leadership contest for Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, ensuring no political upsets for the country’s nascent IR industry at least at this stage. Kishida beat out favourite, Taro Kono, to take over from Yoshihide Suga who stepped down as prime minister in September. Kishida will now take his place to lead the country into general elections in early November. Kishida had visited Singapore in his capacity as Foreign Minister and toured the city’s two integrated resorts. Thanks to behind the scenes political maneuverings in Japan, Kishida is likely to be most beholden to the Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyūkai, the largest faction in the LDP. The faction’s official leader, Hiroyuki Hosoda, is widely acknowledged as the main advocate and conservator for the Japan IR initiative and he will expect Kishida to make integrated resorts a priority agenda in return for his bloc’s support.

being the principals of consortium partner, AMSE Resorts Japan. I first encountered Stone almost twenty years ago in the cramped offices of Sands China overlooking the Sands Macao construction site. He was lying on a sofa in the executive office foyer with his hands behind his head and his feet propped on the sofa’s arm at the other end. Dressed in denim jeans and a polo shirt, his casual and almost languid demeanor belied the man who is one half of the dynamic duo who conquered Asia for Las Vegas Sands. A year later, as a member of the official Singapore government IR study delegation visiting Macau, I would witness a whirlwind Weidner literally hijacking our Minister from under the nose of Lawrence Ho in front of the Lisboa Hotel. While Jeff Parr of Clairvest is certainly no pushover, it’ll probably need the extra nudge in the heavyweight names of Weidner and Stone to reel Caesars’ Tom Reeg into the frame. The consortium now had the backing of a major casino operator and politics were expected to play in its favour, but the surprise victory of Fumio Kishida in the Liberal Democratic Party

election may have upset the apple cart. For weeks, Taro Kono was widely touted as the firm favorite to become the next Prime Minister. However, with the largest Hosoda faction endorsing Sanae Takaichi and Fumio Kishida, and his own Aso faction refusing to unite behind him, it became an open fact that Kono would need a leg-up from ‘Kingmaker’ Toshihiro Nikai, if he was to claim the prize. Nikai, of course, hails from Wakayama. Had it all gone to script, Nikai would have retained his powerful LDP Secretary General position and be owed a debt of gratitude from Kono, an obvious quid pro quo being to bequeath an IR license to Wakayama. Kono’s ascension and Caesar’s inception would have converged brilliantly to elevate Wakayama’s IR prospects. Instead, Kishida in the top seat is the worst possible outcome for Wakayama. A key election promise by Kishida was to dismantle the stranglehold of the old guard within the LDP and impose term limits to the top four party posts below the president, a reform aimed squarely at Nikai. Kishida lost no time a day after his victory to replace Nikai as Secretary General and filled

Casinos Austria International Japan said its Nagasaki Integrated Resort, to be developed alongside the Dutch-themed Huis Ten Bosch park, will attract up to 8.4 million visitors a year and will generate $2.9 billion for the economy. The $3.2 billion project will also create 30,000 jobs, it said. The proposal will be put forward to the central government that will choose the three locations for the IR licenses. There are currently three cities in the bidding, with Osaka and Wakayama, joining Nagasaki. “We will construct an IR appealing to all with CAI’s full support and safety and security as the top priorities. We will come together with Nagasaki prefecture and Kyushu’s corporations to create an area development plan in order to gain approval for Kyushu/Nagasaki as an IR area.” “In cooperation with Kyushu/Nagasaki companies, we aim to build a world-class IR with a traditional sense of luxury that will lead to a wave of economic effects throughout all of Kyushu.”

the other key posts from Shinzo Abe’s Hosoda faction and the Aso faction, leaving Nikai’s faction empty handed. The aftermath may be ominous for Wakayama’s IR ambitions and rendered the Caesars announcement a bit flat. As it is, with Osaka considered a safe IR bet, a scenario of the Kansai region bagging two of the three licenses nationwide is problematic. And then there’s the matter of an offspring of Stanley Ho as a primary investor in the consortium which poses probity challenges down the road. Unfortunately for Mario Ho, the highly-regulated gaming industry penalizes actors for the sins of their fathers. With expectations for the Japan regulatory framework to be more stringent than that of Nevada, Singapore and Australia combined, it’s another tripwire facing the Clairvest consortium down the road. *Daniel Cheng is formerly the Senior Vice President of Development for Hard Rock International and the author of The Rainbow Upopo, a novel about the indigenous Ainu People in Japan.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021



Tigre de Cristal eyes soaring revenue growth once borders reopen Tigre de Cristal, which celebrated its sixth birthday last month, has already seen its monthly revenue reach pre-Covid levels due to strong support from the local Russian market.


he property is situated in the Primorye Krai gaming zone close to Vladivostok in Eastern Russia. Once international travel resumes, operator G1 Entertainment expects revenue to be double or even treble current levels and predicts the zone will become one of Asia’s premier destinations. G1 Entertainment is ultimately a unit of Hong Kong-listed Summit Ascent Holdings, which is in turn now owned by the Suncity Group. The resort was closed for three and a half months last year and reopened to a very different operating environment, forcing it to pivot away from its international premium clientele and to put greater emphasis on the local market. “Since Covid everything has changed,” said Stelios Tsifetakis, chief operations officer at G1. “We had a strong base even before that, but we

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021

had to enhance it with different offerings and different promotions. We had to completely change the strategy.” “Pre-Covid 90 to 92 percent of our guests were foreign visitors so we didn’t pay so much attention to marketing in the Russian market as we could not accommodate the demand. One of the reasons that we are expanding, even under these circumstances, is that the hotel is too small to cater to the level of demand that we had.” The pivot has been successful, with the resort achieving 90 to 95 percent occupancy over the three weekend days and around 30 percent during the week. As well as changing its marketing focus, the company also had to change its product mix to cater for the local tastes and now has more slot machines than it did prior to the pandemic.

He said that as well as the usual casino games, such as baccarat and blackjack, the Russians are nostalgic for the games they used to play before gambling was banned outside of the gaming zones “Some we use are from that era. We also have machines that were made in Russia, which aren’t popular anywhere else, but are popular here.” “Month-on-month our revenues are growing to pre-Covid if not better. This makes us very positive, especially given we have another casino in the area. We are not losing market share, we are gaining market share,” he said, referring to the Shambhala casino which opened in October last year. In terms of international travel, Tsifetakis said the resort has received many queries from Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong



87,971 1,905

Foreign tourists 2Q21 2Q20

11,250 316

(Source: Primorsky Territory Development Corp).

NHL names Liga Stavok as exclusive Russian partner

about the potential for group visits. He expects the demand from these countries alone to boost revenue by 60 to 70 percent once borders reopen. Once stability returns, he sees the potential for revenue to double or even triple, with the resort ultimately targeting about 70 percent of its revenue from tourists and 30 percent from the local market. Primorye is seen as the most promising of Russia’s gaming hubs due to its low taxation rates and its geographical proximity to major cities in Northern China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. The Primorski Krai Development Corp, which is responsible for planning development in the area, envisages 12 casino resorts, with two major Russian investments announced in the past two months. NagaCorp, operator of Cambodia’s NagaWorld, is also advancing with its property there. Tsifetakis said he welcomes the competition as it will create a hub effect, with the increased level of attractions able to draw more tourists both nationally and internationally. “We are looking forward to seeing some key players coming into the market as the whole area will be more attractive.” The group is pushing ahead with its Phase 2 expansion plans for Tigre de Cristal, which are currently in the design process. The expansion, which is expected to come online in 2023, or early 2024, will add 170,000 square

metres of new space, including a more than 300-key hotel. It will also add a large variety of both European and Asian restaurants and non-gaming attractions, including a multi-level covered pool complex, which Tsifetakis said will be unique in the Far East. “We are adding more non gaming as we have noticed that international market people like to travel with the family and stay for a longer period of time.” When the resort first opened, the key target market was seen as being China’s VIPs. Since then there has been a fundamental shift in the Mainland VIP market, coupled with Beijing’s ongoing crackdown on those jurisdictions that target its citizens. Despite this, Tsifetakis still expects the VIP business to come back strongly once the borders open - just not necessarily from China. “We see that it’s going to be strong. We don’t know how strong. Taking into consideration the challenges that China is facing and looking at the interest from other countries such as Japan and Korea and Taiwan I believe we will get some very nice surprises. “I believe when Phase 2 is in full swing that Primorski Krai will be one of the prime destinations in Asia, not only for gaming, but a completely different kind of destination that has not been explored.”

The National Hockey League (NHL) has named Liga Stavok as the Official Sports Betting Partner of the NHL and Official Sportsbook of the NHL in Russia and the CIS region, and the League’s first-ever exclusive partner in Russia. As Official Sports Betting Partner of the NHL, Liga Stavok will conduct dynamic marketing campaigns utilizing NHL branding across the company’s digital sports betting offerings in Russia and the CIS region. Liga Stavok will receive premier marketing positions on NHL digital assets including ru, the official Russian language version of “This marks an exciting time for NHL fans in Russia. Liga Stavok, the market leader in sports betting, is partnering with the NHL, the world’s premier hockey league, to deliver inventive initiatives.

Asia-Invest plans $34m investment in Primorye hotel/ casino complex The Primorye Development Corp. said Russia’s Asia-Invest Group has agreed to invest at least RUB2.5 billion ($34 million) in the gambling zone. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2022. The project will include a hotel complex with recreation facilities and a casino, the development corporation said in a press statement. It said in the more recent quarter, the development corp has reached agreements with investors worth RUB75.3 billion. There are already seven hotel complexes with casinos at “implementation” stage, it said. Investors in the zone come from Hong Kong, the Kingdom of Cambodia, Russia, the Republic of Korea and Japan, it said giving no further details about the latest project. Asia-Invest describes itself as a broadbased company that carries out high quality construction and project management.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021


Finally face-to-face!! As we get towards the end of the year, Asia has yet to be able to host a major gaming exhibition, or conference. However, elsewhere the foot is back full on the throttle.


his Autumn has seen an action-packed couple of months of live events, including the SBC Summit in Barcelona, the iGB Live show in Amsterdam and the giant G2E in Las Vegas. Industry participants have told us that they were thrilled to be on the road again and said there is a sense of excitement to be able to see old friends faceto-face and meet new prospects. In fact, some have said the events have given further impetus to business by enthusing the sales teams. In these pages, suppliers tell us about their experience of the events and what was on offer. They also detail their new and upcoming product launches and the latest happenings in their respective companies. The calendar for the remainder of the year shows no signs of letting up. In November, many are preparing for Sigma’s event in Malta, before heading back to Barcelona again in December for the World Gaming Executive Summit.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021

In Asia, the Macau Gaming Show will offer a oneday online event, although with the borders still closed G2E Asia has once again been cancelled. Still, the situation on the ground is improving and as vaccinations are rolled out, countries are tentatively beginning to reopen their borders. Asia Gaming Brief is planning to be back in March next year with the ASEAN Gaming Summit, with the Metro Manila region expecting to have reached 90 percent vaccination targets before the end of the year. We may very well be the first to brave the Asia industry events market and we’re confident that there is significant pent up demand and enthusiasm to get together once again. Although the first, we won’t be the last next year with a full events calendar planned. Here’s hoping the Asian market can finally get back on its feet and to begin to fulfill the enormous potential the region has to offer.


Events highlight value of human communication


he betting industry picked up steam again by the end of 2021. The volume of bets and gambling offers grew, as did the information for innovation. The format of international exhibitions is ideal for exchanging such information with old partners and establishing contacts with new ones. We would like to tell you about two such events that the 1xBet team visited in Europe. The SBC Summit was held in Barcelona from 21st to 24th September. It demonstrated the feasibility of combining an exhibition of 100 suppliers of gambling products with an influential conference for 250 speakers ready to share valuable insights. Game developers, payment service companies, product solutions businesses such as hosting or user authentication - these are just a few of the categories of SBC Summit speakers we enjoyed hearing. We also expanded the base of potential partners for a variety of activities at 1xBet. In addition, we managed to hold many business meetings, where the current events of the company and plans for 2022 were discussed. IGB Live, which took place in Amsterdam from September 28th - October 1st, provided a superb opportunity to delve deeper into important business areas. For example, let’s

say, discuss, and sometimes update the terms of cooperation for referral traffic. A series of meetings also expanded our presence in critical areas and gave a better understanding of what affects the quality of traffic. Contacts with affiliate partners allowed us to quickly solve problems that could take much more time online. Human contact is something that even the most advanced messengers cannot yet replace. So we were delighted to organise a

stand, which helped the partners understand the company’s scale. Let’s be honest, after such a busy event, which was the first after a long break for the industry, it took some colleagues a couple of days to recover. But it was worth it! Significant events are again being conducted in person, which means that 2022 holds much promise in terms of exciting news and activities at exhibitions. So look for the 1xBet stands, see you there!


Moving ahead with partners


ver the past year, APE has been keeping abreast of industry trends. In November, APE will participate in the MGS 2021 online summit and its international partners and suppliers will showcase their latest products via video. Jumbo Technology from Taiwan will showcase the new fishing game - OCEAN PHOENIX. The legendary ARK-65TM six-seater fishing game. Konami Australia will introduce The DIMENSION 27, which is stacked in every way, with three 27-inch monitors. It is compatible with the SeleXion multi game / multi-denom. Spintec from Slovenia, is going to present a SicBo with a three-level progressive Dragons Jackpot and pay-outs are happening on a daily basis. TITO printer expert TransAct from the U.S is presenting its Epic Edge. It’s the only one that features an unmatched 300 DPI, a high-speed firmware uploading solution and a single interface board for all games. TransAct keeps improving the R&D of its existing and

new products to be launched. Over the past year, APE has taken the bull by the horns. By 4Q21, there will be four Konami Concerto Stack cabinets in one IR, including the newly approved stand-alone progressive game called “All aboard” launching with “Dynamite Sprint” and the “Penny Pig” game series. There will be eight Spintec “Sicbo” and “Craps” machines on another group’s casino floor, in addition to 10 Jumbo “Long Yi Fa” for one of the biggest groups in Cotai.

Meanwhile, APE’s 3Q21 repair service revenue recorded 30 percent growth, comparing with Q2, due to machine breakdowns. It is believed that Q4 will also see 20 percent to 30 percent growth. APE has also been making an effort to explain Macau’s “Electronic Gaming Machine Technical Standards version 2.0 to suppliers and clients. The company has also successfully launched a new business line of Retail Vending Machines.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021


Aristocrat to team with PlayTech for RMG expansion


ristocrat Leisure has proposed a A$5 billion ($3.7 billion) cash offer for the full acquisition of PlayTech plc, a move which will allow the supplier to enter the fast-growing online real money gaming segment. Playtech is a leading technology provider for the global gambling industry and one of the largest online gambling software providers in the world. Aristocrat said it believes the acquisition will accelerate its growth strategy and deliver strategic benefits, including providing material scale in the US$70 billion online RMG (real money games) segment – particularly in North America. Aristocrat in its investor presentation noted that online RMB has expanded dramatically over the past few years. Online RMG GGR is expected to reach US$80 billion in 2021 and US$112 billion by 2025. The company said the acquisition will also enable Aristocrat to deliver medium-term and earnings growth and to meet a “broader range of customer and player needs”. Playtech’s Snaitech business will also enable

Aristocrat to operate and innovate in multiple European markets, the company added. Aristocrat CEO and managing director Trevor Croker said: “The proposed combination would bring together Aristocrat’s world-class gaming content and customer and regulatory relationships with Playtech’s industry-leading

global online RMG platform (B2B) and European B2C footprint.” “The combined group would offer a broad portfolio of end-to-end solutions for gaming customers around the world, as well as seamless player experiences, underpinned by a shared focus on responsible gameplay and innovation.”

approach to celebrating Halloween, wishing to make people experience a different festival.

In order to create a unique and significant Halloween, TGB Charity has made a series of spooky but meaningful images to raise people’s awareness of vital global issues. Each image, posted on TGB Charity’s social media throughout the whole month of October, inspires people to care about a critical world problem. Moreover, this image series is also a review of past campaigns that TGB Charity collaborated with several philanthropic partners. As a leading iGaming software provider in Asia, BBIN has been working with charitable organizations to draw the public’s attention to philanthropy through interesting activities since 2018. By 2021, TGB Charity has provided assistance in a variety of fields, making contributions to the world. In the Halloween season, TGB Charity dedicates this festive event to all charity partners, who have been making efforts for various global issues. When you look at those scary images, you may think about the world issues they indicate, and how we can prevent the terrible consequences in the pictures. Together, we can make this world better.


Scare or Care?


he Gaming Beat Charity (TGB Charity), a subsidiary brand of BBIN, took a new

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021


BetConstruct deploys live casino innovation with Hands-Do


etConstruct, with the help of its holding company SoftConstruct, has introduced an intriguing novelty for the sphere of live casino hardware and software. “There are quite a number of tasks in this world that automation can accomplish. One press of a button sometimes performs teamwork for a whole squad. For that a robot can rightfully replace what human hands do. With that in mind, our team of engineers has constructed a very unique piece of machinery.” says Vigen Badalyan, BetConstruct’s Founder and CEO. Called simply Hands-Do, this is a robot dealer performing the functions of a real-life croupier in BetConstruct’s Live Studio. This innovative tool optimizes the work in a live casino studio but excludes human errors. It increases accuracy in dealing, helps operators reduce expenses on hiring staff for a private hall and provides an automated 24/7 gaming experience. “The idea of Hands-Do came after a long observation,” says Levon Hambardzumyan, the creator of Hands-Do. The job of a dealer is manual labor. What could possibly change

the game? The answer was on the surface. Automation! By no means we intend to replace the human-to-player type of communication that a live casino gives. On the contrary, we create something that was unimaginable before and has a solid potential to attract more players through this innovation.” The first two games adapted for Hands-Do are Baccarat and Dragon Tiger. However, the technology gives much room for creativity and

flexibility, making it possible for BetConstruct to set up Hands-Do to play any other game. For the sake of individual branding in case of custom request, the design of the robotic arm can also be changed. Hands-Do provides a unique and one-ofa-kind gaming experience. This type of playercasino interaction can be highly marketable towards players who expect a bit more out of their ordinary entertainment.

it was great to catch up in person with some of our existing partners and also to meet new contacts for the first time. The attendances at both events were very healthy, and you got the sense the industry was happy to be “on the move” again. It was excellent

to witness over 6000 visitors on the first day of IGB Live in Amsterdam, there was a real buzz in the venue. At both events, we were showcasing our updated suite of Fast Games, which occupy a sweet spot between sports betting and traditional casino games. These proved to be very popular at both Barcelona and Amsterdam due to the easy integration and customer retention benefits of these games. Both the SBC Summit in Barcelona and IGB Live in Amsterdam were important for me as I got to see members of my Sales Team in action on a face-to-face basis, for the first time in a while. Events such as these are important as they help newer members of the Sales Team extend their network of contacts and also see how others handle potential new clients. Industry knowledge is also boosted by attending events such as Barcelona and Amsterdam It’s fair to say that we picked up some momentum with regards to deals at both SBC Barcelona and IGB Live and I look forward to this continuing at Sigma Europe in Malta in November. It really is great to be back on the road.


Happy to be travelling


igitain had stands at both SBC Summit Barcelona and IGB Live in Amsterdam- and it was great to be back out meeting people in a face-to-face environment, says Simon Westbury, chief business officer at Digitain. We were very happy with both events, and

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021


Hell Hot 40! to warm up winter


ndorphina is bringing back the fire and hopes you are all warmed up for the upcoming winter! This time, Endorphina proudly presents Hell Hot 40! “The new slot game, framed by colourful fruits and covered in sizzling flames, is a fantastic new edition to our portfolio,” it said. “You’ll be able to jump right into the heat and master the thrill of this steamy online slot game.” This 5-reel, 4-row slot has 40 fixed paylines. The fiery Wild symbol appears stacked on all reels and substitutes for all the symbols, except for Scatter. Scatter symbols count at any position on the reels. For the numbers of Scatter symbols and combinations on each payline only the highest win is paid. All prizes are for combinations of a kind. Matching symbols, except Scatter should be on paylines and adjacent reels, starting from the leftmost. Scatter wins and line wins are added. All prizes in the paytable are shown in money

or credits depending on the currently selected mode and shown for the currently selected bet.

You can double your winnings for up to 10 times during the risk game in this steamy new slot!


Exciting times with market debuts


t’s also been a busy couple of months on the road for us thanks to the return of major casino industry conferences. We were able to attend the SBC Summit Barcelona as well as iGB Live! in Amsterdam, where we were delighted to see some familiar faces. We will also be at upcoming events in Malta, such as iGaming Next and SiGMA, and all of us at Habanero are really looking forward to getting back into the swing of things and getting reacquainted with all our partners. These are exciting times for us as a company, as Habanero is on the verge of entering several new and exciting markets, including Holland, as well as going live with 888 in Spain. As always, content is of paramount importance in attracting new players and retaining them, and our recently launched title Nine Tails is a testament to the innovative math models and stunning animations that we employ in our slot products. We decided to open a door into a new world in our latest slot Nine Tails, where players are required to navigate through a mystical world in search of prizes. Nine Tails is a modern twist on an ancient Japanese folktale, played out on a 5x5 set of reels that enchants players with astonishing gifts, huge wins and an exclusive Lady Feature that provides players with random rewards.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021

Nine Tails offers beautiful and warm audiovisuals that appeal to all players, topped with industry-leading mechanics and features that seek to retain players. We’ve made a decisive move away from more mature themes in our latest slot products to cater to wider audiences and allow players to embrace their deepest fantasies. There’s an awful lot to look forward to in the year ahead since we are virtually back to normal

in terms of live events, which we’ve missed very much, so we should be able to participate in most of the planned conferences and travel overseas to meet with our partners once again. The year ahead will also be about producing top quality products and refining our great mathematical models, so if you’re looking for a wide variety of themes and first-rate mechanics, look no further.


Live with lottery in Ontario


volution has gone live with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). Evolution is providing the provincial lottery and gaming agency with Live Casino services for its online casino at from Evolution’s production studio in Vancouver. As a result of the partnership, a wide range of Evolution-powered live dealer and RNG games are on offer including Blackjack, Roulette and Baccarat. Live dealer games are unique in the fact that players interact directly with real casino dealers via internet video feed. The live dealer games from Evolution appear alongside OLG’s current line-up of Lottery,

e-instant and slot games. OLG is the fourth Canadian province to partner with Evolution, joining British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC), and Loto-Québec in streaming live games to their respective players from Evolution’s Vancouver studio. “OLG is a leader in the digital gaming space, and we’re thrilled to be able to work with Evolution to extend our online game offering,” said Dave Pridmore, OLG’s Chief Digital and Strategy Officer. “We want to provide the best live dealer experience available, and we are confident that our players will love the

quality and the choice of these games, playing at tables with other Canadian players and game presenters.” Jeff Millar, Commercial Director, North America at Evolution, commented: “This latest signing further strengthens our position in Canada. From the start, our intention was to create a world-leading Live Casino studio with the capability and capacity to service all the Canadian lotteries. We are excited to provide OLG our growing library of live dealer games and sharing the invaluable insight we have gained in serving the other Canadian provinces.”

more diversity in their games portfolio, as well as higher player engagement rates and, consequently, higher profitability. On the other hand, players have more comfort,

features, and gaming experiences without changing the cabinet, while they keep the linked progressive jackpots offered by the four spin reel games.


Mythic Link enters Mexico


he FBM Multi-Game family is growing! The global gaming brand has launched the Mythic Link Multi-Game product for the Mexican market, and now players can enjoy Ancient Tropics, Nature’s Paradise, Golden Voyage and Eternal Kingdom in the same cabinet without losing their progressive linked jackpots. The product is now available to try in several casinos across Mexico. FBM has been building an impressive following in Mexico with its first multi-game slots and decided to increase its diversity by launching a new pack of games in this collection. The Mythic Link pack transports players for an expedition where they can switch between four slot adventures with specific features in the same cabinet, while they keep pursuing linked progressive jackpots. The casino managers get more games in less space and consequently serve a more diverse profile of players. Luis Casamayor, General Manager at FBM in Mexico, shares his thoughts about this novelty. “We are glad to provide operators and players with the Mythic Link Multi-Game. We received incredible and positive feedback from the clients about this category of products and we are sure that these four new games, with their powerful graphics and engaging feature set, will keep players involved with the games and surpass the casino managers’ expectations”, completes the FBM representative. Casino representatives get the opportunity to extract the full potential of each cabinet by providing more than one game experience on just one platform. Furthermore, they guarantee

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021


Focusing on responsible gaming


nternational Game Technology has released its global Responsible Gaming Policy. The policy was created to transparently inform and educate all relevant stakeholders about IGT’s worldwide programs and solutions designed to promote fair play and comply with requirements and regulations on responsible gaming in all jurisdictions in which the company operates. “Responsible Gaming is a cornerstone of all that we do at IGT, and an aspect of our business where we demonstrate leadership among gaming and lottery suppliers,” said Wendy Montgomery, IGT SVP, Global Brand, Marketing and Communications. “In publishing IGT’s Responsible Gaming Policy,

we demonstrate important transparency about the tenets of our commitments and the exemplary standard to which we hold our employees, products and partners.” IGT counts a strong governance model, innovation and collaboration with internal and external partners as success drivers for its responsible gaming initiatives. Topic-focused working groups created through this new policy have been developed to explore emerging trends and best practices related to responsible gaming. In today’s unprecedented times, with an emphasis on the digital revolution and cashless innovation, IGT remains committed to responsible gaming by balancing growth

with social responsibility. IGT’s approach to responsible gaming includes three primary goals and eight supporting commitments. IGT holds certification to the Responsible Gaming Standards for Associate Members from the World Lottery Association for Lottery operations and responsible gaming standards certification from the Global Gambling Guidance Group for gaming and digital operations.

short-lived season. Powered by RPM Gaming, JSB aims to double its admirers with the most sophisticated and reactive prizes on the most sought-after basketball league. Along with hundreds of sports matches daily, customers will continue to enjoy extensive odds selection plus a full range of bonuses for a top notch sports betting experience. As the business landscape rapidly changes, Jade Sportsbet is embarking on expanding its product offerings online, and extending its reach geographically. JSB wants to deliver the best of both worlds, whether a player is tech

savvy and wanting to experience sports betting at his fingertips, or a gaming enthusiast wanting to feel the intensity of the game inside the store and have a diversion from daily life, JSB has got you covered. Strategically putting efforts in rolling out the platform across the country, JSB has recently installed betting terminals in 3 different retail outlets namely Big Games Morato, Big Games Mindanao Ave, and Cool Games Pwesto Mall. And in the coming days, you will be surprised that Your Game Changer, Jade Sportsbet is now available in an outlet next to you!


Changing the game


rue to its name, Jade Entertainment and Gaming Technologies Inc. - a rising gem in Asia - has gained the spotlight and is creating a significant mark in the dog-eat-dog world of online gaming. After receiving the milestone approval from PAGCOR, the Philippines’ gaming regulator, Jade wasted no time and successfully launched its online sports betting platform – Jade Sportsbet (JSB). With the opening of the new season of the NBA, Jade Sportsbet came prepared to up their game hungry to make up for the

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021


Innovating for efficiency


hen JCM Global (JCM) created the innovative ICB Intelligent Cash Box system, it immediately increased efficiencies throughout the drop process by eliminating multiple points of potential human error. Since then, casinos worldwide have benefited from ICB’s advanced capabilities, and the ICB system itself has evolved to include new features such as web reporting and customizable dashboards. JCM’s partnership with Cash Processing Solutions (CPS) is further increasing efficiencies in the count room with flexible and modular count-sort solutions, including

the 7000i, X Range, and V Series and ECM enterprise-wide cash management software. However, the innovations don’t stop there – JCM and CPS have fully integrated ICB and ECM, so that all asset details and cash box contents are communicated directly to the CPS software. As JCM and CPS demonstrated to attendees at the recent G2E, this integration delivers a complete count room solution and is proven to bring more visibility over the operation, enhance security, and increase cash box processing speed and reliability. The integration of ECM and ICB

works at single casinos and in enterprise situations. This means ECM and ICB can be programmed to talk to each other across multiple properties with a central control location, or they can be managed separately at individual locations. As a recent example, earlier in the year, JCM upgraded the ICB system to ICB 3.0 at Black Hawk Casino and at Sac and Fox Casino, and a few weeks ago, JCM installed the ECM software at each property. Now, Black Hawk Casino and Sac and Fox Casino are using ECM and ICB software together to improve data management and create one cohesive database of all casino areas that handle cash with JCM’s bill validators. The technologies and the partnerships are additional proof of JCM’s commitment to its customers to bring innovation that enhances the guest experience, increases efficiencies, and boosts security. For information, contact your JCM representative or visit


Raising the game with Esports Hub


sports betting is no longer the niche that some make it out to be. For those who have invested effectively in their offerings, the commercials speak for themselves - with sportsbooks seeing the benefits of rapid acquisition from the relatively untapped esports community. Engaging with this unique audience is arguably the biggest hurdle in becoming a true esports operator. Being digital natives, they have higher standards when it comes to the way they consume their esports content and when it comes to betting, they want experiences that resonate with their esports world. Building trust with these players as an operator is key and that’s exactly what Pinnacle Solution’s recently launched Esports Hub delivers. Designed specifically for the esports fan, as opposed to the generic sports bettor, the Esports Hub provides a standalone esports betting destination with a tailored UX and design that fits with the audience’s expectations. With unmatched content, integrated live streaming, a bespoke dark mode, and the flexibility to offer higher limits and sharper margins, the Esports Hub is a game-changing product, capable of transforming operator

success as a B2B tool. “Esports betting is a vertical in its own right, not an extension of the traditional sportsbook”, is how Paris Smith, Pinnacle’s CEO sees esports betting’s position in the market, adding that the Esports Hub “provides the community with a betting destination tailored to how they like to engage with esports, while also delivering operators new revenue streams and enhanced

hold potential.” Underpinned by Pinnacle’s pioneering esports trading product and risk management service, Pinnacle Solution has skin in the game when it comes to knowing what engages customers and drives profit to partners. Operators can leverage this know-how and integrate the Esports Hub to fast-track their journey to becoming an authentic esports provider.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021


Storytelling makes content king


here’s a reason why humans are drawn to series. Whether that’s a game, television or podcast series, everyone loves a good story. And we’re no different. Play’n GO games are produced with a crystal-clear focus – entertainment.

There is no denying that players love our games series. And this plays a huge part in deciding what games to make – and not make. Sure, discovering the next best thing in the world of slots – like a new feature – is a way to excite players. But to create games that players

will enjoy beyond initial release comes down to a game that players connect with. Enter the series. We believe our players invest in more than just the surface of the game; they want to know the who, what, where, why and how. Series pave the way for consistent visuals and characters that players can rely on – experiencing something new while knowing what to expect. And that makes our content sticky. It leaps off the page of casino lobbies to be chosen by players again and again. Let’s take the Reactoonz. When developing September’s game (the third instalment of the series), we decided not to make another sequel but to look back at the Reactoonzs’ origins – and this is how we introduced Dr Toonz to the world. Now players have a complete picture with a beginning, middle, and end to the Reactoonz narrative. Or do they? With the ever-growing popularity of the Reactoonz, who’s to say that there won’t be a new instalment in the (very) near future. As humans, we’re comforted by familiarity, drawn to what we know and trust. Creating a culture of characters within a captivating story is a key ingredient, combined with eye- catching visuals and audio that hits all the right notes, and you’ve got the recipe for a successful series.


Bumper prize pool with Daily Wins


ragmatic Play has proven its commitment to doing more for players and operators by increasing the prize pool of powerhouse promotional tool Daily Wins to US$6.5 million, more than double the prior amount. This is potentially the largest prize pool fully sponsored by a game provider. Daily Wins has delivered real value to operators as many have seen increased player retention across their Live Casino and Slot Games; Pragmatic Play, will continue the Daily Wins campaign until May 5, 2022. Fans of Pragmatic Play games can enjoy new Daily Wins prize pools with even more opportunities to win across Slot games through Weekly Tournaments and daily cash Prize Drops. The Daily Wins symbol in the corner of the game will make it easy for players to identify which games qualify for the promotion. Operators who have already joined Daily Wins testify how easy it is to simply tell their Account Managers that they want to opt in – that’s it! There is NO extra technical development or administration efforts required to participate.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021

For Christmas, there is more excitement with the “Santa’s Wonderland” edition of the Daily Wins Slot games promotion. Players will get a chance of winning a share of the 21,000 cash prizes that will be given away from November 25, 2021, to January 6, 2022. Not leaving out fans of Live Casino games, Pragmatic Play announces the launch of a generous expansion of the Daily Wins campaign to include the new Live Casino Prize Drop feature and new game Sweet Bonanza Candyland. Players are invited to participate in the weekly tournaments and experience daily cash

drops with cash prizes to be won from the US$ 5 million prize pool. The Live Casino Daily Wins promotion will also run from November 18, 2021, to January 6, 2022. And yes, there’s more! The most hotly anticipated release of the year from Pragmatic Play, Sweet Bonanza Candyland will also feature in Daily Wins. Sweet Bonanza CandyLand merges an authentic and realistic Live Casino experience with a virtual world of candy. Players can enjoy features like free spins and multipliers in the Sweet Bonanza Candyland game while winning extra bonuses from Daily Wins promotion.


Confronting the Candy Witch


lot supplier SimplePlay has launched its Halloween-themed game “Candy Witch”. It features the great battle between a heroine and the evil Candy Witch. Our heroine, who was a little girl, could transform herself into a powerful sorceress to fight against the evil Candy Witch. “Candy Witch” is a 3x5-reel, 30-line

slot. The Base Game takes place in the silent woods where the little girl fearlessly confronts the evil Candy Witch. The girl’s transformation device acts as the Wild Symbol, which can substitute for all symbols except for the Scatters. In this game, players have to collect Scatter symbols to trigger Free Games. As

we have two characters, there are two types of Scatters in “Candy Witch”. Scatter 1 is the Candy Witch with a ruby. Scatter 2 is another pretty sorceress, which is the transformed version of our heroine. Whenever any Scatter appears on the reels, it will be collected and counted in the meter. Two Scatters are counted separately in two meters (Scatter 1 on the left top corner of the reels, Scatter 2 on the right top corner). Collecting 80 Scatter 1 leads to Free Games that take place deep inside the woods where Candy Witch resides. There, players can have up to 240 Stack Wilds appearing across the reels. Collecting 60 Scatter 2 leads to the magical treehouse where our heroine sorceress lives. This is the place where players can enjoy multipliers of up to 24x! As there are 12 Free Spins, players start with a 2x multiplier for the first spin, then a 4x multiplier for the second spin. At the last Free Spin, there will be a 24x multiplier, giving huge winnings! This game is a Halloween-themed slot. It features gorgeous fighting scenes and glamourous transformation processes. It is a game not to be missed this quarter!


SG strategic revamp continues with lotteries sale


cientific Games agreed to sell its lotteries business to Brookfield Business Partners for $6.05 billion as part of its strategy to focus on

becoming a cross-platform gaming company. The consideration consists of $5.8 billion in cash and an earnout clause of up to $225

million. The deal is scheduled to close in the second quarter of next year. “We conducted a thorough review of paths to divest the Lottery business and this transaction maximizes value and the timing and certainty of proceeds, while minimizing complexity and execution risks,” CEO Barry Cottle and Connie James, chief financial officer, said in a joint statement. “The significant near-term proceeds from this transaction, as well as our previously announced sale of Sports Betting, enables us to aggressively de-lever, transform our balance sheet and position us with the financial flexibility to invest organically and inorganically in our largest growth opportunities.” The supplier announced in June that it had carried out a strategic review and planned to divest its sports betting and lottery units to focus on its digital businesses, which it forecast would be the same scale as its landbased business in three years. One option that had been discussed was a potential initial public offering in Australia.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021


Extending ties with the ITF


portradar announced a three-year extension to its accord to be the official data partner of the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The agreement extends the strong partnership between Sportradar and ITF, which, since 2012, has encompassed the World Tennis Tour, as well as a number of other major ITF competitions, such as the Billie Jean King Cup. In addition to the official data partnership, the extension enables the Federation to deliver a number of important ongoing integrity-led major projects, including the development of innovative technology infrastructure to further enhance integrity protection at World Tennis Tour events. Together with the projects and activities mentioned, the ITF, in partnership with Sportradar, will continue to invest significantly into accreditation, control systems and personnel to safeguard the integrity of tour events, leading the tennis world in efforts to ensure a secure player and fan experience. As the global governing body of tennis, the ITF subscribes to the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) tennis-wide anti-corruption

programme and services. As part of its ongoing commitment to protect the integrity sport, the ITF will continue to leverage Sportradar’s integrity services by including its Universal Fraud Detection System, an advanced and proven bet monitoring service to analyse global betting patterns, and its unrivalled ‘Intelligence and Investigations’ (I&I) capabilities. Furthermore, Sportradar will create a suite of enhanced digital assets connecting tennis fans with new websites, apps and fan-centric products to provide a more dynamic user experience that will be powered by Sportradar’s fast, accurate and reliable data. Sportradar CEO Carsten Koerl said: “Sportradar is the world leader in helping leagues and federations across the globe maximize the value of their data whilst ensuring the integrity of sport. We’ve partnered with the ITF for almost a decade, and the extension of our agreement is a sign of their continued trust, which is built on a shared commitment to innovation and to driving increased fan engagement. We are passionate about tennis and I’m very proud of the benefits this partnership will bring to an

incredible sport.” ITF President Dave Haggerty commented: “We look forward to our continued partnership with Sportradar as we deliver technology that will help to ensure the protection of integrity and data as well as a digital platform that will enhance the fan experience around ITF World Tennis Tour and major events, including the Billie Jean King Cup.”

platform that delivers unique insights to optimize slot floor mix and placement. “Tangam’s slot optimization software has been one of the most highly anticipated products by our partners,” stated Maulin Gandhi, President of Tangam Systems. “SODA will do for electronic gaming machines what TYM did for table games

– automatically transforming complex data and empowering operators to get straight to the answers, regardless of technical skill.” Harnessing the fundamentals from Tangam’s proven track record in delivering data analytics that drive top and bottom-line improvements, SODA automatically generates new insights within minutes to improve slot performance. Prescriptive analytics is one of the biggest challenges facing operators today. “Our customers often tell us that they want more analytics but end up spending hours and hours on reporting,” added Ari Mizrachi, SVP and Head of North America at Tangam Systems. “SODA gives slot operators simple answers, completely reinventing how they look at their data so that they can focus on what they do best.” SODA’s smart algorithms transform slot data into recommendation driven prescriptive analytics, seamless floor change tracking and intuitive floor visualizations that help operators generate new insights and analyze incremental revenue and contribution lift. SODA is backed by Tangam’s award-winning visualization platform and best-in-class support.


Optimizing slots


angam Systems announced the release of its new slot optimization product line at this year’s G2E trade show in Las Vegas. As the global leader in gaming optimization and business intelligence software, Tangam Systems is bringing the SODA (Slots Optimization & Data Analytics) software to market; an intuitive

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021





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Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021



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Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021

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Gaming Briefings | November 2021


As Asia ventures out of zero-Covid world, China looks isolated Sharon Singleton

Managing Editor, AGB

As we approach the two-year anniversary of the beginning of the global Covid pandemic, governments around Asia are finally beginning to take tentative steps to open their borders.


s vaccination rates have risen, even the most safely reopen to international visitors. This will be die-hard zero Covid administrations have music to the ears of operators in the countries where realized that borders can’t remain closed locals are not permitted to gamble. However, in all of this picture there remains one forever. The rise of the more contagious Delta variant has also helped to crystallize views that the virus is key standout and that is the Greater China region. something we will have to learn to live with and manage. Beijing is steadfastly maintaining its draconian zeroThailand, whose vaccination rate is still relatively Covid policies. Entire cities are repeatedly being locked down, while low in the context of some of its neighbours such as Cambodia, has perhaps taken the boldest steps. It has Shanghai Disneyland was shut and 34,000 visitors tested thrown its doors open to fully vaccinated travellers due to the discovery of just one case. That’s despite from more than 60 countries where the Covid risk is the fact that China has a relatively solid vaccination rate of about 81 percent of its population, according deemed to be low. They will now only have to remain one night in a to Reuters data. Hong Kong, a global financial hub heavily dependent government-mandated hotel while they wait for the on international trade, has gone backwards in recent results of Covid tests. Vaccinated travellers from countries not on the safe weeks, tightening its already stringent 21-day mandatory hotel quarantine to close loopholes list are still able to travel, but only for certain categories of workers. to areas designated as blue zones, It has argued that this was a where they will have to quarantine necessary step to be able to fully for seven days before moving to Beijing is open the border with Mainland other areas of the country. The zones China. Macau is still closed to include the islands of Phuket and steadfastly nearly all international visitors Koh Samui, as well as the capital maintaining its apart from those from China. Bangkok, where vaccinations are Local outbreaks in Macau more advanced. draconian zeroin August and September lead Thailand’s economy relies on Covid policies. to immediate lockdowns and tourism for about 18 percent of restrictions on travel, while a its gross domestic product and talked about reopening with Hong 18 months of isolation from the Kong no longer seems to be on the outside world is taking a heavy toll. Elsewhere, Vietnam is beginning reopening to horizon. Macau residents can visit their neighbour, but vaccinated travellers. From November, travellers will be would have to quarantine on return. The toll this is taking on Macau’s recovery is painful. able to venture to five provinces including Kien Giang, Khanh Hoa, Quang Nam, Da Nang, and Quang Ninh. October was the worst month this year in terms of Phu Quoc island is in Kien Giang province and is gross gambling revenue, with the rebound being much home to the Corona Resort & Casino, while Quang slower and more protracted than anyone anticipated. Visitor arrivals came back in the final few weeks of Nam is home to Hoi An, in which Suncity’s Hoiana the month as restrictions were lifted, but with China resort and casino is located. Singapore has vaccination lanes for vaccinated battling multiple clusters the situation is precarious. Some commentators are beginning to question why travellers from low-risk countries and has begun welcoming arrivals from Europe for the first time in China continues with its zero-Covid policy while the rest of the world is reopening, with concern politics one and a half years. Japan is cutting back quarantine for business travellers may be creeping into the process. Beijing is scheduled to hold the winter Olympics to three days, while Malaysia has pointed to a likely border opening in December once its own population early next year and China doesn’t want any delays or disruptions. As a result, some commentators see it as reaches a 90 percent vaccination rate. In fact, there are very few countries in the region, unlikely that the policy will be abandoned until at least which aren’t actively talking and planning on how to after that date.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021



5 Dragons Reign is the newest addition to the 5 Dragons dynasty and features STICKY WILDs with a Respin feature!


Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2021