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Jurisdiction Updates January 2020 Edition

In focus pg.32

iGaming in Asia Influence, content and technology

Macau pg.14

China-Focused CSR

cambodia pg.28 Door shuts on igaming australia pg.24 Outlook dim as fires burn vietnAM pg.26 Slow but steady progress



Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


London kick off


reezing temperatures will not be enough to deter

stayed largely out of the headlines in 2019, though projects

what is arguably the largest yearly gathering of the

have been inching their way forward, with the country’s

global gaming industry in London in early February.

largest resort to date scheduled to open in the first half

Known for encompassing both online and land-

of this year. Meanwhile, neighboring Cambodia’s online

based spheres, ICE 2020 will kick off the industry’s event

gaming ban, which came into effect as of January 1st, has

calendar with an even larger, broader scope of products and

triggered mass layoffs and the shutdown of numerous

services on the exhibition floor: from augmented reality to

casinos, and is not expected to be lifted due to pressure from

artificial intelligence, to esports, and everything that’s new

the Chinese government.

in the gaming industry.

Down under, Australia’s gaming industry faces an uncertain

In line with that spirit we dedicate the focus of this Asia

2020, as the catastrophic bushfires deter foreign visitation

Gaming Brief edition to the iGaming industry. From a

and hit already softening domestic demand.

marketing perspective, we look at how influencer marketing

Our Special Supplier Report in the latter section of the

is fast becoming an essential component of the online

magazine lifts the veil on what one can expect at ICE

marketing toolbox, with as many as 65 percent of marketers

Totally Gaming. It would seem we’re in for a treat this

having increased their influencer marketing budgets in 2019.

year, as organizers partnered with SPARK, a leading AR,

Another way iGaming is being felt is in the land-based

CGI, and VR agency to create a ‘revolutionary’ AR treasure

world through technology. We bring you the story of how

hunt to entertain visitors. We’ll be able to take part in the

Melco Resorts & Entertainment is increasingly bullish on the

AR experience by using our smartphone to interact with

disruptive impact of blockchain technology on the casino

futuristic content as well as engage with an AI floorplan.

floor, with projects already live and more in the pipeline.

Asia Gaming Brief will again participate and exhibit as

On a regulatory framework, we go through Philippine

in these past years (did we mention we turned seven in

President Rodrigo Duterte’s claims to have China’s

January!). The AGB team will be happy to fill you in on what

backing for its handling of its online gaming industry,

we have in store across the region, namely at the 4th edition

potentially providing some clarity to the market after a

of the ASEAN Gaming Summit, held yearly in March in

year of uncertainty.

Manila, our Mekong Summit, and other social events and

In these pages you will also find the most relevant updates

projects in the pipeline. Stop by our booth or drop us a line at

across 22 Asian Jurisdictions.

ice@agbrief.com to set up a meeting.

In Macau we look at how the operators have stepped up their

Pack warm and see you in London!

Rosalind Wade

Luis Pereira

corporate social responsibility (CSE) efforts in recent years, in particular when it comes to China cultural cooperation, which

On behalf of Asia Gaming Brief

may help their case when it comes to concession renewal.

Rosalind Wade & Luis Pereira

On the issue of IR development in Japan, the Shinzo Abe


government has acted like a political bulldozer, assuming that the opposition parties and the majority opinion of the

Connect with us:

Japanese people could be swept aside by overwhelming force. While the approach has taken them a long way forward, the


costs seem to be mounting and the limits may be in sight.

Asia Gaming Brief

Asia Gaming Brief

Across to IndoChina where Vietnam’s gambling industry


JANUARY 2020 EDITION Series II • Issue XIX

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Macau’s CSR drive – with one eye on Beijing? Macau’s operators have stepped up their corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts in recent years, in particular when it comes to China cultural cooperation, which may help their case when it comes to concession renewal.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


he government has not yet provided details on how it intends to handle the renewal process when the licenses expire in two years. Yet at the time of the interim review, the operators were judged on many aspects of their business including promotion of locals and sourcing from Macau’s small-to-medium sized businesses. However, Klebanow Consulting’s Andrew Klebanow, who argues that operators have become more skilful at amplifying their CSR efforts via media platforms, insists that casinos “understand the importance of being good corporate citizens” regardless of the renewals process. “One could take a cynical view and see these contributions as a way to curry favour with the central government ahead of licensing renewal, but it is in the casinos’ best interests to support the communities in which they operate,” he says. Klebanow, who adds that Macau’s casinos have a lengthy track record in CSR, highlights how casinos collectively contributed more than MOP215 million (US$27 million) towards relief efforts following Typhoon Hato, which struck South China in 2017, with Las Vegas Sands alone donating MOP65 million. “That’s a lot of money just for goodwill,” he says. Benefits Of course, CSR initiatives have reputational benefits, encouraging loyalty from staff as well as customers, but the implications of failing to commit to such schemes have become blindingly obvious to Macau’s casino giants. According to a newly published legal guide by Rato, Ling, Lei & Cortés, “repute and probity” are among the attributes that have become “absolutely mandatory requirements” for concession-holders in Macau. Cari Wong, public relations manager at MGM in Macau, echoes Klebanow’s comments that CSR has been a long-term commitment by casinos: “At MGM, we believe in creating great moments for our community and city. This belief has guided our every action and activity, and we have been assimilating art and entertainment into daily life since 2007.” Last year, MGM organised 106 community events, benefiting more than 1,500 senior citizens, over 570 young people and more than 870 persons with disabilities, as well as 1,000 low-income and single-parent families. Since 2013, MGM has also reduced


greenhouse gas emissions by 16.4 percent, energy consumption by 16.7 percent and water consumption by 10.9 percent. Chinese culture Last year, one of the CSR exhibitions hosted by MGM explored the ‘beauty of Chinese embroidery’, with the operator separately describing the “celebration of traditional Chinese arts and culture” as a “fundamental theme” of the operator’s art programme. Similarly, Wynn Macau, which organises various CSR activities, strengthened its links with China by organising educational tours to Kunming and Nanjing, as well as a scholarship agreement with Fudan University, while Wynn Macau celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), as well as the “20th anniversary of the return of Macau to China”. CSR initiatives can also be internal, as well as external. Experts such as Carlos Siu Lam, an associate professor in gaming education and research at the Macau Polytechnic Institute, says that how operators have treated staff, through to how they have “promoted upward mobility for local workers,” will be taken into account when the licence renewals are being weighed up by the authorities. Moreover, at Sands China, in 2016, a five-year plan was set out, with a special focus on three of the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals: clean water and sanitisation; affordable and clean energy; and responsible consumption and production. The level of commitment from operators can be illustrated by the length of their annual CSR reports. For example, Galaxy Entertainment Group, which describes itself as “a patriotic, Chinese-owned company” provided a mammoth 152-page offering in 2018, detailing dozens of actions. The operator’s projects included introducing the China women’s volleyball team to local youngsters, hosting community walks, arranging a trip to the liaison office of the Central People’s Government in Macau and a “patriotic” educational study trip to Beijing, as well as a women’s fitness carnival. Areas to improve Two of Galaxy’s CSR strategy pillars – ‘protecting our Earth and natural resources’ and ‘sculpting a bright and responsible culture’ – shine a spotlight on challenges regarding the environment and responsible gaming.



December MOP22.8b





+10% (Source: Morgan Stanley)


+8% (Source: Bernstein)

2020E 2021E

+2.4% +4.5% (Source: Jefferies)

Bridge alters travel trends A Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) study has found that the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) has “led to a shift in the travel pattern of visitors to Macau, including less frequent use of ferry terminals.” “Figures collected in the study revealed that 42.7 percent of visitors to Macau stated that they would use ferry terminals (Taipa Ferry Terminal and Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal) less frequently because of the opening of the bridge. The travel pattern (by land versus by sea) has shown more drastic change especially among visitors from Hong Kong, with 60.6 percent expressing that they would use ferry terminals less frequently following the inauguration of the bridge,” a summary of the report explained. The report also found that “23.7 percent of visitors who entered Macau via the bridge (Zhuhai-Macau Port) left the city via Macau International Airport.” Those surveyed were largely quite positive about their experience using the HZMB itself, also there was considerably less satisfaction about the supporting transportation between the port and urban districts.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


There is a broad consensus across the back offices of Macau’s casinos that these two specific areas require greater focus, even though priorities change over time. The 2016 white paper, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility in Macau’s Gambling Industry’, said that whilst operators concentrated on workforce and community activities, stakeholder engagement, marketplace activities and supply-chain activities were areas that required improvement. The following year, the Macau-based study, ‘Measuring Corporate Social Responsibility in Gambling Industry,’ outlined how the issues of ‘environment’ and ‘community’ had been relatively neglected. With the environment becoming a more

pressing issue globally, and especially in China – commonly labelled as the world’s biggest polluter – green initiatives are only going to become more important as the renewal deadline looms. The licensing process, though, will look beyond the scope of CSR activities. “I think what is far more important than the amount of money casinos contribute to CSR initiatives is the capital investment they are making to their properties to further diversify their hospitality and entertainment offerings,” Klebanow says. “Both the Macau government and the PRC have long stressed the importance of making Macau an international tourism destination that is less reliant on casino

gambling. It is not the millions of dollars that casinos invest in CSR initiatives that impress the government, but the billions of dollars they are spending to expand their properties. It is that commitment that will have a far greater influence on licensing renewals.” However, having established comprehensive CSR plans that already cover a plethora of touchpoints, there is little doubt that operators are already aware that inaction in this area is not an option. Now the challenge is to demonstrate to the decision-makers how they are on the front foot when it comes to being socially responsible in an industry in which occasional negative headlines are inevitable.

GameSource makes MGM debut GameSource has made its debut in MGM Macau with eight fixed terminals and four hand-held computer tablets. At present, these terminals include seven of the approximately eighty possible game titles for the cloud-based gaming platform. Anthony Ip, chief executive of Macau-based International Alliance Systems, the owner of GameSource, told reporters, “We’ve been working hard for the last four to five years. It has been a long journey.” GameSource is a platform that allows any pre-registered PC-based display device to be used as a player terminal, with a personalized interface, allowing operators to choose from various slot, sports, and other games.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


in the premium consuming class in China. “We expect this to drive sustained, high-end demand growth and believe several intrinsically differentiated brands with strong consumer equity can capitalize on this growth and generate sustained superior returns.” Wynn Macau, whilst often perceived as a VIP brand catering only to the highest-end consumers, only sees a 20 percent contribution from VIP to the company’s EBITDA. “In fact, Wynn has a strong positioning in the Mass sector and has shown stronger overall growth in its Mass tables business than the overall market in every quarter for two years since Wynn Palace opened.

MGM china

Sjm holdings SJM Holdings (880:HK) has 22 casinos in Macau, though the former monopoly has been losing market share to new IRs on Cotai. The company is scheduled to open its $4.6 billion Lisboa Palace resort in January 2021. Morgan Stanley expects the long-delayed resort to to generate gross revenue of HK$13.3 billion and EBITDA of HK$1.8bn in the first year of operation. This compares with MGM Cotai’s revenue and EBITDA of HK$7.1bn and HK$0.9bn, respectively, when it opened in 2018. The firm expects the stock to begin to outperform in 2020 ahead of the addition of the new capacity, in line with historical trends in the market ahead of prior openings. During Q3. the company operated an average of 286 VIP gaming tables down from 291, 1,503 mass market gaming tables, up from 1,408 and 2,563 slot machines.

Wynn macau Wynn Macau (1128:HK) operates two resorts, with its $4 billion Wynn Palace opening in 2016. The company’s original property is on the Macau Peninsula. The Wynn Palace has 1,700 hotel rooms and 90 percent of the resort is non-gaming. According to Bernstein Research, the company is likely to benefit most from the rise

MGM China (2282:HK) is operating two casinos, with its MGM Cotai IR opening in February last year. The HK$27 billion IR features 1,400 hotel rooms and suites, meeting space, high end spa, retail offerings and food and beverage outlets and its ramp up has helped the company gain market share in the latter half of 2019. MGM Cotai was named by Emporis Skyscraper Awards as the “world’s best new skyscraper” for 2018. It is the first building in Macau to have been given this honor. Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, the resort was selected from almost five hundred new skyscrapers around the world for its overall innovative and spectacular design. Recently, co-chair and executive director Pansy Ho has been selling down her stake in parent company, MGM Resorts, having sold 2.45 million shares since the end of November. As a result, Ho’s stake in the casino operator is down to 1.78 percent.

Sands China Sands China (1928:HK) has five properties in Macau. The company has 12,000 hotel rooms and suites, making up for 48 percent of hotel rooms run by casino operators in Macau. The company’s large room count puts it in the strongest position to gain market share in the high-margin mass market segment, especially when its rebranded Londoner property comes on line, with attractions expected to be rolled out progressively from 2020 to 2021. This year, two new hotel towers will open at the Four Seasons and some new room supply at The Londoner, helping ease some capacity constraints in Macau. Bernstein Research estimates Sands will be the biggest market share

gainer in 2020, helped by the new hotel supply. “Sands should benefit from its redevelopments and continue to ride on the strength in the Mass market. Valuation looks attractive on top of a 5 percent dividend yield,” it said.

Galaxy Entertainment Group Galaxy Entertainment Group (27.HK) has three main properties and runs three City Club casinos inside hotels. The company’s Galaxy Macau Phase 2 and Broadway at Galaxy Macau opened on May 27, 2015, almost doubling the capacity of the resort. Along with Sands China, the company has the largest share of the Macau gaming market, though analysts expect that to have slipped in recent months due to the softening of the VIP market. Bernstein expects Galaxy to produce the highest return on invested capital in 2020. However, there are few new drivers for growth ahead of the roll out of facilities under its Phase 3 expansion from 2021. The development will add some 1,400 new hotel rooms. Galaxy has the largest land bank for further development among Macau’s six operators.

Melco resorts & entertainment Melco Resorts & Entertainment (6883.HK) has three casinos and the Mocha Clubs. The company operates the City of Dreams and Studio City in Macau and the City of Dreams Manila. The company opened its new Morpheus property, designed by the late architect Dame Zaha Hadid in June last year, which is now a significant revenue driver. CEO Lawrence Ho told Bloomberg Television in a recent interview that the company’s rising profits at a time the overall market is declining demonstrates its strategy is working. “It’s really a validation of our strategy over the last ten or fifteen years, which is to focus on the rising middle class in China, rather than focusing on the junket rolling VIP business. And so while the market is down, we are enjoying a record year,” Ho said. “I’m bullish for the future as well, because with the integration of Macau into the Greater Bay Area, and the massive infrastructure improvement projects that have been years in the making but are coming to fruition… I think the future of Macau really as the tourism capital within the Greater Bay Area is solidified.”

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020





Will Abe’s IR bulldozer hit a wall? On the issue of IR development in Japan, the Shinzo Abe government has acted like a political bulldozer, assuming that the opposition parties and the majority opinion of the Japanese people could be swept aside by overwhelming force. This approach has taken them a long way forward, but the costs are now mounting and the limits may be in sight.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


his characteristic method is being employed once again in relation to the 500 Dot Com bribery scandal. As usual in high profile cases, the prosecutors have been leaking most of the details to the Japanese news media, and the emerging story is a damning one. If the prosecutors are to be believed, the basic story goes as follows. On September 28, 2017, 500 Dot Com adviser Masahiko Konno brought 22.5 million yen (about US$207,000) in cash from Hong Kong to Japan, failing to make the required customs declaration. In the following days and weeks, Konno and his colleague Katsunori Nakazato took bundles of this cash, in bags or envelopes, and delivered cash bribes to six Japanese lawmakers on behalf of 500 Dot Com, which at that time aimed to be licensed as an IR operator in Japan. The largest sum—3 million yen—was allegedly handed over to state minister of the Cabinet Office Tsukasa Akimoto, who was then in charge of compiling the nation’s IR policy regulations. Akimoto has been arrested by prosecutors. Apparently guilty of the same crime of bribe-taking, although at the lower sum of 1 million yen each, are five additional lawmakers. Among these five is the very prominent procasino lawmaker Takeshi Iwaya, who is a familiar figure at IR industry events, having been a keynote speaker on multiple occasions. One of the allegedly bribed politicians, Mikio Shimoji, who also happens to be the only one who wasn’t a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, has admitted receiving the bribe. Interesting for our purposes is the stark difference in how Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui, head of the Japan Innovation Party (Osaka Ishin), handled the matter as compared to the Abe government. Matsui, as well as his junior colleague, Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura, made very clear that they have zero tolerance for this kind of corruption. They rejected Mikio Shimoji’s offer to resign from the party and they expelled him instead. They followed up with a new policy stipulating that any company or individual connected to the IR industry would no longer be welcome at any of their lawmakers’ fundraising parties. The Abe government, through the person of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, took the opposite tack, suggesting that 500 Dot Com’s alleged bribery has absolutely nothing to do with IR policy and is nothing more than an irrelevant distraction. There was no talk of punishing


lawmakers who might have accepted bribes, no open admonition to anyone thinking about taking bribes, and no new policies to combat bribe-taking within the ruling party ranks. Suga simply pledged to advance IR development as scheduled so that the Japanese people, eventually, would see the positive results. Hardly for the first time, Abe and Suga are essentially defying anyone to stop them. The public arguments they are making are illogical and even demonstrably false, but they know that the opposition parties are too divided and weak to hold them to account. There’s no plausible alternative government waiting in the wings, and they know it. But if the Abe government is insulated from the Japanese public, that’s not equally true for the local governments that are now engaged in IR bids. Many of them can indeed be defeated in elections, and they are thus directly exposed to local public opinion.

So while at the national level the opposition parties are planning to submit legislation that would abolish the 2016 IR Promotion Act and completely reverse the national policy, this effort is almost certain to fail. Most likely, the Abe government will contemptuously dismiss the bill and have little difficulty in doing so. The outcomes at the local level, however, may indeed be put in jeopardy by the 500 Dot Com bribery scandal. The conservative Hokkaido governor has already declined to make an IR bid, with the inability of ruling party assemblymen to back the initiative being a key factor. The Chiba mayor has also backed out of the IR race. The biggest remaining local battleground, obviously, is Yokohama—both because it would likely host the nation’s largest IR, and because the city administration is already battling hostile local opinion opposed to the IR construction initiative at Yamashita Pier.

world count of gaming machines EGMs 2018 and % change from 2017 Japan








Persons per machine


Percentage of world



Japan 58%



Macau 0.22%



Philippines 0.27% (Source: Gaming Technologies Association)

EY wins Yokohama advisory contract

Japan to help finance luxury hotels

EY Japan has pulled down a major IR advisory contract with the Yokohama municipal government scheduled to run through March 2022. The value of the contract is estimated to be about JPY217 million (US$2 million). EY Japan will assist the Yokohama municipal government in forming and implementing its IR policies, including the selection of an IR operator partner. The same firm, EY Japan, won the earlier advisory contract for the Yokohama RFI, and won an initial contract to produce an IR study for the city that was published in March 2017. EY Japan has also been advising the Wakayama and Aichi prefectural governments on their potential IR bids.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says that the government is planning to assist the private sector in the financing of about fifty luxury hotels throughout Japan due to demand created by the increase in tourism. “We’ll offer financial aid through the Development Bank of Japan using a fiscal investment and loan program in order to support hotel development,” Suga explained. The government wishes to attract a larger number of affluent tourists to Japan, and in fact this is one of the key objectives of its push for the creation of three IRs in the second half of the 2020s. Suga’s comments did not make clear whether or not luxury hotels within the prospective IRs will be eligible for the special government financial support.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


south korea

Japan clouds Korea’s IR-hub aspirations South Korea wants to turn the area near Incheon International Airport into a version of Manila’s Entertainment City, but its vision is at risk from competition from Japan.


However, locals are banned from gambling n December, the Incheon Metropolitan Government reaffirmed its optimism except in a remote mountainous resort that the Yeongjong-do Integrated Resort owned by Kangwon Land. This puts it at a Cluster Project will become a “hub of major disadvantage when compared with the culture and tourism industry in North Asia,” Philippines’ Entertainment City, where the with the potential to create some 20,000 jobs, IRs enjoy strong local support. Japan is also generating economic benefits of about $1.68 expected to permit its nationals into casinos with an entry-fee system similar to Singapore. billion annually. The 2017 crisis sparked by the U.S. deployment However, at the G2E @ the Philippines trade show in Manila in late 2019, Nicholas Kim, project of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense director of the Incheon Free Economic Zone, (THAAD) system on the Korean peninsula observed that before Japan opened the door highlighted the issues faced by locals-only casinos. Beijing banned to IRs, global operators group travel, which lined up by the dozens triggered a 61 percent in response to requests drop in Chinese arrivals for proposals in Incheon. The more from March to October Now, he said, the IFEZ has to wait days or weeks for important, I believe, in that year. Those tensions have one or two expressions is the expats: now waned and tourism of interest. the Chinese, recovered strongly last Kim said South Korea year. Paradise Co. casinos has about 65 percent Japanese and in Incheon, Seoul, Busan of an anticipated $10 other international and Jeju Island saw casino billion in funding for revenues increase 23.4 the market. By contrast, residents who percent year-on-year in several operators bidding reside in Seoul. 2019, reaching KRW on Japan have pledged 784.8 billion (US$673.1 that much for a single IR. million). The increase Currently, there is was largely the result of just one casino resort in Incheon: Paradise City, a venture between a jump in casino revenue from its Incheon South Korea’s Paradise Co. and Japan’s Sega IR Paradise City, which was up 51.2 percent Sammy. But two more are in the works: the $700 from 2018. “We’ve seen exciting year-on-year growth million Caesars Korea, which is due to open in 2021, and Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment’s and definite recovery from the downtrend of Inspire, with a price tag of at least $3.5 billion, the past few years,” said Michael Zhu, gaming analyst for The Innovation Group. which will open in phases starting in 2022. Although locals can’t gamble, they are a Two non-gaming resorts are also planned, but they will be run by gaming companies, significant source of non-gaming revenue and Philippine-based Bloomberry Resorts and Japanese the IRs are offering an abundance of leisure pachinko firm Maruhan Co Ltd., presumably attractions, such as Paradise City Incheon’s new Wonderbox fantasy theme park, which leaving the door open to more gaming. Incheon’s appeal lies in its proximity to opened in March. “While locals cannot walk into a casino, cities in Northern China and in Japan and in the attraction of cultural phenomena, such as K-Pop. in terms of non-gaming revenue, the local

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020

or domestic segment is the largest,” he said. The gaming side relies on several key demographics. “The more important, I believe, is the expats: the Chinese, Japanese and other international residents who reside in Seoul,” along with VIP customers brought in by junket operators, said Zhu. Then there are international visitors. “They can head to the airport, check in their luggage, then hop on a shuttle bus going between Paradise City and the terminals. It’s only a 10-minute ride,” said Zhu. For that reason, Incheon International is a linchpin of the plan to draw more high-value casino customers. It consistently ranks high on the Skytrax list of the world’s best airports,


GROSS GAMING REVENUE Paradise Co. 2019 casino revenue KRW784.8b


GKL 2019 casino revenue KRW493.1b


New Silkroad removes chairman New Silkroad Culturaltainment said it has removed its chairman, Su Bo, and suspended his duties due to an investigation in China into his personal business. The company, which is developing an IR on Jeju Island, said it had taken the steps following a request from its controlling shareholder, Macrolink Group. Su was also an executive director of the company. New Silkroad said that as far as it is aware, the Chinese investigation relates to Su’s personal business and not to the operations of the company. It has appointed Ma Chenshan, a 44-year-old former CCTV reporter as Su’s replacement.

and according to CNN, has the most opulent airport hotel in the world at Paradise City. The airport has set a lofty goal to be the world’s third busiest by 2023, welcoming 93 million passengers a year. That goal may be within reach: Incheon is just 90 minutes by air from Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo. However, Japan is still seen as the main regional prize. In Asia, international gaming operators and developers “focus so much on Japan because the stakes there are simply much higher,” with GGR estimates in the $25 billion range, said Zhu. “It kind of shadows the future for Incheon itself.” “Three years ago, I would have said definitely

that Incheon would be the next Entertainment City. I am not changing that, especially in the long run. I think they will get there. However, the issue is the potential threat from Japan.” Steve Norton, CEO of casino consultancy Norton Management, said: “If Japan gets its act together, allowing residents a way to play, doesn’t restrict casino size and games too much or require an unrealistic investment, then many gamblers now visiting Macau, South Korea and the Philippines will consider Japan as a destination,” said Norton. “This will have a meaningful impact on South Korea, which could only be offset if locals were allowed to play, which would decimate Kangwon Land.”

Fornaro quits IGT for Coupang Alberto Fornaro, CFO for International Game Technology (IGT), resigned in December to join Coupang, South Korea’s largest eCommerce platform and one of the fastest-growing consumer internet companies in the world. “It has been a great honor to serve as IGT CFO and to participate in the company’s success during the last eight years. With the recent completion of important refinancing activity and a strong finance organization in place, it is the right time for me to move on to a new challenge,” Fornaro said in a press release.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020



Primorye promises expansion Development in Russia’s Primorye gambling zone is gathering pace, with a second resort scheduled to open this year and ongoing expressions of investor interest in projects in the territory, according to officials.


here will be at least 11 casino hotels built in the Primorye Gambling Zone in Russia’s Far East by 2023, acting regional vice governor Konstantin Shestakov said during a recent visit to the zone. The total amount of investments under the existing agreements is RUB 78.5 billion ($1.2 billion). The project participants are seven companies from Hong Kong, China, the Kingdom of Cambodia, Russia and South Korea. By the end of next year, at least three of these will be operating, he said. “We have entered the final stage of constructing two new entertainment complexes with casinos in the gambling zone. An investor from Cambodia is completing an 11-story hotel with a casino and a concert hall, while a Russian investor, Shambhala CJSC, will launch its casino tentatively in March 2020. Workers are already finishing the building,” he said.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020

The project developer, Primorsky Krai Development Corporation JSC, controls the work of a contractor responsible for the construction of transport and engineering infrastructure, and also works with investors. Its executive director said that “There has not been such [a level of] activity at the construction site for a long time, the territory is getting a new look. Contractors work simultaneously with investors. Highway construction is underway – we will put asphalt when it gets warmer, just in time for the completion of investor facilities. Sewer systems and drainage systems are also being built, electric networks are being laid,” he added. According to him, the corporation is increasingly receiving requests from foreign and Russian companies regarding the construction of casinos in the IRC “Primorye”. “Two sites are currently free for the construction of a hotel complex with a casino,

and there are companies that [are showing] interest. We are also negotiating the creation of entertainment facilities. An application has already been submitted for the construction of a golf course, we are establishing contacts with operators of large projects from the global entertainment industry,” he said. The first gambling facility to be opened in the gambling zone was the Tigre de Cristal, which was launched in 2015. Every year, it brings to the state coffers almost half a billion rubles, more than half of which goes to the budget of Primorye. The resort, which is operated by a unit of Hong Kong-listed Summit Ascent, is currently planning the second stage of development, as well as refining its offering to appeal to VIP players. The company has pushed back the opening of Phase II until early 2022 due to design changes from Suncity Group, which bought a


stake from Taiwan’s First Steamship Co. in April 2019 becoming the largest single shareholder. The first stage of Phase II is expected to have more than double the existing capacity in guest rooms and gaming facilities. It will also include four restaurants and bars, an indoor beach club, a duty-free shopping mall, and multipurpose MICE facilities. Since the opening, Tigre de Cristal has been visited by 1.5 million people. Summit Ascent says it expects to feel the benefit of the cluster effect from the opening of new properties by 2021, or 2022. After Shambala’s opening, Cambodian operator Nagacorp is expected to be the next in line. Its project has been delayed, although is now expected towards the end of this year. The group has committed to invest $350 million in the resort. The Primorsky Krai region, which is seen as the most promising of Russia’s gaming zones, was recently included as part of Russia’s Tax Free pilot program, which provides a system of preferential VAT returns. The pilot will run until the end of this year. “The number of foreign tourists with us continues to grow, this is good for the country. To strengthen the effect on the economy as a whole, we must develop infrastructure and improve the quality of services,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on announcing the inclusion.

Crimea eyes 2023 for casino completion The Investment Council of the Russia-controlled republic of Crimea has supported the construction project of a gambling zone on its southern coast, with a total investment of more than RUB 3 billion (US$48.4 million). The project will be implemented by a leading investment company in Crimea. The company’s director Denis Kozorez said that the project will create more than 250 additional jobs with planned tax deductions of over RUB 1 billion to budgets of various levels over the next 10 years. The gambling zone will include a casino, a hotel complex with apartments, restaurants, cafes, a summer theater, a cinema and concert hall, a conference hall, open areas, a network of internal automobile, bicycle and pedestrian recreational areas, places for sports, outdoor and indoor pools, a parking and transportation service area. The construction of the project is expected to start in 2020 and be completed in 2023.

Sochi gets China flight link The southern Russian city of Sochi has opened up a direct flight route with the Chinese city of Shenzhen. According to Russian media, the launch of the new route was initiated by the Sochi gambling zone Krasnaya Polyana, but it is understood that the costs for operating the flights will be covered by travel company Bcts Travel Service Shenzhen co. For the first trial month, there will be just one flight per week, but from March, if the destination proves popular with Chinese tourists, the number of weekly flights may be extended to four. Previously, visitors from China had to fly there via Moscow or other cities. Sochi has two casinos, including the Sochi Casino and Resort, operated by LLC Domain, and the Boomerang Casino which opened in January 2019.

Summit Ascent 9-month revenue Rolling chip turnover 1H 2019


1H 2018






Slot handle 1H 2019 1H 2018 2018 2017

Mass table drop

HK$1.64b HK$1.34b

HK$2.85b HK$2.19b

1H 2019


1H 2018


2018 2017

HK$700m HK$577m

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020





Australia faces slow growth amidst bush fires, weak VIP Australia’s gaming industry faces an uncertain 2020, as the catastrophic bushfires deter foreign visitation and hit already softening domestic demand.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


he country’s two main operators reported a slowdown in their 2019 statements due to weakness in the VIP market as a result of China’s economic slowdown. They now have to contend with the likelihood of a further downturn in tourism dollars and a drop in discretionary spending at home. Consumer sentiment had already weakened significantly in Australia before Christmas with the Westpac index of consumer sentiment down 1.9 percent in December from the prior month and down 8.9 percent from the year earlier. Domestic revenue is the backbone of Australia’s gaming industry and in the year to end-June had been the bright spot, helping to offset falling VIP spending. “In our view, the fallout from the bushfires may further dampen sentiment towards gaming as domestic leisure travel, or general entertainment spending may be put on hold as people prioritise the rebuilding of those areas destroyed by the fires,” said Fitch Ratings analyst Kelly Amato. “However, we do not see this as likely to have a material impact on the earnings of the casinos, with these revenues having been relatively resilient historically and continuing to be supported by favourable licence conditions (one casino per major city currently). “Likewise, there may be some decline in VIP revenues should foreign VIPs postpone plans to come to Australia owing to the bushfires, however VIP revenues are historically volatile and make up a small proportion of the domestic casinos’ earnings.” Australia’s IRs are mostly located in large urban centers such as Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane, which apart from the smoke have not been affected by the fires. However, the country is estimated to have some 196,301 gaming machines installed in bars and clubs across Australia, representing about 2.6 percent of the global total, according to the Gaming Technologies Association. J.P. Morgan analyst Don Carducci adds that the main impact in terms of Australia’s gaming industry will be on these pubs and clubs in locally affected areas. However, “The casinos will likely see tourism reduced in 2H20 results due to lower inbound visitation,” Carducci said. “I imagine forward bookings for airlines will see commentary in February mention softer trading for mid/late 2020 international volumes.” The bush fires had ravaged an area of 10.7 million acres, bigger than Belgium, as of Jan. 8, devastating large swathes of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. At least 26


people have been killed and more than half a billion animals are thought to have perished, among them critically endangered species that may never recover. In the year to end-September, before the wildfires took hold, Australia had welcomed more than 9.4 million tourists, an increase of 2.7 percent on the prior year. For 2020, Tourism Australia had projected total tourism spending of $44.6 billion, up 5 percent, creating an industry worth between $115 - $120 billion. As of yet, the tourism authorities have not updated their forecasts for the coming year, although analysts estimate a loss of tourism earnings will be a drag on the economy. In early January, Philippa Harrison, managing director of Tourism Australia encouraged visitors to not cancel their plans, pointing out extensive areas of the country remain unaffected. “Whilst bushfires continue to impact parts of Australia, many areas are unaffected and most tourism businesses are still open,” she said in a statement on the organisation’s website. Star Entertainment, which operates a casino in Sydney, The Star Gold Coast and is

developing an IR in Brisbane, cancelled its New Year fireworks display on the Gold Coast as a result of the disaster, saying instead it would donate the funds to firefighting charities. It also donated profit from the sale of drinks at its Garden Kitchen and Bar. “Given the periods of emergency that have existed, and the destruction of property that has taken place, we felt there was a more thoughtful and telling contribution we could make than continuing with our annual fireworks display to welcome in the new year,” Star Gold Coast COO Jess Mellor said. The company has also announced it will grant paid leave to workers volunteering to sign up for emergency services.The gaming and entertainment group has a new company policy allowing four weeks paid leave for workers called into action during natural disasters, which can be increased on request. So far, the group has donated $150,000 to relief efforts. For its part, Crown Resorts and the Packer family foundation have donated $5 million to firefighting and other charities dedicated to helping those affected by the bushfires.



Gaming machines $12.52b


Sports betting $1.23b

Racing $3.54b


Total gambling expenditure 2017/2018 $24.88b


+16.3% (Source: Queensland Government Statistician’s Office)

Donaco suffers boardroom bloodbath Paul Arbuckle tendered his resignation as CEO in December, just days after an Annual General Meeting at which Chairman Stuart McGregor, as well as industry veteran David Green and Yugo Kinohsita of Aruze were removed from the board by shareholders. Arbuckle was only six months into the job. In accordance with his employment contract, Arbuckle has provided six months’ notice, with his final day expected to be June 4, 2020. The Australian Stock Exchange suspended trading of Donaco International after the AGM due to the firm no longer possessing the minimum two directors residing in Australia.

Crown Barangaroo to be open by Christmas Crown Resorts’ Sydney VIP venue is set to open three months ahead of schedule – in Christmas 2020, local media reported company founder James Packer as saying. Packer made the comments whilst touring the construction site of the multi-billion Barangaroo development on Wednesday. Construction is now around 75 percent complete, with 55 floors in place. Crown last year settled a legal dispute with Infrastructure New South Wales (ISNW) over construction plans that would have blocked the resort’s view of Sydney Harbour. The resort will be VIP-only and will not feature any slot machines.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020





Slow but steady progress Vietnam’s gambling industry stayed largely out of the headlines in 2019, though projects have been inching their way forward, with the country’s largest resort to date scheduled to open in the first half of this year.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020




n 2017, the country published new not going to open the gates to purgatory,” legislation to regulate the industry, Lee said, adding however that he sees no easing restrictions on the amount chance of the experiment being extended of invested capital required from $4 to other resorts until the three-year pilot billion to $2 billion and lifting caps on table phase had run its course. The big news out of Vietnam this year numbers. It also introduced a three-year pilot program at two integrated resorts is likely to be the opening of the $4 billion -- one of which still has to be built -- that Hoiana resort in the centre of the country would allow locals to gamble for the first sometime in the first half of this year, delayed time, providing they meet certain require- from a scheduled debut in 2019. The project, in which Suncity has a 34 ments, such as minimum monthly income percent equity stake, is being developed with of VND10 million ($433). The country, with its strong inbound Vinacapital and VMS (a subsidiary of Chow tourism market and expanding economy, is Tai Fook). iGameX carried out the feasibility viewed as a highly promising jurisdiction for study. The first phase of the three-phase international casino investors, though progress resort will include three luxury hotels with has been slow, with missteps along the way. more than 1000 hotel rooms, retail space, a According to Ben Lee, managing partner golf course and food and beverage outlets. It’s expected to debut with 140 tables at iGameX Management, which is involved in projects across Asia, in particular in and 300 electronic gaming machines. The beachfront resort is based near the Vietnam, work is expected to restart this ancient town of Hoi An year on the second resort and is easily accessible that will permit locals. from Danang Airport, The Van Don project which is the third busiest in the far north of the The first resort in Vietnam, with daily country stalled after the in the locals flights to destinations government reneged across the region, inon tax breaks initially pilot scheme is cluding Hong Kong, granted to the develreportedly gaining South Korea, Taiwan oper, Sun Group. The and Japan. two parties have now traction after a In terms of gaming reached an accord and slow start. in Vietnam, analysts the resort is expected to are most optimistic be completed in 2022. about the prospects for The casino operations of the property will be managed by Macau’s the central Danang area, in part due to its connectivity and on the non-gaming side Suncity Group. Sun Group, one of Vietnam’s biggest de- to its popularity as a holiday destination velopers, has invested heavily in infrastructure amongst Vietnamese. Lee said that another large-scale project to improve access to the area. In late 2018, the Van Don International Airport was opened, is under consideration in the central Vietnam the first in the country to be developed by a area, that will be “slightly smaller” than private corporation. The group also inaugu- Hoiana. The resort is currently in the concept rated the Halong International Cruise Port stage, he said, giving no further details. Meanwhile, the Grand Ho Tram Resort, and the Halong Van Don Highway. Meanwhile, the first resort in the locals which opened in 2013, is forging ahead under pilot scheme is reportedly gaining traction new ownership after global investment fund after a slow start. Casino Corona, on Phu Warburg Pincus last year bought a majority Quoc island in the far south of the country, stake in Asian Coast Development, which opened its doors in January 2019 and controls the developer Ho Tram Project Co. The $4.2 billion project has struggled reportedly turned a profit of $4.67 million to gain traction, in part due to accessibility in its first six months of operation. “Phu Quoc is a very nice resort,” Lee said, issues. The highway from the airport in Ho who visited the property last year. “Inside Chi Minh City has been improved, but it is the casino there was quite a bit of activity, still more than a two-hour drive. “It was always a hard sell to get the Chinese with about 12 tables and 90 percent locals.” “Phu Quoc may give (the government) to fly in only to sit in a car for another two confidence that allowing locals gaming is to three hours,” Lee said of Ho Tram.

2019 9-month arrivals TOTAL 12,870,506 Top 5 asian markets China


Korea Japan Taiwan Malaysia

3,140,693 712,532 674,471 433,287 (Source: Vietnam National Administration of Tourism)

Police arrest 10 in multimillion gambling bust Vietnamese authorities arrested 10 people in January in relation to an online, transnational gambling ring, according to local media reports. The ring was busted on January 8, when police found 117 ATM cards, 55 personal IDs and other evidence related to gambling and organizing gambling online.The actual gambling site was hosted outside Vietnam, police said. The ring collaborated with accomplices in Vietnam to advertise the site and attract thousands of players to it, they added. Transactions in Vietnam have amounted to at least VND1 trillion ($43 million), preliminary investigations have found.

Suncity lends $17m to Hoiana developer Suncity Group has agreed to loan $17 million to the developer of the Hoiana Resort in central Vietnam to help finish the project. The five-year loan has been granted to GYE, which is a 50/50 joint venture between Suncity unit Star Admiral and Alpha Era, which has also agreed to extend the same amount to GYE. “Upon the successful implementation of the project in Vietnam, it is expected that there are business prospects and also room (for) business growth for GYE,” Suncity said in a Hong Kong Stock Exchange filing. “In light of the increasing demand for tourism-related business in the South East Asia region, the board holds a positive outlook for the project in the future and it is expected that the group will benefit from the future success of GYE.”

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020



Government means business with online ban Cambodia’s online gaming ban, which came into effect as of Jan. 1st, has triggered mass layoffs and the shutdown of numerous casinos, and is not expected to be lifted due to pressure from the Chinese government.


rime Minister Hun Sen announced said Danny Too, general manager of Cherry the crackdown in August last year Interactive. “Before that meeting took place, after rampant expansion of the online many non Chinese operators were still clinging gaming industry, particularly in the onto some glimmer of hope that they can coastal town of Sihanoukville, led to soaring continue to operate and relocate under the protection of some prominent companies.” crime rates and rising prices for locals. The online gaming ban has placed a At the time, the announcement was made, Beijing had made its displeasure at online gaming major question mark over the viability of operations targeting Chinese nationals clearly Sihanoukville as a gaming hub, at least in the known through an unusual statement through short term. The rampant and uncontrolled its embassy in the Philippines. Manila has moved construction that had been taking place has to tighten regulation on its industry, but it has caused untold environmental and social not followed through on an outright ban like damage, ruining the town’s prior reputation Cambodia, whose economy is more heavily reliant as an unspoiled beach haven. Without the online on Chinese investment. revenue, many of the According to Camboland-based casinos will dian government figures struggle given the limited from last September, there The fact is tourism footfall. were estimated to be about many casinos “The fact is many ca61 casinos operating in have closed and sinos have closed and not Sihanoukville out of a total the small operators,” of 133 across Cambodia. not just the small just said Dominick Stenson, About 46 percent of all new operators. casino director at Queenco license applications had Casino. “The ban has hit been centered on the town. those that were very much Ros Phirun, deputy reliant on online business director general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said as of supporting their offline live game business.” “Many online/offline operators could early January that number had shrunk to 56 operating casinos, with no new applications afford to be very generous with their offers pending, Nationwide there are now thought to to their live game players, who were in a large part online agents, construction workers and be about 118 properties in operation. In terms of online operators in Sihanounkville, related affiliates, as they fed and grew the experts estimate up to 200 may have been active lucrative online business.” “The previous model, although lucrative prior to the ban. Local media has reported more than 7,000 workers have lost their jobs, with for everyone who had a stake in the dramatic many seeking to return to nearby factories, while rise, was unsustainable.” The government, with help from China, rental values and property prices have tumbled. “On 30 December 2019, all the online has pledged investment to upgrade the town’s gaming operators were asked to have a meeting sorely lacking infrastructure, including $300 with the Ministry of Interior of Cambodia. million alone to rebuild roads. Construction During that meeting, all the operators were is progressing on a new highway linking told very clearly that there will be no more the capital with Sihanoukville, improving online gaming starting from 1 January 2020,” access to the resort.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020

It also plans to upgrade sewerage and drainage systems. “ The push to complete the major infrastructure changes are ruthlessly underway,” Stenson says. “The necessary road construction and drainage solution is taking no prisoners, on many occasions at the expense of small businesses who have seen their access completely blocked and with no alternative but to shut up shop and wait until it’s finished. Many casinos have seen their driveways and parking halved to accommodate the road widening.”


In the longer term, there is some optimism Sihanoukville may be a viable resort destination, supported by its proximity to a large manufacturing base in the form of the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone, located 3km from the airport. Spreading over an area of 11 sqm, the zone will host 300 companies once fully built out with plans to employ as many as 100,000 workers. The airport supports about 30 flights a day from Mainland China, with penetration into many second-tier Chinese cities. “The middle to long term future is without doubt still positive,” Stenson says. “The Government is serious about making sure the city will have the right foundations to grow into a major casino and tourist destination, even if they and some influential landowners are taking a hit right now.” Conventional wisdom says that an online presence in some form, be it streaming only on a B2B basis, or other is necessary so as to stimulate the market again, but in a more controlled manner. This I am sure will be under serious consideration once the gaming legislation is finalised sometime this year,” he adds.

GROSS GAMING REVENUE Nagacorp 9 mo. to end Sept. GGR $1.27b


EGM bill ins $2.05b


VIP rollings $38.86b


Mass market buy ins $1.22b


Naga ends protest without pay hike A group of NagaCorp workers that went on strike to dispute wages returned to work without any wage increases. In a statement, NagaCorp said it was only a “small group” of employees that participated in the strike. The casino operator said it obtained a court injunction from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on January 8, which ruled that the planned employees’ strike on January 9 was considered an illegal strike and that any participant would be considered to be committing a grave offense. The court ruling also ordered an investigation into the strike and necessary legal action against any employee involved in it, said the company. NagaCorp in its filing, noted it had a workforce of approximately 8,200 employees.

Court rules in favor of Donaco in asset spat A Cambodian appeals court has ruled in favor of Donaco International, allowing the company to retain ownership of various assets at its Star Vegas business, which were being disputed by its former Thai vendor as part of a “campaign of legal harassment” against the company. The spat between Donaco and its Thai vendors first came about after Donaco launched legal proceedings which alleged its three Thai vendors were running a neighboring competing business in breach of their contract. The vendors retaliated in 2018 by initiating the termination of the lease agreement with Donaco, citing the casino operator’s lack of rental payment. They also made two attempts in the lower court to seize various assets of the Star Vegas business, purportedly as security for the vendor’s claim for its FY17 management fee. Now that the appeal court has ruled in Donaco’s favor, Donaco said there has been no further appeal in this matter.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Recognising reality At the start of a new decade, the iGaming industry in Asia is still seen as a land of opportunity, though companies are perhaps more realistic about the hurdles they may face, coming to terms with the fact that sheer market size is not a guarantee of success for all.


n this edition of Asia Gaming Briefings, we dedicate our focus section to online gambling in Asia, looking at the outlook for 2020 and beyond. After a difficult year in 2019, with Cambodia shutting its door to the industry and the Philippines putting a moratorium on further growth, we take stock of the state-of-play, emerging trends and marketing tactics. Our first article delves into the potential of blockchain in gambling. The technology is attracting significant attention, especially for its uses in igaming, however, the land-based sector too is starting to take notice. We speak to Melco Resorts & Entertainment’s Global Chief Information Officer Avery Palos, who is widely recognised as being one of the leading figures when it comes to blockchain in gaming. He outlines some of the ways the technology is being trialled across the company’s integrated resorts and in particular discusses an ambitious project to use blockchain to help operators meet their responsibilities when it comes to responsible gaming. Our second piece tackles the thorny issue of marketing online services in Asia. A growing number of companies are using influencer marketing to attract highly social media savvy clients across the region. The practice is evolving from the use of a high-profile, celebrity name to a more nuanced and authentic approach, seeking characters who have more affinity with the brands and products they are seeking to promote. We look at the

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020

advantages of this approach to connecting with new players and the potential pitfalls. We also look at the general outlook for the industry after last year’s setbacks and how companies operating in Asia will need to adopt the best practices possible when it comes to their compliance departments, in the absence of any meaningful regulation on the ground. For our final article, we examine some of the trends in content provision across the region. We find that there are very few areas where online operators can argue that there is a one-size fits all solution. Instead there is a need for products that are increasingly tailored to individual markets. On top of that, within these markets, personalisation is also gaining in prominence. The use of jackpots and individual promotional tools is evolving quickly as improvements in technology and data collection allow firms to swiftly identify player preferences. Unfortunately, what isn’t discussed in these pages is the hope that these grey and black Asian markets will become fully regulated igaming jurisdictions any time soon. Hopes for incremental progress were dashed by Beijing’s dictat last year, calling on its Asian neighbours to help stamp out the scourge of online gaming, which it blames for rising social crime at home. In terms of regulation, attention this year is more likely to be focused on India, where individual states continue to test the bounds of the law when it comes to online skill-based gaming.


Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Melco bets on blockchain as part of innovation drive Melco Resorts & Entertainment is increasingly bullish on the disruptive impact of blockchain technology on the casino floor, with projects already live and more in the pipeline.


eading up Melco’s blockchain activity is global chief information officer Avery Palos, who spoke to AGB about the way it can revolutionize the way casinos operate. Palos has spent almost six years with Melco, having joined from Las Vegas Sands in 2014, and he oversees the way technology is delivered across all facets of the company, with a focus on next generation tools including AI, big data, biometrics - and blockchain. “Melco CEO Lawrence Ho has been driving tech as an enabler for the casino industry for many years now,” Palos told AGB. “We recognise that blockchain technology has the potential to unleash a revolution across casino floors.” Palos initially became interested in blockchain technology a couple of years ago, reading and researching the topic against the backdrop of Bitcoin’s headline-grabbing surge in value, which saw it reach $20,000 by the end of 2017 before rapidly retracing.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020

One Bitcoin is currently trading at around $7,000. But it was the underlying blockchain technology, as opposed to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which caught his attention. “I found the potential applications of distributed ledger technology (DLT) extremely interesting. It didn’t take a huge leap of imagination to see how this technology could be used on the casino floor. “New technologies can reach a tipping point for adoption very quickly. A few years ago Las Vegas casino floors were packed with quarter slots. Today they have almost fully been replaced by TITO slots.” To prepare for such a potential revolution, Melco has moved quickly to implement real-world use cases for blockchain technology on its casino floors. The first of these sees the operator using BigchainDB, a blockchain database, to immutably capture all cage transactions across its properties in Macau, Manila and Cyprus.


The blockchain is integrated with Melco’s proprietary casino management system, and was picked because of its speed, which enables it to process upwards of 30,000 transactions per second, comfortably keeping pace with Melco’s server-based databases. Palos said the system, which has been in operation for about a year, showed that blockchain can already bring demonstrable benefits to casinos. Melco’s second project is rather more ambitious in its scope: a blockchain designed to allow the future casino licensees of Japan to more efficiently deliver upon responsible gaming obligations. Operators across jurisdictions have often struggled to link up protections for at-risk players; it can often take hours or days for a player, who has self-excluded from one casino to be self-excluded from others. Melco is betting that blockchain tech can help operators meet the requirements of the Japanese framework by cutting down on time lags and providing a secure environment through which operators can share the vital customer information. “Blockchain can bring together three operators and the regulator in Japan. It is a scenario where operators are not keen to share customer data. This technology

provides a trustless framework where it can happen.” Palos said that Melco has held encouraging talks with the Japanese regulator about the project. Elsewhere, and particularly in Macau, regulators have tended to take a hands off approach to blockchain technology. While we are unlikely to see Bitcoin on the casino floor any time soon, Palos

Blockchain can bring together three operators and the regulator in Japan.

stressed that there is a big opportunity for regulators to bolster safeguards by embracing the technology. “The default is to assume regulators are afraid of blockchain. But if used intelligently, it can really aid regulators in doing their job. Financial transactions, tax, responsible gaming data, the veracity of games - all this can be

written in a permanent, immutable record on the blockchain. It gives regulators the chance to have complete oversight on activity.” Next on the agenda will be exploring other areas where blockchain technology can have a positive impact with the casino sector. Palos concedes that progress can be slow; casino providers have yet to truly embrace blockchain, so off-the-shelf solutions are generally a little limited. Some are trying to change this, including AXES, which is developing blockchain-based casino solutions, and Cammegh, which recently integrated blockchain technology from CasinoCoin into its roulette wheels. “There is an opportunity for blockchain companies which have not previously worked with casinos to enter the space. I am hopeful of seeing new entrants over the coming months,” he said. In-house development, which Melco has focused upon, also comes with challenges, particularly in terms of hiring the best talent in a competitive yet still relatively small field. Nonetheless, Melco has additional blockchain-based projects on its roadmap, although Palos is coy when it comes to revealing the details. “We are clearly excited by the possibilities of this technology. We are just getting started.”

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Influencing the outcome Easy to implement and highly effective, influencer marketing is fast becoming an essential component of the online marketing toolbox, with as many as 65 percent of marketers having increased their influencer marketing budgets in 2019.


ccording to Business Insider Intelligence, brands are set to spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022, up from $8 billion spent in 2019. This comes parallel with a general shift away from self-promotional tactics to more nuanced inbound strategies in the marketing industry. This has become especially the case for online gaming companies, who see influencer marketing as a way to circumvent often strict regulations in advertising. Bhavesh Parthi, Head of Affiliates at Asia Oppo Ltd, an online betting company, attributes the growth of influencer marketing to consumer demand for greater authenticity from their brands. “Everyone now relies on the internet and social media when it comes to recommendations and reviews, with influencers now playing a much larger

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020

role in helping, or swaying a buyer’s final decision making,” he said. The concept of influencer marketing, however, is not new. For decades, variations of influencer marketing have existed in traditional advertising - in the form of celebrity endorsements. In the land-based casino sector, football superstar David Beckham has been the official brand ambassador for Las Vegas Sands’ Asian properties since 2013, utilizing his popularity amongst football fans to promote new openings and developments for LVS in Asia. But brands, especially those online, have started to move away from celebrity or “mega influencers,” opting instead for “nano”, or “niche” influencers those who have a smaller following but make up for it by being highly engaged and respected by a brand’s target audience.


“With influencers [now] able to generate substantial income as an affiliate, more people are moving into this field, be it as a stable income or as a side income,” said Parthi. However, whilst nano-influencer deals are cheaper and easier to implement, experts warn that online gaming brands will still need to be smart to avoid wasting their marketing dollars, and to navigate murky advertising rules. “There is the challenge of gambling being one of the most regulated sectors in the world, and where it is not regulated it is prohibited or even illegal,” said Christina Thakor-Rankin, Principal Consultant of 1710 Gaming. “Social media sites themselves have constantly changing views about the promotion of adult products as well, meaning what is allowed one week may not be if public opinion changes. This poses a real issue for anyone looking for a long-term opportunity,” she added. These challenges extend to the influencers themselves, who need to work hard to be noticed amongst the growing competition and avoid breaking local laws. “Old school affiliates had it easy compared to the new generation of influencers,” said Thakor-Rankin. “Aside from operating in a saturated and highly competitive marketplace, social media affiliates operating in the betting

and gambling space also have the tricky problem of regulation to navigate.” In 2018, Irish glamour model Jesse Vard, 19, became one of fifteen “net pretties” nabbed by authorities for violating Thailand’s gambling laws by promoting World Cup wagering for online wagering company SBOBET. The women were sentenced for violating Section 12 of Thailand’s Anti-Gambling Act, specifically in their promotion of online gaming sites that were not authorized to operate in the country. “Influencers have had to be smart and careful while promoting betting brands in Asia, as online betting/casino is still considered somewhat taboo in many communities,” said Parthi. “From not revealing their true identities online or even working under a pseudonym and using fake photographs, or even having their faces replaced by cartoon characters during live or recorded streams where their face is shown.” So far, Instagram, Facebook and social media messaging apps, such as WeChat and Telegram, have been used by online gaming brands across all territories - with each platform coming with numerous strategies to avoid detection or a ban. It’s a constant game of cat and mouse that needs to be played to circumvent administrators and the authorities, explains Parthi.

Thus, when it comes to influencer marketing, success is all about securing the right person for the job. “Successful engagement today is all about authenticity,” said Thakor-Rankin. Most customers today are aware that a recommendation or endorsement on social media is as likely to be driven purely by financial interest rather than actual interest in the product itself compared to a would-be Kim Kardashian gushing about the bonus round on a slot game.” “Taking those very things that make social media a success, a smart influencer can tap into the fact that sport (watching, playing, punditry and betting) can be social and multi-generational, as can other gambling products such as bingo, poker, table games, esports, and multiplayer slots, making it not just about winning.” “The thing to bear in mind at all times is that any influencing has to be predicated on authenticity and the experience,” she said. Finally, Parthi said it is imperative for a brand to create tight-binding and enforceable contracts with its paid-influencers. “Not all influencers out there can be trusted. Scams or backing out of a deal after payment is common. Therefore proper black & white agreements between each party are a must,” he said.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


2020 and beyond: Challenges and opportunities for iGaming in Asia The digital economy of Asia is continuing to grow at an incredible rate as we enter a new decade, and one of the biggest beneficiaries of this is the e-Gaming industry. Tony Jones*


ambling is a traditional and important part of Asian culture, and with a growing middleclass market and an increasingly tech-savvy and outward-looking youth, the prospects for businesses catering to Asia look increasingly bright, with those who offer the highest quality products likely to benefit most. According to Transparency Market Research, the online gambling & betting market in Asia will grow at a significant compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14 percent between 2018 and 2026. Investment opportunities Investment opportunities have become more evident in Asia as a result of e-Gaming sector growth, whether this be technological innovation in infrastructure right through to supporting running gambling operations. The recent developments in Cambodia and the PAGCOR imposed moratorium on new licensees may have cast doubt on the attraction of further investment in these regions, however companies and investors affected by these developments do have options further afield. There are opportunities for Asian operators looking

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020

to expand into the West, and with the M&A activity associated with maturing markets, there are opportunities for Western operators to increase their market reach into Asia. The robust yet flexible regulation available by licensing in a top-tier international business centre, such as the Isle of Man, ensures quality corporate governance which in turn increases the attractiveness of companies to investors as well as opening new doors in other geographical areas. Newer business models, such as those enabled through crypto-currency and blockchain technology, are interesting areas for investors, with potentially very lucrative results. Blockchain technology is becoming ever more popular in the gaming sector, as evidenced by the increase in applications the Isle of Man has received for gaming operations utilising this tech and savvy investors will be keeping up to date with related developments and opportunities. Challenges for operators Despite the phenomenal growth over the last decade or two, there are several challenges facing operators targeting the Asian market. The region is very


fragmented with some countries encouraging the online gaming sector, some discouraging it, some enforcing outright bans and some with un-enforced legislation. Most countries are in a state of flux, often leaving operators in a state of confusion, with regulations and requirements changing regularly. Therefore ensuring the compliance function within a company is operating to high standards is essential. The compliance teams will have different levels of compliance requirements to adhere to for each jurisdiction, so often operating to the highest standards is the best way to ensure all markets are covered, especially as AML/CFT/Source of Wealth requirements are becoming ever more important in the modern world of international trade and no company wants to be associated with tainted funds. Other challenges for e-Gaming operators in Asia include satisfying local languages and customs protocols, understanding regional game type preferences and securing an easy and secure mechanism for transferring money. The regulatory landscape is also adapting quickly, meaning operators must deal with inconsistency regarding regulation and rules, however as the e-Gaming sector evolves and develops in the region, these challenges can be overcome. Conclusion The e-Gaming market in Asia is maturing, with competition intensifying amongst companies for dominance in the region. For companies to thrive, it is crucial that they satisfy the demands of modern consumers by embracing industry and technological trends, and providing innovative solutions, in order to stand out in the market. Reputable operators targeting this market are looking for jurisdictions in which to base their operations, that have a strong reputation for compliance and strike a balance between keeping crime out and supporting high quality businesses. * Tony Jones is e-Gaming Development Manager at Digital Isle of Man. Digital Isle of Man is responsible for the digital sector in the Isle of Man, spanning the Island’s international e-Gaming industry, digital economy, and digital media sector. Digital Isle of Man works with Government, private industry and key associations to create the right environment for the sector to flourish.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2019


Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Tailored-made approach key to cracking Asia Tailored content that embraces Asia’s nuances will be key to success in a region where there are few common denominators on which providers can build strategies for the new decade.


hen asked to provide trends that span the entire continent, experts point to just two common themes. Beyond that, they say companies need to provide unique solutions. The first common thread is the growth in mobile gaming on the back of the adoption of mobile phones in Asia. According to GSMA Intelligence, although growth of mobile phone adoption is slowing in Asia-Pacific, with 466 million new subscribers since 2014, the region will still account for more than half of new sign-ups globally by 2025. Around 90 percent of these subscribers will come from India, China, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines. It is therefore going to be more important than

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020

ever to provide games that are truly optimised for mobile in Asia. “Unprecedented smartphone adoption rates evident across the region are unlocking ample opportunities both in RNG content and in live casino, the popularity of which is growing significantly with improvements to mobile optimisation,� says Bryan Upton, director of games at NetEnt. Another increasingly apparent gameplay trend, according to the likes of former RTG Asia chief marketing officer Alex Czajkowski, is that while punters in the west continue to prefer mediumvolatility games, in Asia there tends to be an initial desire for low-volatility games. With these, the players typically spend longer on one slot and money


is spent more slowly, before they switch up to medium-volatility offerings. Arguably though, that is where the market-to-market similarities grind to a halt. The contrasting demographics within Asia’s leading gambling markets, coupled with the continent’s gradual transition from a single-solution to a sophisticated multivendor market for operators – as has been outlined by Nektan interim CEO, executive director and founder Gary Shaw – means that Asia-based operators are less reliant on turnkey solutions and can pick and choose providers for specific product offerings. Presenting a one-size-fits-all proposition, without consideration of regional characteristics, will therefore become increasingly tough to sell. “Asia is an extremely large and diverse continent, so it is important to approach the region on a market-by-market basis,” Upton said. “Maintaining cultural relevance is fundamental to appealing to the vast array of playing styles and tastes that exist in Asian territories and given the increased competition in the region, creating content through a European lens will only deliver sub-optimum content that fails to resonate with local audiences.” On a similar note, and with user expectations

rocketing across the continent, personalisation of content will play a vital role in enhancing the gameplay experience. “Understanding the varied player preferences specific to individual markets is becoming ever-more crucial in Asia as online gaming matures,” Upton adds. “Consistency in all aspects of a game, from math-models and mechanics to aesthetics and themes, needs to be evident throughout a supplier’s portfolio in order to stand out amongst crowded casino lobbies. “At the same time, we’re seeing jackpots and promotional tools take off at a rate that is almost surpassing Europe and we expect to see more development in this area. Speed is also very important, as in fast load times and spin times.” The technology to support lofty gameplay expectations is improving throughout the region. “Improvements in platform technology and remote server-based gaming have advanced the online slots offering significantly in the region,” Upton says. “With the breakdown of technical challenges that have traditionally limited the boundaries of innovation in slot design in certain Asian markets, we’re now able to

produce more immersive titles that excel in terms of gameplay and providing a seamless player experience. “Couple that with advanced data modelling and player segmentation techniques and we’re able to produce and collate content precisely tailored to Asia’s diverse and fragmented markets.” Whereas in 2018 there were signs that an increasing number of territories were moving towards adopting coherent gambling regulations to bring clarity to grey markets, China unquestionably added a layer of uncertainty in 2019, especially in Southeast Asia. Beijing applied pressure on neighbouring countries such as the Philippines and Cambodia to curb their online gaming activities, with the latter having effectively shut down its igaming industry as a result. Looking forward, though, suppliers remain generally buoyant about regulatory progress across the region, with the likes of Ivan Rozic, NSoft’s senior vice-president for sales and marketing, suggesting that five-to-10 years of high growth are likely, with sports betting set to be an increasingly popular vertical. Upton also agrees with Rozic that there is particular cause for optimism in India, which the former says has “the potential to become a critical market if and when a supportive regulatory regime is given the green light by lawmakers”. Aside from China’s sprawling influence, a general move towards softening legislative restrictions across the region has allowed home-grown start-ups to provide competition to established international operators and suppliers. “Asia’s long-standing back-drop of regulatory uncertainty and political instability will of course present challenges, but that is where suppliers with experience in the region will have the upper hand. With any luck, we will see countries on the fence of legalisation advance their regulatory regimes,” Upton says. “I strongly believe that 2020 will spawn a new phase of growth for the RNG casino vertical, with the combination of developments in promotion tools, mechanical features and the underlying platform technology creating a foundation on which innovation can thrive. “The pace of newcomers entering the supplier market has kept those that have dominated over the last years on their toes. To maintain strong positions, informed innovation in product development and access to data will become ever more central to business strategies.”

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020




Philippines appeases China on POGOs Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte claims to have China’s backing for its handling of its online gaming industry, potentially providing some clarity to the market after a year of uncertainty.


019 was undoubtedly a dark year for igaming in Asia after Beijing finally decided it would no longer tolerate online gaming firms targeting its nationals. After years of turning a blind eye, tensions rose to a boiling point amidst reports of kidnapping and loan sharks, not to mention tax avoidance and illegal workers. In August, the Chinese Embassy in Manila put out a statement urging cooperation to stamp out online gaming. Cambodia immediately obeyed, banning the industry outright from the beginning of this year, though the Philippines has resisted, saying instead it would improve regulation. In a recent interview with local media, Duterte said he had won the Chinese government’s understanding on Manila’s handling of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO). “If there is a need to deport, arrest, then they’re keeping their hands away from all these things. [We] have the prerogative to do what [we] want to enforce the law. In fairness to Chinese government, they understand,” he said. He noted that this message had been communicated to him by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian. However, Duterte also warned that the current size of the POGO industry is about as much as the nation can handle: “If you add more to this number presently operating, you will not be able to police them all. So you have to set a number for that. It cannot be in every town and city about so many POGO games going on.” POGOs paid PHP175 million ($3.4 million) in taxes in their first year of operations. That rose to more than PHP579 million in 2018, with the figure jumping to PHP1.63 billion in 2019 to August alone. The government has been unwilling to lose such a lucrative source of revenue, which is dedicated to nation-building programs. Instead, the Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corp. has imposed a moratorium on new licenses while it improves existing regulation. Much of its efforts have centered on ensuring the POGOs pay the correct taxes and its workers are properly documented. There are thought to be hundreds of thousands of Chinese working for online companies having entered the country on a tourist visa. The Department of Justice has announced that visas-upon-arrivals (VUAs) for Chinese tourists would now be limited to 30 days from the previous three months. The previous rules of the VUA allowed the tourist to stay for 3 months, extendible for another 3 months. The new visa will not be able to be converted


into another type of visa, such as a work visa Philippines is once again expected to be one of or resident visa the best-performing markets in Asia in 2020. When it comes to tax collection, the DepartAccording to Fitch Ratings gross gambling ment of Finance sent out revenue is likely to grow letters to some 130 firms by high single digits, last year ordering them driven by the ongoing to pay up. From Jan. to ramp up at Okada Manila If you add more August last year, it coland expansion at Resorts to this number lected PHP1.4 billion, a World Manila. 242 percent increase on The growth is being presently operating, the prior year. underpinned by a solid you will not be able However, authorities domestic economy. said the pace of collection “We do not expect to police them all. was still slow and Duterte Okada Manila’s expanweighed in in December, sion to adversely affect threatening to “punch” competitors’ revenue. delinquent firms if they didn’t settle their accounts. However, we expect competition from Macau Despite the moratorium on further expansion, and other APAC markets to constrain growth real estate companies say they still expect the going forward, in particular in the VIP segment, online gaming sector to drive growth in office which accounts for around 32 percent of the rentals in Metro Manila this year, albeit at a private casino GGR (first-half 2019),” it said. slower pace than in 2019. GGR from casinos in the Philippines hit Meanwhile, in land-based gaming, the more than $3 billion in Q3 of last year.


(in million PhP)

Total Casino GGR PAGCOR


Entertainment City Clark Thunderbird

122,535 8,306 1,487

Subtotal Licensed total

132,327 160,157 (Source: Pagcor)

Philweb’s Valdes moves to Alphaland Philweb Corporation president Dennis Valdes is stepping down from his role as president, and moving to Alphaland Corporation, a real estate firm chaired by Robert Ongpin. In his place, the company has elected Brian K. Ng to the post of president, effective Feb 1, 2020. Ng is currently senior vice president for Gaming, a post he has held since joining the company in January 2011. Valdés, who is moving to Alphaland Corporation, said “We are very pleased with the election of Brian to the post of president. His capable handling of our gaming operations over the past years gives us great confidence that he will bring fresh ideas and renewed energy to the task of propelling PhilWeb to new heights, especially as we continue our dual push in e-casino and e-bingo.”

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Resorts World Manila

Bloomberry Resorts

Travellers International Hotel Group, a joint venture between Genting Hong Kong and Alliance Global, is the owner and operator of Resorts World Manila. The hotel room count for the group’s three hotels (Maxims Hotel, Remington Hotel, and Marriott Hotel Manila) remains at 1,226. The property is currently in the third phase of its expansion, which will add approximately 940 rooms. It will also include new gaming and retail spaces. The company on Oct. 21 delisted its shares from the Philippine Stock Exchange, reducing its need to communicate its plans and financial results to the wider market. Announcing its decision, Travellers said delisting would enable the company to meet “evolving market demands and rapidly-changing customer needs without compromising its business strategies to competition”.

Bloomberry Resorts’ Solaire was the first IR to open in Entertainment City and is a 16-hectare integrated resort. The Bay Tower of Solaire consists of a casino with an aggregate gaming floor area of approximately 18,500 square meters (including 6,000 square meters of exclusive VIP gaming areas), with about 1,400 slot machines, 295 gaming tables and 88 electronic table games. The Sky tower consists of a 312 all-suite hotel, additional ten VIP gaming salons with 66 gaming tables and 223 slot machines. Morgan Stanley says Bloomberry gained share in both VIP and mass over the first half of last year, remaining as the GGR market share leader in 2019. Key concerns, however, include increasing supply from Okada and Resorts World Manila, and the lack of capacity until 2023 with the opening of Solaire North, the firm noted. For Q3, the company posted a consolidated

net revenue of P13.3 billion, up 49 percent. Consolidated EBITDA hit record levels at P6.4 billion, driven by higher gaming revenues and continued cost control in the Philippines and South Korea, while consolidated net profit increased 245 percent to P3.9 billion.

Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Okada Manila, owned by Japan’s Universal Entertainment, is the largest resort in Entertainment City and the last to enter the market, with a soft opening in 2016. The property spans 44 hectares and at the completion of Phase One, Okada will have 994 hotel rooms and operate 500 tables and about 3,000 slots. Its centrepiece is the world’s largest coloured fountain, as well as a giant inner city beach complex, known as “Cove Manila.” The resort is now ramping up strongly. For December, the group announced gross gambling revenue of PHP4.6 billion, which was almost double that of the prior year. VIP revenue more than doubled, while mass market revenue jumped from PHP666 million to PHP964 million the prior year. Parent company Universal Entertainment said its priority for the resort is to add more entertainment amenities and attractions. However, it says it’s also in talks for joint ventures with partners to develop the real estate adjacent to the resort. This real estate development will be designed to strengthen the profitability of the IR, the company said.

City of Dreams

SEC probes Suncity buy in The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating whether Suntrust Home Developers, co-developer of Westside City Resorts World, should have made a tender offer to public investors, during its acquisition by Suncity Group. The company was recently acquired by Suncity Group Holdings, as a way for the junket operator to make its foray into the Philippines’ gaming market – with a 51 percent share in the company. According to SEC Commission Secretary Arman Pan, the commission is looking into whether Suncity needed to conduct a tender offer for the minority shareholders at the time of acquisition, or whether “there was no need for a tender offer because Suncity Group, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Fortune Noble Ltd., supposedly acquired control of Suntrust in the open market.” Under the tender offer rules, any person or group intending to acquire 35 percent of outstanding voting shares to gain control of the board in a public company must disclose such intention and contemporaneously make a tender offer for the percentage sought to all holders of such securities within such period.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020

The $1.3 billion City of Dreams Manila is owned by Belle Corp and Melco Crown Entertainment’s local unit. City of Dreams Manila has six hotel towers with approximately 950 rooms in aggregate, including VIP and five-star luxury rooms and high-end boutique hotel rooms, a wide selection of restaurants and food & beverage outlets and a 4,612.44 square meters family entertainment center in collaboration with Dreamworks Animation. The group’s recent results have shown the impact of greater competition in the Philippines. In Q3, total revenue fell almost 8 percent to $130.5 million, while EBITDA was down 9.6 percent. Rolling chip volume fell to $2.44 billion from $2.98 billion, while its mass table drop fell to $202.1 million from $204.9 million.


Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020



Aggressive expansion triggers ratings downgrade Global ratings agency S&P has joined other analysts in expressing concern that Genting Bhd’s aggressive expansion plans overseas may weigh on earnings and weaken its cash flow.


&P Global Ratings recently lowered its long-term issuer credit rating on Genting Bhd to ‘BBB+’ from ‘A-‘, citing increasing leverage from its acquisition plans. S&P also lowered its long-term issuer credit rating on its subsidiary Resorts World Las Vegas (RWLV) and the long-term issuer ratings of the company’s senior secured debt obligations to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB+’. Genting Bhd is a diversified conglomerate with operations ranging from plantations

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020

to property. It owns Malaysia’s only casino operator and its sister company in Singapore, which operates Resorts World Sentosa, one of only two IRs in the island state. It is also developing an IR in Las Vegas and last year its Malaysian unit announced plans to privatise loss making Empire Resorts, the operator of Resorts World Catskills in New York, where it also operates Resorts World New York. Other group properties include Resorts World Bimini, Resorts World Birmingham

in the U.K. and Crockfords in Cairo, Egypt. “We downgraded Genting because we expect the company’s leverage and cash flow adequacy to weaken over the next 12-18 months, given its more aggressive expansion plans. We also believe the company’s risk appetite has increased,” the statement said. “In the past year, Genting acquired 49 percent of Empire and privatized the company at a time of ongoing expansion at subsidiaries Genting Singapore (GENS) and RWLV. This


has materially increased the group’s leverage and weakened its credit quality,” it added. While Genting plans to restructure Empire’s debt and is negotiating with banks, this may not reduce Empire’s total debt, keeping it at US$640 million to US$670 million over 2019-20, S&P said. Nevertheless, S&P still sees the outlook for Genting as “stable,” explaining that “despite the group’s heavy investment plan, its debt-to-EBITDA ratio will remain less than 2x in 2021 and beyond, after peaking at more than 2x in 2020.” S&P also noted the possible future impact of Japan, where the group is focused on Osaka and Yokohama. “Genting is bidding for the Japan Integrated Resorts (IR) project, and we believe the process is on track. However, obtaining the licenses and actual cash outflow for the project may take some time. We have therefore not included the Japan project in our base case analysis. We will evaluate the credit impact if and when Genting is awarded the license,” they said. At home Genting Malaysia is finally expected to open a long-stalled outdoor theme park project in the third quarter of this year,

which was a central plank in a multi-year overhaul of its Resorts World property in the Genting Highlands. The company had spent RM8.4 billion out of a total RM10.4 billion earmarked for the Genting Integrated Tourism Project (GITP) as of the end of the third quarter and doesn’t expect further significant capital expenditure for the theme park as most of the infrastructure has been completed. The theme park was originally a joint venture with 20th Century Fox, though the U.S. company pulled out of the project resulting in a tit for tat legal battle, which was resolved in July last year. The settlement allowed Genting a license to use some Fox intellectual property. TA Securities notes that Genting is already seeing the benefits from enhanced attractions under the 10-year GITP, which include more dining and shopping facilities, as well as an upgrade and expansion of its hotels and entertainment facilities. In Q3, non-gaming revenue gained by 36 percent. Overall its Malaysian operations recorded a 5 percent increase in revenue, aided by higher hold percentage in the mid-to-premium


players segment and non-gaming business. Nevertheless, adjusted EBITDA decreased to RM537.5 million, mainly due to higher casino duties. RWG also registered a fall in overall volume of business in the gaming segment primarily due to lower incentives offered to customers. Fitch also expects the roll out of new attractions at Resorts World Genting to support visitor growth and associated gaming revenue in 2020, particularly in the mass-market segment. The group has been cutting back on costs to offset the impact of higher duties imposed by the government in its budget announcement in November, 2018. The Finance Ministry (MoF) raised casino duties to 35 percent, from 25 percent, on gross gaming income and gaming machine duties to 30 percent, from 20 percent, on gross collection. The MOF upped the annual casino licence fees by RM30 million to RM150 million, and machine dealer’s licence fees to RM50,000 a year from RM10,000 a year. In its Q3 earnings statement, the latest available as of going to press, the company said it remained cautious in its outlook for the industry.


USA & Bahamas 224.0

USA & Bahamas 1,100.9 Malaysia 5,467.3 Total Revenue

UK & Egypt 1,254.1

Malaysia 1,633.1 Adjusted EBITDA

UK & Egypt 171.8

(Source: Genting Q3)

New AML regime comes into effect

Terengganu mulls easing gambling ban

Malaysia’s central bank issued a revised policy document to counter money laundering and financing of terrorism, with the regulation coming into effect on Jan. 1st. The document provides guidelines for designated non-financial businesses and professions (DNFBPs) and non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs) such as licensed casinos carrying on gaming business, moneylenders and pawnbrokers. Malaysia is stepping up enforcement on AML and cracking down on corruption after a scandal surrounding state fund 1MDB that led to the ouster of former leader Najib Razak and ensnared Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The Malaysian state of Terengganu, governed by the Malaysian Islamic Party, is reportedly mulling a relaxation of its bans on gambling and alcohol in order to attract visits from cruise ships. The effort is spearheaded by Terengganu Tourism, Culture and Information Technology Executive Council Chairman Ariffin Deraman, who sees cruise ship visits as a potential source of economic advantage. He is said to be in talks with cruise operators like Seabourn Cruise Line, which is owned by the Carnival Corporation. Terengganu is known as a center for traditional Malay arts and culture. It lies on the east coast of Malaysia, facing the Gulf of Thailand and the Riau Islands.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020



Outlook fails to excite Singapore is expected to see another year of relatively lacklustre gaming growth given weakness in the VIP market and competition from other regional jurisdictions, analysts say.


arina Bay Sands continues to be weak VIP segment amid economic uncertainty one of the world’s most profitable and growing competition from the Philippines IRs, accounting for 34 percent of and other Southeast Asian casino destinations.” The agency does however note that the Las Vegas Sands’ group adjusted mass market is likely to property EBITDA in Q3, remain stable and will though it continues to be a bigger contributor grapple with stagnant to cash flow. topline growth. The benefit In 2018, the Singapore Casino revenue from incremental government announced in the most recently the first expansion of its reported quarter was non-gaming gaming industry since its up just 2.8 percent, (hotels, inception, allowing each with food and beverage IR to invest $3.3 billion revenue far outstripping entertainment) will to expand their facilities gaming with a gain of mostly be offset in return for additional 15.1 percent. by an increased gaming capacity. At rival Genting Las Vegas Sands has Singapore, revenue fell 7 tax rate and said this will include a new percent to $596.1 million, entrance levy. 1,000-suite hotel tower, a while adjusted EBITDA sky-roof swimming pool was $278 million, down and a state-of-the-art 13 percent. Net profit facility designed for live declined 24 percent to $158.8 million. Gaming revenue was down 11 music with a 15,000-strong capacity. Although the rollout of new attractions percent to $360.7 million, while non-gaming has helped boost revenue at resorts in Macau revenue rose 1 percent to $234 million. Fitch Ratings said it expects Singapore’s and elsewhere in Asia, Fitch says it’s neutral gaming revenues to be flat in 2020, “with a on the expansion of the two IRs.

“The benefit from incremental non-gaming (hotels, entertainment) will mostly be offset by an increased tax rate and entrance levy,” it said. The government, in return for a combined S$9 billion ($6.65 billion) investment, allowed MBS and Resorts World Sentosa to increase their total allowed gaming space and the number of gaming machines. MBS will be able to dedicate a further 2000 sqm to gaming and will be able to up its total number of gaming machines from 2,500 to 3,500. RWS will have an extra 500 sqm of

Singapore court dismisses Bloomberry case The Singaporean High Court has dismissed a petition filed by Bloomberry Resorts against Global Gaming Philippines, which accused the company of committing fraud and misrepresentation leading to its termination as the management firm for Solaire in 2013. The latest court decision upholds a ruling from the arbitration tribunal in Singapore in 2016, which ruled that the termination of GGAM’s management services contract for Solaire was unlawful. At the time, Bloomberry alleged that there were concealment and misrepresentations in light of investigations into violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which involved two out of four of GGAM’s executives during their time at Las Vegas Sands. However, in a recent disclosure to the stock exchange, Bloomberry said the court found that the findings presented to the court “do not constitute strong and cogent evidence of any species of fraud.”

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


gaming space and a further 800 machines. However, in return, the government upped the local entry fee from April 4 by 50 percent to $150. At the end of a current tax moratorium in February 2022, it will also introduce a higher tax structure, which will also include more tiers. For premium gaming the rate will rise to 8 percent from 5 percent on the first $2.4 billion in GGR and will rise to 12 percent thereafter. For mass gaming, the tax rate also gains

by three percentage points to 18 percent for the first $3.1 billion in GGR and then 22 percent thereafter. Both operators have already noted an impact from the hike in the local entrance fee, with analysts predicting many would be deterred from renewing their resident passes. Morgan Stanley has noted that Resorts World Sentosa gets about 25 percent of its business from Singaporeans and that at least 10 percent of those would be put off by the higher entry levy.

MICE business tipped for strong growth

q2 2019 TOURISM RECEIPTS Other TR Components S$1,786m

Shopping S$1,386m +11%

0% Accommodation S$1,309m Sightseeing, Entertainment & Gaming S$1,443m -1%

The double whammy of slowing domestic revenue and uncertainty around regional VIP play has left analysts cautious. “We believe that the outlook for the Singapore gaming market is likely to remain challenging, due to a slower local mass market and uncertainty in the VIP segment,” research house Affin Hwang said in a recent note. “With the challenging economic outlook both locally and regionally, the overall gaming volume is likely to remain weak for both the mass and VIP segments, in our view.”

-13% Food & Beverage S$586m -3% (Source: Singapore Tourism Board)

Singapore’s Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) market hit $2.52 billion in 2018 and is likely to grow by a compound average rate of 8.4 percent to $5.21 billion by the end of 2027. According to a report from Research and Markets, the business is likely to be driven by easy access to the island state from international visitors. Additionally, an increasing number of business activities, including client meetings, brand promotions, and employee training activities are likely to foster market growth in the near future. “Rapid infrastructural development in the country and technological advancements in MICE tourism is projected to fuel market growth over the forecast period. Furthermore, rising globalization of businesses and growing number of small and mediumsized enterprises is also expected to boost the growth of MICE in the country,” it said.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020





Time to unravel legal knots? There are probably few gaming markets in Asia more complex than that of India, where various states take their own legal approaches and competing court judgements resolve similar questions in different ways.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


point that is clear, however, is that one of the most consequential axes of the debate is the division between games of skill and games of chance, and herein lies the possibility for an advance. The stakes are considerable. According to a September 2019 study by KPMG India, the Indian online gaming industry alone is set to become a INR250 billion (US$3.5 billion) industry by 2024. As explained by a study published by Nishith Desai Associates last October, titled The Curious Case of the Indian Gaming Laws: Legal Issues Demystified, the Constitution of India specifically delegates to the various state legislatures matters related to “betting and gambling,” which has basically ensured the lack of a unified national approach. Moreover, there is nothing in the nature of a gaming commission in India, and many of the crucial policy decisions are in the hands of the courts to decide. Thus you can have gambling legislation in Goa that permits casino gambling in licensed five-star hotels and in offshore vessels, and at the same time ordinances in the state of Telangana which effectively outlaw all forms of gambling. Some degree of clarity is offered by a Supreme Court of India judgement that gambling laws should not be applied to games of “mere skill.” If it is determined that the outcome of a game is preponderantly decided by a player’s skill rather than by chance, then it should not fall under the scope of most state gambling laws. But even this degree of legal clarity starts to break down in some cases, as different states and different courts have judged games to fall on either side of this line. For example, one case before the Supreme Court found that rummy was a game involving a preponderance of skill rather than chance. Nevertheless, the Kerala High Court later held that playing rummy for stakes would amount to the offense of gambling under their state law. To add even greater complexity, some courts have treated online rummy differently than playing rummy face-to-face with other players. Ranjana Adhikari, co-head of Media Entertainment & Gaming Practice at Nishith Desai Associates, one of the authors of the report, notes that “gambling in general has always historically been looked at as a social vice.” Nevertheless, gambling has increasingly become an issue that policymakers cannot avoid, especially because, since the early 2010s, “there’s been a lot of internet penetration to the rural areas as well, and this increased smartphone usage.” With this wider access to mobile internet


platforms came new forms of entertainment, of regulatory certainty, some entrepreneurs are testing the limits of what they can get away with. including, of course, online gambling. “Our firm has been quite heavily pushing for “Different states are doing whatever they deem fit because it is a states rights subject,” a central law to govern skill gaming,” she says, “because we believe that Adhikari notes. “It doesn’t this is in the best interests work for an online busiof the industry as well as ness. There is no stability Different the consumer.” in policy that’s applicable “If each state starts putto their businesses and states are doing ting their own regulations therefore there’s no stability whatever they even on skill games, it just of business.” creates a lot of uncertainties GowreeGokhale,partner deem fit because for the businesses, and in at Nishith Desai Associates, it is a states so far as consumers are another co-author of the concerned, what we really report, believes that while rights subject. need is a solid regime to games of chance are still protect consumer interests,” unlikely to be widely accepted she adds. by Indian policymakers, The time may have arrived for India to the time may be ripe to at least bring order to create a central government commission to the legal framework for skill gaming. At the state level, she notes, “you usually regulate online skill gaming in particular, to see here are people trying to push the envelope which a large proportion of the population under the skill gaming umbrella.” In the absence already has access.

GROSS GAMING REVENUE Overall GGRE $60b Casinos turnover $100m-$125m Horse racing $250m-$400m Lottery $12-14b (Sources: KPMG and ICRA)

Delta posts lacklustre Q3 results Delta Corp reported stagnant results in the quarter ending December 31 with almost INR2.1 billion (about US$29.4 million) in income from operations, a figure that was virtually identical to the previous year. The company’s profit in the quarter amounted to INR551 million (about US$7.7 million), which was 9 percent higher than the previous year’s figures. Although the income registered little change overall, revenues from the casino gaming division declined by 3.4 percent, while those from the online skill gaming division increased 8.7 percent. The company said that one of its casino vessels, owned and operated by Dela Pleasure Cruise Company, underwent maintenance in dry-dock and was not operational for 25 days during the quarter, and this impacted the gaming revenue.

Supreme Court dismisses Dream 11 GST case A division bench of the Supreme Court has dismissed GST evasion and gambling appeals filed against fantasy sports operator, Dream 11 – upholding a previous ruling from the Bombay High Court. The appeals were filed by lawyer Gurdeep Singh Sachar, Department of Revenue, Union of India and State of Maharashtra, who claimed in June this year that fantasy games are luring people to play games of chance with their hard-earned money and amount to different forms of gambling. Sachar also claimed that Dream11 was allegedly evading Goods & Services Tax (GST) by violating Rule 31A of the Central GST Rules and not paying 28 percent GST on the total value of deposits. However, Supreme Court Justice Nariman observed that there cannot be any doubt that fantasy sports are a game of skill. The person who enters the contests needs to apply his mind and judgment on choosing one cricketer over the other. He further noted that if rummy is deemed to be a game of skill, then so would fantasy sports.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


ICE 2020

Step into the future ICE Totally Gaming 2020 is set to showcase everything that’s new in the gaming industry - from augmented reality to artificial intelligence, to esports.


panning over three days from 4-6 February at London’s ExCel, ICE Totally Gaming is one of the largest gaming exhibitions in the world attracting more than 36,000 visitors, and more than 600 exhibitors. This year, ICE has announced a total of 73 new exhibitors to join its line-up - from 37 different jurisdictions. Clarion Gaming’s Dan Stone said that many of these first-time exhibitors hail from the payments and securities sector. “As well as existing exhibitors taking additional space, we are delighted to welcome those companies who will be attending ICE London for the first time. It’s an important part of what keeps ICE London fresh and exciting and we know the ability to meet with potential new suppliers resonates with our international visitor base,” he said. Visitors attending the exhibition will be in for a treat. This year, ICE London has partnered with SPARK, a leading AR, CGI, and VR agency to create a ‘revolutionary’ AR treasure hunt to entertain and delight visitors. Attendees will be able to take part in the AR experience by using their smartphones to interact with futuristic content as well as engage with an AI floorplan. Using themes from the “Step, Look, Dive and Leap into the Future” creative, users will be able to interact with the ICE London dancer as well as futuristic robots, cars and even a spaceship in order to enhance their experience at ExCeL London and navigate the gaming innovation exhibition. The exhibition is also set to feature its own $250,000 eSports tournament to an online audience of over 5 million viewers. The ground-breaking initiative, which is being undertaken in partnership with GG.Bet. will comprise an

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2019

800sqm state-of-the-art Esports Arena featuring a custombuilt stage, an educational auditorium, commentator ICE box, partner data.bet lounge, a themed bar and a betting hatch allowing players to ‘bet’ ICE and GG.Bet dollars in order to simulate esports wagering. Described by Clarion’s recently appointed head of esports, William Harding, as representing a ‘global industry-first’, ICE London’s Esports Arena will provide visitors with the practical tool kit and strategic insights to take full commercial advantage of what is one of the industry’s fastest-growing wagering sectors. “Clarion Gaming’s mandate is to provide platforms to inform the entire industry and I believe the addition of the Esports Arena fits into that model perfectly,” explained Harding. “ICE London has a phenomenal reputation and is at the forefront of innovation not just across gaming but in the entire events industry and this new feature will truly allow visitors to ‘Dive into the future’. Of course, the show is not complete without its wellrespected ICE VOX Conference, held on 3-4 February. Six individual concurrent conferences make up this paid section of the show, including World Regulatory Briefing, International Casino Conference, Modernising Lotteries, Hospitality Technology, Advertising and Marketing, and Cybercrime and Security. More than 200 speakers will take part in the course of two days. Passes to these conferences can be booked online ahead of time, or on-site. Over the next few pages, we’ve curated some of the key gaming suppliers that are exhibiting at ICE Totally Gaming 2020. The team at Asia Gaming Brief will be at the show - to set up a meeting, contact us at ICE@AGBRIEF.COM.


4 -- 66February 2020 4 February 2020 ExCeL London, UKUK ExCeL London,

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


The home of global eGaming regulation


lderney eGambling returns to ICE 2020, showcasing the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC), a global leader in eGaming regulation. The AGCC has been regulating globally based and facing gaming businesses since 2000, perfecting a worldrenowned framework founded on years of practical industry experience.  Under a simple and logical framework, the AGCC provides the only truly global licensing regime, offering a multitude of advantages for businesses based all over the world. Its risk-based, flexible approach and

quick turnaround times take the administrative burden out of regulation, providing strategic and effective solutions. Our team at ICE 2020 will comprise representatives from Alderney eGambling and the AGCC along with a host of Alderney professionals from businesses servicing the eGaming industry. From licensing requirements and relocation to hosting, technical and corporate services, the team will be on hand to answer any questions about licensing in the jurisdiction. Find us at stand #N7-310.


Next-gen Concepts


ristocrat Technologies will display one of its broadest and most comprehensive ranges of core casino concepts at London’s ICE Show, spanning a mixture of proven, enhanced and brand new game mechanics across a wider

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020

than ever range of hardware platforms. The 2020 collection on stand S5-150 in ExCeL’s South Hall provides a unique insight into ‘what’s next’ for EMEA casino floors over the coming 12 months. Ian Adams, Product & Marketing Director – EMEA, explained, “The diversity of markets across Europe, the Middle East and Africa presents a tremendous challenge in that the range of content and delivery platforms can often be highly heterogeneous. Aristocrat’s global design & development allocation remains amongst the highest in the industry and we are fortunate to be in a position of selecting the very best games from the global portfolio and tailoring offerings to individual market needs. “Our D&D teams have built on previous successes with a balance of proven and brandnew maths models and, taking advantage of new hardware technologies, delivering more advanced audio-visual packages to satiate players’ evolving demands for engaging gaming entertainment.” Already introduced to a selection of pioneering gaming floors across Europe, the new MarsX upright cabinet makes its first appearance at ICE, its innovative design and new Gen9 technology paving the way for the next generation of dual screen casino games. Alongside launch titles of Buffalo Gold Revolution and the Fu Dai Lian Lian and Mighty Cash Ultra game families, new MarsX-dedicated game families on display will include Ka-Ching Ca$h, with a new twist of the universally popular hold & spin mechanic where jackpots are assigned to individual reels; 5 Coin Frenzy Jackpots, sporting an innovative ‘Frenzy’ persistence meter,

expanding reels, pick bonus and jackpots, and; Wonder 4 Boost Gold, an extension of the high performing multi-reel set game Wonder 4 Boost, incorporating another four proven games in Buffalo Gold, Pompeii Gold, 5 Dragons Gold, and TimberWolf Gold. Visitors will also see continuing support for portrait form factors, including the Helix XT and Arc Single cabinets, and new game families heading EMEA’s way such as Cashman Bingo, Grand Fu Wheel, Rising Jackpots, three Aristocrat Classics, 5 Dragons, Pompeii and Whales of Cash, Reel Climb Firecano Glory, and Fa Fa Fa Fortune Cash. Existing Helix(+) cabinets will also benefit from a number of new game titles, some of which are being released across multiple form and screen factors, with a host of proven Aristocrat classic titles being added to the portfolio – Brazil, TimberWolf, Wild Panda and Golden Pyramids amongst them, along with the eagerly anticipated multigame, Player’s Choice Opal Edition, with a compendium of 10 game titles blending a mixture of classics including Queen of the Nile, 5 Dragons, Big Red, Buffalo Gold Collection, Wild Fiesta’Coins, Cash Bull, Fortune’s Way, Miss Kitty Gold, Big Red Gold, and 5 Dragons Gold. Erik-Jan van den Berg, Vice-President of Sales & Business Development – EMEA, concluded, “No matter which cabinet, Aristocrat has a wealth of exciting new content to help invigorate EMEA gaming floors and we look forward to welcoming visitors at ICE to share our next generation vision for the new decade.” See all the products available at stand S5150 at the show.


Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Born to Perform in Asia


ruze Gaming is set to exhibit its Muso Curve-43 Hybrid and Muso Triple-27 Hybrid cabinets at ICE London 2020. A compelling mix of proven performers and future concepts in game design will be on display at stand S5-210. Aruze Gaming’s focus on the European market is apparent, with machine installations recently taking place in Greece, France, Switzerland, Cyprus, Portugal, Germany, and Slovenia. A standout performer has been Wheel of Prosperity, now expanded to four titles. This series offers a strong base game, exciting wheel feature, and a free games series that varies by title. Wheel of Prosperity Serpent, one of the two new titles in this series offers a free game feature where the Wheel awards a number of wilds that explode across the reels with every spin. Wheel of Prosperity Tiger offers players their choice of three-reel configurations for their free games, up to 5 x 5 symbols for a

thrilling 3125 ways game. Pachincoin Jackpot Circus is a unique concept that leverages Aruze’s history with the Japanese pachinko market to create a totally new style of game. Players do not need to be familiar with pachinko at all as the interface and gameplay are intuitive, and bet structures borrow from traditional slot play. Based on the bet and denomination selected, Pachincoin Jackpot Circus utilizes multiple coins that waterfall down the playing field with multiple prize pockets. Players can release many coins quickly, creating a riot of activity on the game screen. Highlighting the global nature of ICE London, several machines will feature configurations ideal for various Latin American Markets. Also being shown is a selection of Limited Payout Machine titles intended for the South African market. Aruze has a variety of titles ready to Ignite Fun on display at stand S5-210.


Keep going UP


BIN has been active at ICE London since 2017. This year, BBIN continues to connect with the world through this international event, aiming to secure crucial opportunities. During the three-day show, BBIN will present its most innovative technologies and integration solutions while the exhibition stand visualizes the company’s 2020 theme, “Up”. The exhibition stand will be filled with Eastern aesthetics through elements including calligraphy, the brand’s color tones, peonies, sunflowers, and moth orchids. BBIN not only features the management of local markets throughout the region, including China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines. It also keeps opening up in new markets by launching extended product lines with various international brands. These partnership programs provide a diverse variety of products and customized platforms to satisfy the varying needs of customers in every corner of the world. BBIN now supplies 14 kinds of live casino games, over 40 types of lottery, over 100 kinds of casino games and 40,000 sports events for betting, including eSports. Clients can find specific products that suit regional preferences and cultures of their target customers. Currently supporting over 500 platforms around all the world, BBIN continues to level up its service quality and enhances its business capacity. BBIN welcomes cooperating opportunities from all around the world and provides the advantages of professional resources to partners who aim to map out their business in Asia. BBIN is ready to show the world its capability of bridging the eastern and western iGaming markets. It will continue to communicate its core principle of “growing with partners” and hopes to light up a bright future with its worldwide partners. Visit BBIN at stand N6-165 at ICE London 2020.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


iGaming technology spanning east and west


etconstruct’s concept for the year has been revealed ahead of this year’s ICE London 2020. East&West is the message that Betconstruct would like to deliver this year, describing the company’s global extent and strength. BetConstruct is a round-the-clock business, the conglomerate on which the sun never sets, with 15+ regional offices, operations and partners encompassing the whole globe and а growing number of licenses. Guided by professional developers and managers, BetConstruct embarked on a journey from a tiny technology hub in Western Asia to a worldwide igaming giant ready to once again demonstrate its scale at ICE London in February 2020. All Sportsbook partners are offered a complete range of products and award-winning professional services. The multilingual, 120+ sports offering is backed with data feed solutions of FeedConstruct and outstanding tools, e.g., the AI-powered CRM, BetCloud, and SpringBuilder website constructor. To deliver an even greater autonomy and freedom, the SpringPro solution sets a separate igaming platform and a dedicated team of traders for an operator.

A proven route to attracting new players and driving up wager values is the company’s Casino Suite which combines gaming cultures and traditions from all over the world through a wide choice of games. Live Casino, Slots, Skill Games, Poker, innovative VR entertainment, a bet-on lottery, Social Gaming and many other diverse choices. It doesn’t pay to forget the growth in revenues brought in by Fantasy

Sports and Virtual Sports offerings which have been actively upgraded at BetConstruct. Reaching out to the world of crypto, the software developer has established its own cryptocurrency named Fasttoken. The future belongs to decentralized gambling, and BetConstruct is aiming to stay ahead of the curve with its token. To get a clear view of the actual size of the company, visit stand S1-350 at ICE 2020.


Kick-starting your sportsbook


n a world that is continuing to realise the benefits of legalised betting, now, more than ever, operators need to arm themselves with the best tools to provide a winning sportsbook. As the US has opened its doors to sports betting, slowly but surely the commercial benefits are being realised and trends starting to take shape. The popularity of in-play and mobile betting is clear which, for a region like Asia, where mobile penetration is extensive, is an exciting prospect.

Betradar prides itself on its comprehensive sports betting data, meaning our extensive products and services are powered by the largest suite of pre-match and live odds available. For any operator, no matter what size or location, our 360-degree betting services can be easily integrated across retail, online and mobile, and now with our new omni-channel platform. Thanks to the innovative OPTIMAMGS platform, our offering can cater to global

operators more than ever before. Whether they’re after ways to enhance an existing offering, or interested in building a successful sportsbook completely from scratch, the platform enables sportsbooks to supply and license across regions worldwide. The platform acquisition is a key part of our ongoing commitment to develop our services to suit the needs of bookmakers. In 2020, we will add to this by expanding our Gaming Solutions with our all new Virtual Baseball In-Play, adding to our existing virtual tennis, basketball and football products, as well as extending our markets and coverage across sports such as cricket and kabaddi. Together with our risk management and trading solution, Managed Trading Services (MTS), bookmakers can both find ways to increase their profits and manage risks using our expert trading team and cutting-edge innovation, which, like the platform, is owned and developed by us to ensure our clients remain at the forefront of the industry. Betradar can be found at stand #1-150.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Continent 8

SuperSweets to launch


pening Tuesday 4th February, ICE Totally Gaming is expecting in excess of 35,000 gaming professionals and 600 exhibitors from over 150 countries worldwide. The event provides a complete platform both to explore the future of Gaming and to give unparalleled networking and meeting opportunities. Betsoft will be showcasing their soonto-launch video slot – SuperSweets - as well as forthcoming release, Total Overdrive. Both games will be available to demo on stand S3-312 throughout the show.

Asia expansion

Super Sweets invites players to enjoy a delicious 5x3 video slot experience. Featuring sticky wild re-spins and an action-packed free spins mode, this game offers superb win potential. Don’t miss out on Betsoft’s pre-launch demonstration of Total Overdrive. This update of the classic fruit machine is sure to inspire nostalgia. With 3 reels and 5 pay lines, this video slot carries Betsoft’s signature cinematic quality that players have grown to know and love. Annamaria Anastasi, marketing director, Betsoft Gaming, said: ‘We are excited to start 2020 with such impact. Both releases carry our signature quality animation and innovation in digital excellence. We are anticipating a highly positive response from our players with both these releases. We are also looking forward to meeting clients old and new at ICE to make 2020 another outstanding year.’ See them at stand S3-312 at the show.

Colossus Bets

Sports betting but BIGGER


olossus Bets, a provider of global sports jackpot pools and pioneer of Cash Out functionality, returns to ICE 2020 with their most comprehensive content portfolio ever, including British & Irish horse racing, greyhounds, football, tennis, NFL, NBA, ice hockey and the latest arrival - darts. See original content from ambassador Fallon Sherrock celebrating the launch of darts jackpots on Colossus’ blog and social media channels throughout January and February. Today, Colossus jackpots are available in at least 30 currencies and 25 languages and have received bets from players in over 100 countries since inception. With a global B2B distribution network, including Betfair, Betway Africa, Mr. Green, and Paf, Colossus’ lottery-size prize guarantees, leg-by-leg Cash-Out, Syndicates ‘crowdbetting’ and FreePlay, over 60 million bets processed and £120M has been paid out in prizes and Cash Outs to date. In 2019 Colossus signed their first Cash Out patent license agreement with bet365 in the US, thus patent protection for this is indeed another topic to pick up with the Colossus team. Last but not least, 2019 also saw Colossus taking a stance on corporate responsibility by

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020

launching their official charity scheme, Conscious Colossus. Conscious Colossus supports charities in the areas of sports, racing, gambling education, and community. Colossus will be running a fundraiser during ICE and has pledged to match all contributions, which will be donated to the 3 charities nominated under the scheme. Get conscious and get giving at Colossus’ Stand S1-312.


ontinent 8 Technologies – the leading partner for managed hosting, networking, security, and cloud infrastructure managed services to the iGaming industry – expanded its footprint to over 50 connected locations globally across Europe, Asia, and the Americas in 2019. Last year’s highlights included the opening of the first-ever purpose-built data center at the Atlantic City Convention Center, with Continent 8 leading the way in New Jersey which is the largest hub for online gaming, sports betting and eSports in the US. 2020 will see further global growth and product investment, with a particular focus on Asia led by a dedicated team for the Asia-Pacific region. At ICE London, Continent 8 will be demonstrating its new WAF product to operators which is a web application security product enhanced with the addition of Layer 7 Web Application Firewall services. The team will also be showcasing how they can accelerate business with the iGaming Cloud, a key element in a comprehensive range of integrated and managed solutions to connect and protect global data. ICE also offers attendees the opportunity to find out about the many advantages operators can gain from Continent 8’s low latency network throughout Asia which offers a consistent and reliable platform for serving iGaming clients. In addition to co-location facilities, its network points of presence in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Singapore connect to the rest of the world over a high-capacity, fully-redundant private network. The company also offers reliable DDoS monitoring and mitigation services in Asia and around the world. Meet the Continent 8 team – including Peter Williams, managing director for the Asia-Pacific region – at stand N3-110.


Beating forecasts


omtrade Gaming, the premier technology provider to both online and land-based gaming sectors, will be showcasing continued innovation in their products and solutions, which have been enhanced during a very productive and successful year in 2019. “Whether we review financial, organizational or technological improvements, 2019 proved to be a year in which we exceeded forecasts and outperformed expectations. Our continued growth is largely due to our ethos and foundation as a technology company. With this technology, operators, vendors and regulators can create an environment with the best possible responsible player experience on any given channel.” explains Aleš Gornjec, general manager of Comtrade Gaming. One of the key milestones for Comtrade’s online gaming business was a strategic technology partnership with Mansion88. Back in September M88 migrated its complete backend system and player portal onto Comtrade’s Enterprise Gaming Platform – iCore. iCore’s single-back office approach enables agile player account management (PAM), for highest player volumes, with great customization capabilities. Among other

iCore exciting features, Comtrade will be showcasing this year, visitors will be able to experience iCore’s data-driven personalization package. It is responsible for increasing individual player retention and guarantees personalization by tailoring game lobbies, web and mobile app visuals, promotions as well as multi-channel messaging. With sCore – Gaming Systems Management, Comtrade will present new ways of real-time

data collection and management of gaming machines that support GSA’s G2S protocol under one central server. One of the key improvements of Comtrade`s G2S 3.1 implementation lies in utilizing new transport, reducing the consumed networking bandwidth by up to 50 percent and as a result reducing networking infrastructure requirements. Visit Comtrade Gaming at the North Hall, booth #N4 – 340.


Global 2020 portfolio unveiled


latform provider Digitain is gearing up to showcase its full portfolio of 2020 trading tools and products at this year’s ICE London in February. The supplier’s state-of-the-art sportsbook platform is set to take center stage at stand S2-350, with its team on hand to advise delegates on its ground-breaking strategies, products, and trading tools in store for 2020. Tailor-made for the demands of live betting in a diverse legislative landscape, Digitain’s comprehensive package of solutions received multiple awards in 2019 for its operational excellence, including the RGW, CEEGC, BEGE and EGR Awards. Providing an intuitive multi-lingual, multi-currency, customizable interface that can be easily integrated, Digitain’s unique APIs allow for a bespoke service with both new and existing platforms for online and land-based operators, wherever they are on the continent. In total, Digitain’s sportsbook powers

over 100 global partners’ betting operations, covers 65 sports, 7,500 leagues, and offers more than 3,000 markets. It also offers odds on 35,000 live events each month, while its casino solution has 3,000-plus games from major casino suppliers (such as Novomatic, Microgaming, NetEnt and Playson). Demonstrating its growing global leadership and latest strategies, its delegates will be spearheaded by Digitain’s senior leadership team, including the company’s CCO, Suren Khachatryan. Commenting on the company’s agenda for the conference, Suren Khachatryan, CCO

at Digitain said: “As we’ve seen from our record-breaking year in 2019, more and more operators are choosing Digitain to power their sportsbook – and I’m delighted to see our team going from strength-to-strength in every market they operate. “ICE London is far and above one of the industry’s leading shows, and we can’t wait to showcase our sports and casino technology to show why we plan to be the world’s leading software partner by the close of 2020.” Meet the team at Digitain at stand S2-350.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Unlimited Creativity


veryMatrix will be ready to showcase their modular and API driven solutions, specially designed to help operators unleash bold ideas in regulated markets at ICE 2020. From Casino, Sports, to Payments and Affiliate/Agent software, EveryMatrix is ready to bring projects to life and help create outstanding player experiences across all territories. The company offers B2B iGaming solutions to operators worldwide. Their highly performant API driven products are written using brilliant code to deliver high-stability, modularity, and scalability for operators of all sizes, from existing platforms and established iGaming giants to start-ups, or from bookmakers to casinos or lotteries. With extensive track record in casino software provision in Spain, UK, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Romania, Sweden, Armenia, Georgia, Lithuania, and an extensive list of successful launched operators, EveryMatrix’s flagship product, CasinoEngine, is ready to assist operators tackle their desired regulated markets and expand their casino business even more. EveryMatrix will also showcase their newly

launched RGS Matrix product, an “out-of-thebox” remote gaming server which brings more than game development and deployment. The studios launching on their server will enjoy several key benefits, which include obtaining certifications in many countries, using the advanced gaming building framework to create spectacular new content or add key features required by large operators, especially related to responsible gambling.

Spearhead Studios is also gearing up to join ICE 2020. The new gaming company, recently launched by EveryMatrix, is focused on producing high-quality HTML5 video slots for both desktop and mobile devices. The team previously created Book of Souls which enjoyed over twenty million game rounds in just a few months post-launch. For many more surprised and launches, stop by stand N6-310 during the show.

Underwater Riches and Kingdom Gems) and Multi Progressive (Festival - 88, Ka-Ching Baby, Magic Tales, Pharaoh’s Legacy, The Vault Heist and Xing Fú - Fortune). In the online games portfolio, visitors will have the opportunity to see new games

and significant upgrades in the gameplay of FBM DS titles. The FBM brand for the online market brings eight new spin reel games to the event. Catch the Gold, Underwater Riches, RacinGo – Wild and Kingdom Gems will make their debut with a 50 ways version, as well as Monster Trucks, Roman Adventure, Kingdom Gems, Country Style with the 243 ways versions. In the video bingo collection, FBM presents a new controller bar for desktop and mobile, improving the player’s experience. Besides this, Arctic Blast has a new polar scenario with an updated background to show. FBM is a global gaming brand that started its path in the gaming industry in 2001 and since has established its footprint by developing innovative and high-quality gaming solutions. After conquering the leadership of the video bingo market, FBM took its expansion campaign to Europe and Central American markets and expanded its portfolio of land-based titles. With the recently created FBM DS brand, FBM also reaffirms its commitment and intent of creating a strong presence in the online market. FBM will be at booth number #N7-450.


Spin reel debuts


BM will bring to ICE London a pack of 14 spin reel titles to showcase with three innovative features for the first time in Europe: Mythic Link (Eternal Kingdom, Ancient Tropics, Golden Voyage and Nature’s Paradise); Easy$Link (Catch the Gold, RacinGo - Wild,

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Innovative, Hand-Crafted Seating Solutions


ary Platt Manufacturing takes pride in its team of artisans who design, create, and construct every chair by hand. Now on stand S5-200 at ICE 2020, Gary Platt will showcase its very latest designs, each a masterwork of hand-crafted perfection. Gary Platt has more than 20 years of experience, hand-crafting chairs using only the best materials, right down to the proprietary blend of foam that each chair is made from so that it perfectly pairs fashion with comfort. Visitors to Gary Platt’s ICE stand will relax in the comfort of the Savannah, Monaco, and Lugano models. Funky and cutting edge, the distinctive Savannah is built from the ground up to impress with a base constructed of customized gears and wrought iron-style legs. A customupholstered back and hand-stitched channel front complement its sides, which are a flowing river of waves that cascade from the top of the chair down to the perfectly engineered seat. Next, Gary Platt’s patented Monaco is

one of the world’s top-selling gaming chairs. Inspired by the elegance of Grace Kelly and the excitement of Monaco, the chair is globally recognized for its razor-sharp details and chic sensibility. Also on the stand is Gary Platt’s Lugano model that delivers comfort to ultra-high limit slot seating areas throughout the casino. With double-stitched panel arms and ergonomically designed back and seat, the Lugano is the perfect match for luxury. While Gary Platt is perhaps best known for bringing comfort to the casino floor, the company has a deep portfolio of seating solutions for the entire enterprise – gaming and hospitality. At ICE, Gary Platt will be showcasing seating solutions from its Sierra Nevada Hospitality line for the bar, restaurant, convention, guest room, and other hospitality areas. Visit Gary Platt on stand S5-200 at ICE 2020 and discover the comfort and innovation that only world-class artisans can deliver.


Ho Gaming

Live dealer appeal


o Gaming is a well known and internationally recognizable gaming and entertainment company. The company has been providing live dealer games on the web in Asia. Its operation center is in the Philippines and it uses the best of breed technology to power the live gaming environment. All live dealers are trained according to Macau regulations by training staff from well known land-based Macau casinos. Ho Gaming also develops RNG casino games and players can find excellent private and public table options as well as multi-hand bet options. The multiplayer games also have three levels- regular, high roller and VIP- suitable for various types of players. Nevertheless, Ho Gaming stands out with its live dealer games that offer a true-to-life and high quality gaming experience. Games such as Live Multiplayer Blackjack, Live Full Screen Grand Baccarat, Live Multiplayer Baccarat, Live Multiplayer Roulette, Live Multiplayer Sic Bo and Live Dragon Tiger comprise the Ho Gaming live dealer game portfolio. While playing these realistic games players can watch the dealer, hear what he/she is saying as well as chat with him/here if they wish. The possibility of social interaction makes these games appealing. Find Ho Gaming at booth #N9-225.

Integrity at the Core


t ICE 2020, Gaming Laboratories International (GLI) will illuminate the path for regulators, suppliers, and operators in land-based, iGaming, and lottery. Across 24 of its global locations, GLI provides its clients with expert guidance for navigating the future of gaming and ensuring gaming innovations meet regulatory standards with confidence. Its fully rounded services include testing and certification for sports betting, iGaming, land-based gaming, and VLT. Beyond testing, GLI offers professional services such as cybersecurity, global solutions, auditing, consultation, rule-writing, and access to the globally recognized GLI Standards Series. GLI actively maintains international accreditation for compliance with ISO/IEC standards for technical competence in the gaming, wagering, and lottery industries so its clients can use GLI with confidence. GLI was named “Responsible Business of the Year” in the 2019 Las Vegas Global

Gaming Awards for its social responsibility in charitable giving, diversity and inclusion, green initiatives, and responsible gaming support and education. Now the company is nominated as the Corporate Services Provider of the Year in the London Global Gaming Awards. Since 1989, GLI has issued nearly two million certifications and has tested equipment for more than 475 jurisdictions. For more information, visit GLI on ICE stand N3-210.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


One hundred releases and counting


remium slots and table games provider Habanero is gearing up for another record-breaking year as it prepares to wow delegates at ICE Totally Gaming. With an action-packed portfolio of more than 100 games, the specialist provider challenges itself to create the industry’s most engaging and immersive content for mobile, tablet and desktop. Now totalling regulatory approval for 16 markets across Asia, Europe and LatAm, Habanero’s star-studded list of partners include a series of recent high-profile commercial agreements, including deals with the likes of Playtech, GAN, Sisal and BetVictor. Keen to build on an outstanding 2019, Habanero arrives in London with a wealth of experience and a comprehensive range of engaging games ready to show attendees. With a user-friendly interface and immersive

gamification features, the provider’s state-ofthe-art proprietary technology ensures that every new product brought to market offers the best quality gaming experience around. Celebrating its 100th release at the close of 2019, the suppliers’ latest releases are set to be unveiled for the first time at ICE. Titles are set to include Loony Blox, its action-packed, highly volatile 5x3, 28 video slot featuring three animal lovable friends on an adventure, as well as Fai Cai Shen Deluxe, a revamped edition of Fai Cai Shen, Habanero’s timeless Asian classic originally released in 2016. Named after the Chinese God of Fortune, who makes plenty of appearances as a wild during each bonus spin, the 5x3, 28 selectable video line slot has been revamped with the very latest in design and graphics; and ready to be launched in time for Asian operators to strike lucky following the start

of Chinese New Year. Senior members of the Habanero team will be on hand to answer any questions as well as discuss potential partnerships. Visit Habanero at booth #N3-243.


Showcasing player-driven performance


t ICE 2020, IGT will demonstrate its commitment to player-driven performance through its vast array of proven games, cabinets, systems, and solutions at the ICE London show. An update to the player-favorite Fortune Coin Video Slots, Fortune Coin Boost! features

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020

exciting new Boost coins that enhance the bonuses and credits by multiplying coin values. Boost coins also improve the five-level progressive jackpot by removing the lowest three progressives and increasing the player’s chances at a massive win. Boost coins remove

up to three of the lowest-paying symbols in the free games. IGT will also highlight its latest version of its top-performing Scarab game with two new additions. Featured on the CrystalCurve cabinet, Scarab Grand represents the next evolution of a Proven Performer with its Wild Stays, Charges, Then Pays feature. Scarab Link on the CrystalDual 27 cabinet features the same persistence element as the original, in addition to an exciting Hold-and-Respin bonus feature. The company will demonstrate the strength of its multi-game portfolio by featuring marketattuned USwitch content on the Cobalt 27, CrystalDual 27, CrystalSlant and AXXIS 23 gaming machines. These user-friendly game bundles feature a range of player-favorite IGT titles along with recently released Proven Performer themes, which can easily be adapted to meet regional requirements and player preferences. IGT has also deepened its content library for single and dual-screen cabinets with titles including Star Goddess, Lucky Buddha, and Twin Strike on the CrystalDual 27 gaming machine, as well as Magic of the Nile, Mistress of Egypt Grand, and Zodiac Lion on the popular CrystalCurve gaming machine. For more information, visit IGT at stand N3-160 at the show.


Asia debut for Megaways


arket-leading online and mobile casino software provider iSoftBet will showcase its upcoming titles and exciting new products at ICE 2020. A record year in 2019 saw the introduction of the first iSoftBet Megaways slot, as well as the debut of both its Xtreme Pays series and market-leading gamification tool, iNgame. Aztec Gold Megaways was released to significant fanfare in Q4 2019, quickly proving itself to be a high-performing slot. Sitting prominently on many operator partners’ landing pages, Aztec Gold has been an exciting Megaways debut for iSoftBet, with more to follow in 2020. The recently launched Xtreme Pays Series is one of the latest features from iSoftBet. It is a highly volatile slot experience, aimed at players who understand and enjoy the challenge of games with less frequent payouts, but far greater win potential than your average slot. iSoftBet has strengthened its slot offering significantly in recent months and ICE 2020 offers the ideal opportunity to unveil further innovative titles, including Fishing For Gold,

with the new Bonus Chance feature, and Racetrack Riches, the first title to feature the unique Megaboard bonus round. In addition, iSoftBet will be bringing Megaways to Asia in 2020, with Dragon Match and Fu Fortunes the first two Megaways titles aimed specifically at the Asian markets Dragon Match Megaways is a unique 4-reel experience, with cascading wins and a top reel where twin symbols turn

matching symbols into wilds, while Fu Fortunes Megaways will feature classic 6-reel Megaways action, with added win multipliers and four possible Jackpots. iSoftBet also offer a full suite of table games, including Blackjack and Roulette, and will soon be releasing Big Win Baccarat, featuring the popular Big Road statistics and designed to appeal to discerning Asian players. Visit iSoftbet at stand # N5-240.


Specialty slots and proven progressives


onami Gaming, Inc. has announced a significant lineup of compelling new cabinets and popular progressive series at the 2020 ICE London event in London. More than 35,000+ guests are expected at the exhibition on February 4 – 6, where Konami is filling stand S7-110 with its latest proven gaming entertainment. Series including Dragon’s Law SeleXion, Ba Fang Jin Bao, and Treasure Ball have demonstrated success across Konami’s specialty 4K Ultra High-Definition (UHD) machines, KX 43 and Concerto Opus. As part of its continuing support for core dual-screen cabinets, the company is showcasing over two dozen original themes on Concerto upright and Slant—from jackpot progressives to SeleXion multi-game compatible content. Gaming executives and professionals at this year’s event will also encounter the official ICE premiere of Konami’s new 49J machine, offering highend 4K entertainment across a 49-inch, “J-curve” display.

“This year’s ICE lineup is a demonstration of Konami’s commitment to delivering today’s top games, while driving new innovation for the future of the casino floor,” said Eduardo Aching, vice president, international gaming operations. “From the proven performance of Konami’s latest linked progressives, to creative advancements across the 49J cabinet, ICE attendees can experience a range of leading entertainment.” ICE 2020 includes two specialty Konami cabinets, each with relaxed slant top, dual spin buttons, dual cup holders, and an exceptional 4K game library. Konami’s 43-inch screen KX 43 and 65-inch screen Concerto Opus cabinets will showcase several of the industry’s highest-performing slot series. Treasure Ball is a top new linked progressive, with the ability to offer a mix of base game options to players through SeleXion multi-game. ICE 2020 also includes the special release of Dragon’s Law SeleXion, which combines the popularity of Dragon’s Law Rapid Fever and Dragon’s Law Boosted

in one machine. Inspired by the success of Konami’s classic Cai Lai Si Ji, an entirely new 4K linked progressive called Ba Fang Jin Bao has demonstrated success with flexible betting options and original base games. These ICE show highlights are available now across international markets. Konami Gaming’s ICE 2020 presentation additionally contains fresh dual-screen content for upright and slant. SeleXion-compatible base games, integrated progressives, and linked progressives are included, to support continued core product investment across international markets. Guests at ICE London are encouraged to visit Konami stand S7-110 to explore these new releases and more.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Revolutionizing the game


team of industry veterans with experience in Europe and Asia have joined forces to bring new and more innovative games to the market faster, by reducing inefficiencies in the whole chain. The future of gaming platforms is enabling a new community of game developers and suppliers to work together to achieve benefits for everyone in the industry. Our state-ofthe-art Remote Game Server (RGS) is an open platform created to meet the most stringent industry standards so players & operators alike can be assured of fair gaming and excellent security. The Maverick RGS has been developed from scratch to create an open platform, to allow for new engine builds, connectivity enhancements, cater to company-specific requirements and alter the platform for

regulatory compliance. The gaming content is developed mobilefirst and delivered in HTML5 - there is no need to download any software. Our marketing tools including free spins, jackpots and gamification layers ensure that the games can be promoted effectively and efficiently to players by the operators, enabling marketing teams to execute acquisition and retention campaigns. The RGS offers a comprehensive API with access to full data for reports and statistics. We are very excited to be working with our creative and talented mavericks and with our external game studio partners to make this vision a reality! For any additional information, please visit https://maverickslots.com/ or email us on sales@maverickslots.com.

and many others. All of them will be shown to visitors. Moreover, NetGame Entertainment also showcasing their unique feature - games, designed for vertical screens. NetGame Entertainment had started in 2012 with a group of three enthusiasts from

landbased gaming and during the past 7 years they have built up a team to make a consecutive transition to online with a new brand of online casino software - NetGame Entertainment. To schedule a meeting with NetGame`s team at the event, visit stand N9-733.


New slots to dazzle


nline casino software developer NetGame Entertainment is attending the ICE London 2020 to showcase its portfolio of games and last slots at N9-733 Stand. “We are going to show the remarkable growth of NetGame Entertainment during the last year at the ICE show. We launched the HTML5 platform in June 2019 and till the end of January 2019 new 26 slots appeared. We have created a portfolio of games with numerous themes and bonus features,” said Andrey Vajdyuk, Head of Business Development at NetGame Entertainment. “Our slots are oriented on any style playing preference as well as diversified on global markets. We use popular Asian and African themes, Vegas and classic graphics and all the variety of fruit themes while creating slots. And of course, with a growing portfolio, we are looking forward to meeting our existing and new business partners to showcase our last updates. Currently, NetGame is oriented on growing its customers’ base on Europe, Asia, CIS and LATAM markets.” Some of the new and featured games, where NetGame has incorporated dozens of non-regular features are MMA Legends slot with bets on favorite characters, Dancing Lanterns slot with Flowing Wild, Pick-andClick and Free Spins features, Luxor Relics with stacked reels and special Collect symbols

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


40th Anniversary Countdown


s NOVOMATIC embarks on its 40th anniversary year, the stand at ICE Totally Gaming will be a full display of modern gaming solutions, content and hardware for the various segments and markets of the international gaming industry. For NOVOMATIC, 2020 is the year to celebrate 40 years of success, to say thank you to all who have been part of the journey so far and to also look to the future. The exhibition stand at ICE Totally Gaming in London will reflect the jubilee and invite show visitors to discover gaming technology innovation from the past, present and future. The attentive explorer will encounter a special vintage corner where NOVOMATIC looks back on classic product highlights and company milestones from the past 40 years. NOVOMATIC CEO Harald Neumann: “ICE 2020 will be a very special trade show for NOVOMATIC, especially since we will be celebrating our 40th anniversary this year. Accordingly, we will not only present our exceptional product portfolio but also review these 40 successful years with our customers and partners.” Visitors to the NOVOMATIC stand are welcomed with the traditional Austrian hospitality as they embark on their tour across the exhibition stand to investigate what is new and exciting for their specific requirements. The Winning Technology portfolio on display for 2020 and beyond will serve every operator’s demands – from land-based casino and AWP products & systems, as well as biometric technologies for modern access solutions, to online gaming, sports betting and cash handling solutions.


Advanced eSports solutions


fter a successful 2019, Pinnacle Solution is looking to start 2020 just as well by bringing its market-leading B2B service offering to ICE. Thanks to Pinnacle’s vast experience and unparalleled reputation within the esports betting space, Pinnacle Solution has been able to develop a best-in-class esports product offering that will be on display at the first major iGaming convention of the year. The B2B provider is anticipating a great deal of interest in their already highly-successful esports product. Features, including 33 esports titles, over 6,800 pre-match and 3,100 live events, as well as 113 unique markets show just how advanced the Pinnacle Solution esports offering is in comparison to the rest of the market. Jane Guan, Pinnacle COO, commented: “The hard work never stops for Pinnacle Solution but for us, ICE signals the start of another busy year in the world of B2B. We’ve established a strong base of clients since launching, but we’re constantly looking to

develop our product offering and get new clients on board. We’re confident of another big year of growth in 2020 and given the fact that no one out there can match the quality of our esports product, we firmly believe it will prove to be a key driver for us.” Pinnacle Solution has also emerged as a major player in the B2B sector for its traditional sports offering that includes its iFrame API and turnkey solution. Being a proven leader in risk management is the central pillar to Pinnacle Solution’s offering in this regard. Twenty years of experience in the sports betting industry with a low margin, high limits model has enabled Pinnacle to position its B2B arm of the business in a unique way to benefit from the high demand for risk management expertise. Pinnacle Solution will be at stand # S3-130.

SA Gaming

Top-notch Entertainment Provider


A Gaming has been providing a fine assortment of Asian and Western hot table games, including Baccarat, Dragon Tiger, Roulette, Sic Bo, Fan Tan, and Blackjack for operators in the region for more than 10 years. Recently, it has added Money Wheel, a popular Live Game with a payout up to 50x. It also features lovely hosts who would interact with players and can be tipped with gifts. There is also a Side Bet based on Hoo Hey How, a traditional Chinese dice game. Baccarat is SA Gaming’s main product. The supplier has spent great effort in making its Baccarat unique and entertaining. For example, its Squeeze Baccarat contains elements in a real casino, where players get to squeeze their cards bit by bit to reveal the true result. There are also good road displays, showing players tables where special roads (patterns) occur. Pro duc ts of SA G aming c an r un cross-platform and cross-device. Players can access to SA Gaming’s lobby via the Premium Version, H5 Mobile, and SA APP. SA Gaming’s mobile platform is available to both Android and iOS devices. Players can play games as long as they are online.

SA Gaming has been well recognized by peers and the industry. Last year, it was awarded the “Asian Platform Provider of the Year” at Malta Gaming Awards 2019. This was achieved by not only SA Gaming alone – but also joint efforts from its clients and their players around the world. SA Gaming would like to share the success of the industry. Visit SA Gaming at stand N6-340 at ICE London.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


All around gaming experience


t ICE, Scientific Games will be showcasing great games, best-in-class iGaming and sports platforms as well as its complete entertainment ecosystem powered by cutting-edge technology. When it comes to land-based gaming, no other gaming company creates exciting player experiences supported by efficient systems and seamless technology like Scientific Games. At ICE, Scientific Games will introduce new games that will build on its long history of taking proven, player-favorite game mechanics to the next level of excitement for the European market. This includes games such as Hot Hot Jackpot, Penny Pier Link, and Ultra Hot Mega Link, and the evolution of the beloved Ultimate Fire Link. Scientific Games is bringing back the classic 5 Reel Mechanical game with the TwinStar 5RM. The company is launching its first new 5RM game in seven years with Dancing Drums 5RM and Lock it Link 5RM.

Scientific Games will also debut the latest innovations in table games, shufflers and systems products including: Quartz, a dramatically redesigned cabinet with an immersive play experience; GM Atlas, a next-level progressive operating system which includes new bonus and jackpot options; MDX, a new multi-deck shuffler with the capacity to shuffle up to ten decks of cards and the MCC system which optimizes operations and improves productivity thanks to its intuitive design and a new user interface. The company will also launch the next phase of CUBE, its all-encompassing UK customer portal. Scientific Games will also showcase the latest features and updates from its dynamic iGaming and sports platforms and experiences, OpenGaming and OpenSports. Through OpenGaming Scientific Games offers immersive casino content and dynamic player experience

features in one integration. New iGaming features such as Mega Drop, Mega Drop Quest and Jackpot Wars create innovative, new ways of engaging players and growing the player base. The modular platform, OpenSports, is trusted by the world’s leading operators and lets operators choose exactly the services their business requires. Scientific Games is also enhancing play with groundbreaking technology by complementing gaming experiences with cutting-edge solutions, systems and technology across its entire entertainment ecosystem.

desktop and mobile versions and support more than 7 major Asian languages, catering to the needs of different players. SimplePlay’s games are joyful to play. They create immense value for clients. There are also fishing games that allow friends near and far to play together. Competition among players makes the game more addictive! “Fishermen Gold” supports up to six players to enjoy an instant online multiplayer gaming experience they have never had before. SimplePlay also services such as quick API

integration, multi-language, multi-currency, 24/7 support, and comprehensive back office management. SimplePlay is always with its clients, offering any kind of assistance needed. This is SimplePlay’s first time exhibiting in the world’s largest gaming exhibition. It is starting with an area over 4,000 sq. ft. Apart from ordinary game trial zones showcasing hot products, there is also a great interactive zone where visitors can try their luck in its featured game this year – Shu Dynasty. Find SimplePlay at booth #N6-340.


Zeal for the reels


implePlay is a fast-growing games provider specialising in slot games and fishing games. Founded by veteran gaming enthusiasts, it develops premium slot games that deliver the thrill of the reels to the players. It also offers exciting fishing games to enrich the portfolio of online gaming operators. SimplePlay offers up to 50 slot games covering a great variety of themes and ways to play. The innovation never ends for SimplePlay, as it keeps adding new titles to its library. All HTML5-powered games are available in

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Cutting edge innovations


pintec, a developer and producer of Electronic Table Games, will exhibit at ICE London where they will unveil the latest gaming innovations. The main highlight of Spintec’s presence at the show will be providing comprehensive gaming solutions. This year’s presentation of Spintec will be marked by a vast selection of novelties, covering all requirements for every casino floor. The company has gone one step further in the development of Blackjack configurations. Visitors will have the opportunity to experience the cutting-edge designed Karma GEN2 Blackjack compact solution for the first time at the show. In addition, visitors of Spintec’s stand will also be able to try out the new Bar top playing station, which will be released later this year. Spintec’s innovativeness and customizable design are featured in this new product which the company says will keep players in their seats for hours. Spintec is also set to expand the player options even further, with add-ons such as multilevel jackpot, tournaments, and side-bets that allow players to immerse themselves deeper into the game and provide them an intense gaming experience. Spintec has also updated and renewed the content of the toppers. Spintec’s toppers are equipped with

multimedia functions which provide the player with additional information. At the show, the company will present the refreshed and attractive topper content that is expected to be noticed by the players. “The ICE show offers us a great opportunity to present our latest solutions. We promise that our customers can count on our continued growth and innovation, and we will be happy to prove this in London this year. Spintec will demonstrate our ground-breaking solutions to drive player engagement, which translates

directly into longer gaming sessions and therefore accelerates operators’ revenue growth, and enhance operating efficiency,” said Goran Miškulin, CEO at Spintec. “The 10-year anniversary of Spintec is nearly upon us, and there will be a great opportunity to celebrate this at ICE London with our team and business partners who are part of our success,” added Miškulin. Visit the Spintec team at stand S5-245 and discover their unique gaming solutions that meet even the most demanding operators’ requests.

traceability, and the benefit of never again needing to change locks when a key is lost or an employee dismissed. The Dynamic Panel Systems (DPS) feature the latest advancements in player interfaces, offering all the adaptability of touch screens while maintaining the satisfying feel of mechanical push buttons that keep users engaged. Further innovations to be shown at this year’s ICE include the Newland line of scanners, new printer models from Nanoptix and Custom, and POS solutions for lottery and sports betting.

”The depth and breadth of our product line is unmatched – we can provide every component operators and OEMs need to run their businesses efficiently,” said Mike Sigona, SUZOHAPP’s business development and global gaming product manager.” Also at ICE, SUZOHAPP will display its new, award-winning components website which offers comprehensive product information, organized in an intuitive and easy-to-navigate format. Visitors will find SUZOHAPP at booth #N3-130.


Technology creating value


UZOHAPP, a leading technology company with over 50,000 gaming, amusement, sports betting, lottery and bingo products, will be showcasing the most complete range of components on the market today, including monitors, locks, printers, scanners, bill and coin handling, push buttons, and more. A key player in the gaming industry for decades, SUZOHAPP uses its deep expertise and strong engineering team to deliver technological innovations that add significant value to its customers. One such innovation is the new VisionPro line of LCD monitors which now includes edge-lit and 4K UHD models, narrow border touch and Thru-Glass capabilities, allowing touch screens to work through 9mm of tempered glass. Also on display will be the new drop-in replacement E-PRL electronic reprogrammable lock which enables remote authorization,

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Flexible accessories and customisable jackpots


CE 2020 provides the perfect showcase for TCSJOHNHUXLEY, to debut some new and exciting additions to the range. Qorex Gaming Solutions provide all the thrills of live gaming, while delivering all the benefits of electronic gaming, such as multi-game selection and improved security, whilst optimizing resources and hardware to increase revenue. Designed to complement the striking Qorex cabinet that incorporates system-controlled LED’s, a range of new accessories featuring podiums, divider shelves and game signage will display just how flexible and eye-catching Qorex layout configurations can be achieved, transforming the gaming floor and creating an exciting gaming experience for players. Also on show will be the TCSJOHNHUXLEY Jackpot system, which provides operators with the flexibility to configure multiple bespoke progressive jackpots and patented mystery prizes, to enhance any base game. The system focuses on preferred hit frequencies as well as specific jackpots, their seed values and

contributions. Never before has there been a successful progressive system that provides high levels of excitement as well as multiple customisable independent progressive jackpots and fixed payouts, incorporating both event based and mystery wins. A range of iGaming products built specifically for the live online gaming space will highlight why TCSJOHNHUXLEY is the iGaming supplier of choice. Space-saving tables featuring innovative wheel podiums that allow operators to move products quickly and easily depending on required camera angles or gaming requirements illustrate how working in partnership with customers, it’s possible to deliver quality bespoke products of the highest level with exceptional attention to detail. ”We are really excited to be showcasing a diverse range of products at ICE 2020, that emphasise our company’s core strengths – bringing together traditional craftsmanship and techniques with the latest innovative technologies to deliver world beating products and services that excite and entertain players

whilst increasing revenue for our customers,” said Nicci Smith, managing director Europe. Meet TCS at ICE stand #S6-250.


Epic edge & Epicentral 4.0


ransAct looks forward to attending ICE London where they will showcase their leading gaming products, including the Epic Edge TITO printer and Epicentral 4.0. The next-generation Epic Edge is the latest and best choice in ticket in/ ticket out (TITO) printers, offering the highest print quality

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020

in the market thanks to its unmatched print resolution and cutting-edge features. Packed with technology to simplify your operations and improve slot floor performance, the Epic Edge retains key designs from the ever-reliable and industry award-winning Epic 950. TransAct’s Epic Edge is the most innovative

TITO printer on the market, as it’s the only one that features an unmatched 300 DPI, a highspeed firmware uploading solution and a single interface board for all games. Epic Edge tickets also feature dynamic graphic images, making it ideal for implementation alongside bonusing applications such as Epicentral from TransAct. Epicentral 4.0 is TransAct’s next-generation promotional bonusing software suite- the only one in the industry that can target customers in real-time with unique, custom-designed coupons while they play. Epicentral extends time-on-device, increases player spend and generates increased customer loyalty – all leading to more revenue and profits for casinos. Epicentral 4.0 offers a variety of new and improved features that are strategically designed for casino operators to increase their revenue while using the most effective and user-friendly software. The new functionality includes a sleek user interface that is easily operable and creates an optimized user experience with its clean aesthetic. The latest version of Epicentral is also web-based, which makes it easier to install, update and keep secure. TransAct invites attendees to visit Stand N2-300.


10-Year Anniversary


etting solutions provider UltraPlay will celebrate a 10-year anniversary during ICE London, 4-6 February 2020, at booth S2-245. Founded in 2010, with the core ambition to offer an innovative approach to the online gaming industry, UltraPlay keeps on opening new perspectives on the global gaming map through its advanced betting solutions. Mario Ovcharov, CEO at UltraPlay has commented on the occasion: “It’s a very exciting time for us at UltraPlay. We start this year with a special milestone of celebrating 10 years on the market, a moment that reflects on our achievements as an organization. After a decade of steady progress, we are now looking forward to the new perspectives, opportunities and partnerships, to begin at ICE London and forward.” At ICE London, UltraPlay’s team of iGaming experts will present the company’s latest product developments, highlighting the sports product with its enhanced features and functionalities to empower the online betting operators. “Unlike other solutions, the UltraPlay

platform al lows fu l ly customizable events, markets, margins, limits, market lines and ability to fully tailor sports content for end-user needs.”, added Mario Ovcharov. “Besides UltraPlay’s sports product, the company’s all-in-one complete iGaming package has several upgrades that online brands can benefit from. Esports platform and odds feed functionalities are further extended to meet the ever-growing interest of the players towards this vertical. The solution was further innovated through the Hybrid Live eSports betting model, through which players can enjoy in-play betting 3 times longer compared to other websites. Moreover ODDS.GG website redesign will be presented for the first time at ICE London – with a better

user interface and experience. UltraPlay’s dedicated team will discuss potential partnerships with all interested to step further and be part of the company’s story of success, at booth S2-245.


Wider choice, bigger success


itro will be showcasing its vast and steadily growing product library of successful Video Slot and Video Bingo games and solutions at Ice Totally Gaming 2020. Centre stage will be taken by the various distinctive cabinet models: ILLUSION, a portrait-type cabinet that incorporates an impressive 43-inch Ultra HD curved monitor and a 21.5-inch digital topper; ALLURE that comes with three 27-inch Full HD Screens as well as the ‘Synchroscreens; And the popular FUSION cabinet, in both its upright and slant version will also be showcased with more and even better content. All three cabinet types, ILLUSION, ALLURE and FUSION are compatible with Zitro’s powerful digital button panel ‘SmartDeck’. In terms of content at ICE, the incredible multigame Link “Double Link” on the ILLUSION cabinet will have its worldwide debut. It offers new functionalities never seen before on a Link game. Visitors will also be able to see the ‘Shock Lounge’ at Zitro’s booth. This area contains a proven and exponentially growing game

library including Link shock, 88 Shock, Link Me Shock, Link Shock II and 88 Link Shock. All games are interconnected to the same mystery progressive jackpot allowing players to select their favorite game but with the possibility to win the mystery shock prize that is triggered with amazingly high frequency, providing more entertainment and rewards. In addition, Zitro will present Many more of its successful Video slot and Video Bingo games. Johnny Viveiros Ortiz, Founder and passionate leader of Zitro commented that: “It is only three years ago when we showcased our first Video Slot Machines at ICE Totally Gaming 2017. Now we do not only have a vast and steadily growing game library and hardware selection, but we also have the recognition of all major casino operators throughout the world, as they have experienced first-hand the success of our Video Slots and or Video Bingo products, positioning us, as we strived to become, a global leader in the gaming industry. This unprecedented success story is only possible thanks to the absolute best team, of which I am fortunate to lead.” See the stand at N6-160 at the show.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020

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MARCH ASEAN Gaming Summit 17-19 March 2020 Shangri-la, BGC, Manila https://aseangaming.com/ Spice India 25-27 March 2020 Goa Marriott Resort & Spa https://www.sportsbettingevents.com/spice-india

APRIL SIGMA Roadshow taipei 14-15 April 2020 https://sigma.com.mt/sigma-roadshow/sigma-roadshowtaipei/

May G2E Asia 19-21 May 2020 Venetian Exhibition Centre, Cotai, Macau https://www.g2easia.com/en-gb.html

JUNE Russia Gaming Week 2020 3 June 2020 ECC Sokolniki Pavilion, Moscow https://rgweek.com/en?utm_source=PR_Pukalo&utm_ medium=calendar&utm_campaign=igamingcalendar.com Asia Gaming Awards 7 June 2020 SMX Convention Centre, Manila https://sigma.com.mt/events/asia/asia-gaming-awards/

JULY iGB Live 14-17 July 2020 RAI Amsterdam https://www.igblive.com/ Phil-Asian Gaming Expo 30 July 2020 SMX and WTC Exhibition Centres https://www.phil-asiangamingexpo.com/EN/

AUGUST Australasian Gaming Expo 11-13 August 2020 ICC Sydney https://austgamingexpo.com/

ICE Asia and Sigma Asia 8-9 June 2020 SMX Convention Centre, Manila www.Ice-asia.com World Gaming Executive Summit 30 June - 2 July 2020 W Hotel, Barcelona https://www.terrapinn.com/conference/world-gamingexecutive-summit/index.stm

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Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Gambling on uncertainty Sharon Singleton

Managing Editor, AGB

A quick Google search for the size of the global online gambling industry provides a range of figures so wide that the only thing it really tells you is that no one has a truly accurate forecast for how much is bet through the internet.


ban on online gambling in some of the world’s Rodrigo Duterte recently seemed to imply he had biggest markets, such as China, means that managed to appease Beijing by his government’s efforts accurate data is almost impossible to come to reign in the industry. Regulatory headaches aside, many companies by. The one consensus is that the market is big -- very big -- and growing, and that Asia is the most stepping a toe into Asia are finding the market highly competitive, with operators cutting margins in an effort exciting place to be. This promise of the online eldorado has led company to grow market share. U.K.-listed Playtech back in August announced after company to develop content and products designed to appeal to the Asian markets, but many are finding it was cutting its revenue forecast for Asia for 2019 it’s not as easy as they had expected to break into these to EU115 million, from its initial outlook for EU150 million ($127.4 million), citing increasing competition, complicated and unregulated jurisdictions. Last year provided a wake up call for those operating especially in China and a clampdown by authorities in in the markets, testing even the strongest nerves. After Malaysia. As a publicly listed company, it’s one of the few that provides details on its years of seemingly turning a revenue from Asia. blind eye to gambling products Then there’s the challenge targeting its nationals, Beijing in in reaching the target audience. August decided to act, warning Last year Asia-facing firms have spent in no uncertain terms that its provided a wake millions in sponsorship packages, patience had run out. especially for the U.K.’s Premier Cambodia, whose economy is up call for those League, in the hope of reaching heavily dependent on investment operating in the the region’s soccer-mad fan base. from China, complied immediately, However, the extent of the practice slapping an all out ban on online markets, testing has raised eyebrows, with the gaming that came into effect from even the strongest U.K.’s opposition Labour Party Jan. 1st this year. recently proposing a review At first some companies had nerves. amidst concern the firms were hoped that once the dust had using the reputation of British settled, the government in Phnom sport as a marketing platform Penh would change its mind, or at least fail to actively enforce the ban. That’s proving not for their own domestic audiences. The affiliate space in Asia is growing, but firms are to be the case and many are now conceding that they need to shut up shop, closing the door on one of only needing to be creative in how they attract and retain two jurisdictions in Asia that allowed online gaming. their clientele. Most online operators are confident that at some The other -- the Philippines -- has created some nail-biting moments for the industry. Hosting the largest point in the future Asian governments, outside China, igaming community in Asia through its Philippine will eventually take steps to legalise online gaming, Offshore Gaming Operator licenses, there were anxious realising the significant potential for tax revenue and the impossibility of stamping it out. However, they also times as Manila mulled its reaction to Beijing. However, it seems at least for the moment that danger concede that regulation is still a long, long way off. In the meantime, after the shockwaves of 2019, the may have passed. The government and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. have stepped up their advent of the Chinese New Year of the rat may give rise supervision of the industry, seeking to stamp out tax for some optimism. 2020 is the year of the metal rat, which apparently tends to be reliable and live a stable evasion and to document illegal workers. While it’s unlikely to permit rapid expansion, the life. They may hold some power and are able to turn Philippines is still open for business and President unlucky events into fortune.

Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


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Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020


Asia Gaming Briefings | January 2020

Profile for Asia Gaming Brief

AGBriefings February 2020  

AGB brings you extensive coverage across all types of gaming, across 22 Asia jurisdictions. The February Edition will be released alongside...

AGBriefings February 2020  

AGB brings you extensive coverage across all types of gaming, across 22 Asia jurisdictions. The February Edition will be released alongside...

Profile for agbrief