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Jurisdiction Updates March 2020 Edition

In focus pg.20

Tech tools to transform casino ops

philippines pg.12 Regions lead GGR growth

CNMI pg.40

Covid-19 adds to IPI’s pain

Japan pg.32

Seven trials for IR process

Macau pg.6 Outlook sickly until travel bans lifted

SUPPLIER SPECIALS pg.44


2

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


MESSAGE 3

Bounce back, with tech

M

arch has been for Manila. Since the inception

Starting off with Macau, the forced the closure of all

of the ASEAN Gaming Summit three years

properties for two weeks just after the key Chinese New Year

hence, Manila has played host to the

crushed gross gambling revenue in February and it’s unlikely

industry to discuss the challenges and

to fare much better in March, leaving operators grappling

opportunities the region presents.

with how to control costs when revenue evaporates.

Due to safety and travel concerns stemming from the

The Philippines was once again the best-performing market

COVID-19 outbreak, AGB has made the decision to postpone

in Asia last year, with an impressive contribution from

the ASEAN Gaming Summit 2020 and announced the new

regional casinos, as well as the increasingly well-established

dates of 28-30 July 2020 at the Shangri-La at the Fort.

integrated resorts in entertainment City. The impact of the

Going forward the industry will undoubtedly be focused

outbreak in the jurisdiction remains to be seen.

on recovering from the recession caused by outbreak

Across the straits, Singapore’s government has granted

and arguably turning to technology to invert the trend.

tax breaks and other incentives to the industry to help

We dedicate this edition’s focus to how operators, both

offset The impact of the Covid-19 virus on travel, though

land-based and online, can incorporate new technology to

has chosen not to reduce its entry levy for locals. As of

improve operational efficiencies.

writing no other jurisdiction had followed suit in providing

What’s already being used and what can we expect as we

exemptions to operators.

look into the crystal ball? We explore how AI and machine

Meanwhile, Japan has seen numerous twists and turns in

learning can foster interaction between product and patron

its bid to establish an integrated resort industry, though

but not without incurring the risk of losing that so defining

perhaps one of the most unwelcome was the arrest of a

human touch. As part of the tech series we hone on how

deputy minister at the centre of a money-for-favours

technology can support responsible gaming practices and

scandal surrounding Ir development plans for Okinawa

nurture customer loyalty.

and Hokkaido.

In turn, we engaged with the industry’s leading

We are confident the industry will bounce back, resilient

manufacturers who - despite the never ending gloom

as it is. Our best wishes are with you all. Stay healthy,

from the headlines - are showing remarkable resilience

stay strong!

Rosalind Wade

Luis Pereira

in the face of the crisis, telling us they remain bullish on the prospects for Asia. The series of interviews provide an

On behalf of Asia Gaming Brief

insight into the trends and growth patterns across the Asian

Rosalind Wade & Luis Pereira

market as a whole, as well as the development plans of the

Publishers

individual companies. Unsurprisingly, most of the suppliers were coming off a strong year in 2019 and before the crisis

Connect with us:

erupted were looking forward to a positive 2020. In these pages you’ll also find the most relevant updates

@agbrief

across Asia’s 22 gaming jurisdictions that you’ve become

Asia Gaming Brief

Asia Gaming Brief

accustomed to.

www.agbrief.com

MARCH 2020 EDITION Series II • Issue XIX

PUBLISHED BY Blue Sky Venture Ltd. 16/F China Law Building, 409 Av. da Praia Grande Macau SAR | P.O. Box 1139 t. +853 2871 7267 f. +853 2871 7264 e. enquiries@agbrief.com ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES advertising@agbrief.com SUBSCRIPTION ENQUIRIES memberships@agbrief.com EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES editorial@agbrief.com

PUBLISHERS & MDS Rosalind Wade, Luis Pereira MANAGING EDITOR Sharon Singleton ASIA EDITOR Felix Ng DESIGN Liane Honda PHOTOGRAPHY Agencies PRINTING Hop Sze, Hong Kong

DISCLAMER All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any shape or form, or by any means, or stored in any retrieval system of any nature, without prior express permission. The publishers accept no responsibility for loss or damage to any materials submitted for publication. The views expressed within are not necessarily subscribed by the publishers. For more info, please visit our website www.agbrief.com.

AGBRIEF PARTNER EVENTS

› ICE Totally Gaming › ASEAN Gaming Summit › Japan Gaming Congress › G2E Asia › Russian Gaming Week › iGB!Live › World Gaming Executive Summit › Australasian Gaming Expo › G2E Las Vegas › European iGaming Congress › IAGR Annual Conference › MGS Entertainment Show › SiGMA

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


CONTENTS 4

GREATER CHINA

6

MACAU

AUSTRALASIA

36

AUSTRALIA

38

CNMI

40

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020

PHIlippines

12

JApan

32

malaysia

16

south korea

34

SINGAPORE

18

SOUTH ASIA

new zealand

special focus

NORTH ASIA

SOUTH EAST ASIA

20

INDIA

SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT

42

44

LAST WORD

62


5

Coronavirus message In this time of difficulty for both the industry and global society as a whole, Asia Gaming Brief urges all of our partners and friends around the world to take the greatest of care with your own health and that of your families. We are reminded in times like these what are the most precious things in our lives. Our best wishes are with you all.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


6

GREATER CHINA

6

MACAU

Covid-19 pummels Macau’s near-term outlook Macau’s gross gambling revenue was crushed in February and unlikely to fare much better in March, leaving operators grappling with how to control costs when revenue evaporates. Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


T

he outbreak of Covid-19 forced the closure of all properties for two weeks in early February, just after the key Chinese New Year festival. Gross gambling revenue plunged by almost 88 percent in the month and even though the casinos have now opened, there is still expected to be a decline of about 75 percent in March, according to analysts’ forecasts. There is also very little clarity as to when the situation may improve. Key to this will be the lifting of travel restrictions in China, in particular the individual visit scheme. Out of 39.5 million travellers in 2019, 70 percent came from Mainland China, that rises to 90 percent if you include visitors from neighbouring Hong Kong. Management at Melco Resor ts & Entertainment said in February that it expected the next four to six months to remain highly challenging for Macau, while MGM Resorts and Wynn have noted the virus has posed a significant risk to their business. In MGM Resorts’ annual report, the company said it is unable to predict the full extent of the impact of the coronavirus, but said it expects a material effect on MGM China’s results in the first quarter of 2020, and potentially thereafter. “The extent to which the coronavirus impacts the company’s results will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted,” said MGM. During Macau’s casino shutdown, MGM lost around $1.5 million per day across both of its properties in Macau – most of this being payroll related. While MGM resumed operations on February

GREATER CHINA 7

20, MGM said there are limits on the number of gaming tables allowed to operate to avoid customers being seated in too close proximity. Wynn Macau was also unable to reasonably estimate the impact of the viral outbreak on its results. “The Coronavirus outbreak has had and will have an adverse effect on our results of operations.

The extent “ to which the

coronavirus impacts the company’s results will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted.

Given the uncertainty around the extent and timing of the potential future spread or mitigation of the Coronavirus and around the imposition or relaxation of protective measures, we cannot reasonably estimate the impact on our future results of operations, cash flows, or financial condition.”

Staffing costs have long been an issue in Macau due to the shortage of labour and the restrictions placed on hiring foreign workers, who are banned from working as dealers. With the potential difficulty of rehiring and with one eye on upcoming concession renewals from next year, reducing expenses by shedding staff is likely to be a last resort. As a result, the operators have very few options when it comes to cutting overheads to counter the plunge in revenue. A number of casino expansion projects in Macau have also been halted or slowed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, according to Morningstar analyst Chelsea Tam. Among the delayed projects include Galaxy Macau phases 3 and 4, Sands China’s the Londoner, the Grand Lisboa Palace, and Studio City’s second phase. Macau casino stocks have taken a beating since the outbreak of the virus, but while analysts remain cautious in the short term, they remain optimistic of a sharp bounce back once the outbreak is under control. Likewise, analysts also see strong pent up demand, which will help drive GGR once travel restrictions have been lifted. However, that forecast comes with a caveat. Bernstein Research says that there is a risk that the “return to normal” will take place over a longer period of time, perhaps towards the end of the year, as the contagion is not brought under control and visa issuance and transport links are not resumed. A further issue may be China entering recession if government stimulus fails to overcome the negative impact of Covid-19 and confidence is suppressed.

Non-gaming spend drops by 11.8 percent in 2019 The Statistics and Census Service (DSEC) has reported that total non-gaming spending by visitors in the fourth quarter of 2019 dropped by 11.8 percent year-on-year to MOP16.24 billion (US$2 billion). Per capita spending of visitors went down by 4.3 percent year-on-year to MOP1,765 in the same period, marking a drop for five consecutive quarters since the fourth quarter of 2018. While visitors from Singapore and the Republic of Korea spent an average of MOP2,144 and MOP2,073, an upsurge of 25.4 percent and 31.8 percent year-on-year respectively; spending by visitors from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan witnessed a decline. For the full year 2019, per capita spending of visitors fell by 16.5 percent year-on-year to MOP1,626.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


GREATER CHINA 8

GROSS GAMING REVENUE GGR 2019 MOP292.4b

-3.4%

-11.3%

-87.8%

-75%

January February March E

Macau financial reserves rise 13.9% in 2019 The Macau Monetary Authority said its financial reserves rose 13.9 percent in 2019, helped by a significant recovery in world equity markets. The fund said it had MOP579.4 billion ($72.5 billion) at the end of the year, representing basic reserves of MOP148.9 billion and an extraordinary reserve of MOP430.5 billion. Investment income was MOP30.2 billion, up 5.6 percent, and the highest level since the reserve was created in 2012. The authority sees significant challenges for 2020 given the impact of the coronavirus on equity markets and the low, or negative interest rate environment prevailing in the money markets.

MGM china 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. For 2019, the company saw revenue up 19 percent year-on-year, driven by non-VIP gaming. Said revenue reached HK$22.8 billion. Adjusted EBITDA grew by 28 percent yearon-year, reaching HK$6.2 billion. MGM said that 86 percent of its profit was driven by non-VIP businesses in the year. Much of this growth was seen at its MGM Cotai property, with growth recorded across all business segments, while MGM Macau saw solid profit in the year – completing a seven-month renovation on the casino floor in October. Long-time Chairman and CEO Jim Murren

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020

announced he was stepping down from his position in February, though will continue to serve until a successor is found.

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. It is also developing a resort in Cyprus and maintains a strong focus on Japan. CEO Lawrence Ho recently said that construction on its Hollywood-themed Studio City resort is progressing. It will offer 900 additional luxury hotel rooms and suites, one of the world’s largest indoor water parks, a Cineplex, fine-dining restaurants, and state-of-the-art MICE spaces. For Q4, total operating revenues were US$1.45 billion, representing an increase of approximately 3 percent year-on-year – in line with analyst estimates. Net income attributable to Melco, however,

fell to US$68.1 million, compared with US$126.6 million a year earlier.

Galaxy Entertainment Group Galaxy Entertainment Group (27.HK) has three main properties and runs three City Club casinos inside hotels. Galaxy Entertainment reported full year net revenues at US$51.9 billion, down 6 percent year-on-year, while Adjusted EBITDA was US$16.5 billion, down 2 percent year-on-year. The final quarter of 2019 contributed to these soft results. The flagship Galaxy Macau and StarWorld Macau both saw declines in revenues and profitability in 2019, with only Broadway Macau making progress over the 2018 figures. Bernstein Research said that some of the decline was anticipated by analysts “due to ramp up of newer Cotai properties such as Melco’s Morpheus Tower and MGM Cotai,” which added enhanced competitive pressures. Galaxy has the largest land bank of all the operators in Macau for any future developments


GREATER CHINA 9

and is also focused on bidding for a license in Japan, for which it has teamed up with Monaco’s Societe des Bains de Mer. The company has said that it’s still aiming to launch elements of its Galaxy Phase 3 expansion in the first half of next year, despite construction delays caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

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. In November, the company opened elements of its new Lakeside Casino at Wynn Macau. For Q4, Wynn’s results came in below expectations. Operating revenue at Wynn Palace dropped 20.3 percent, with adjusted property EBITDA down 21.6 percent, while at Wynn Macau operating revenues dropped 5.1 percent, with EBITDA off 1.5 percent.

Overall gross gambling revenue at Wynn Macau was down 20 percent year-on-year to $1.24 billion in the quarter, giving it a share of 13.9 percent of the Macau market, down from 14.2 percent in the prior quarter, according to analysis from Bernstein. The firm says Wynn lost 35 basis points in mass market share and 25 points of VIP. Management has noted that prior to the casino closures business had been strong through to mid-January with EBITDA of about $4 million a day.

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. For 2019, the company reported profit of US$2 billion, which was an 8.4 percent advance over the previous year’s figure. Net revenues of over US$8.8 billion represented a 1.7 percent increase. The company has invested $14 billion in its properties in Macau and that will rise to $15

billion over the next two years as the company upgrades its resorts. In the fourth quarter, Sands beat estimates by 2 percent, with adjusted property EBITDA up 3 percent at $811 million. It gained market share in the quarter to 24.3 percent from 23.2 percent in the same quarter a year earlier. The results were driven mainly by a strong performance in base mass, though premium mass was weaker.

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 was scheduled to open its $4.6 billion Lisboa Palace resort in early 2021, although analysts estimate that will be pushed back further due to disruptions from the coronavirus. The Lisboa Palace will be the last to open on Cotai and has faced numerous delays. The property features hotels designed by the late Karl Lagerfeld and by Versace and has a strong VIP focus.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


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Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


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Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


SOUTH EAST ASIA

12

PHILIPPINES

Regions help power GGR growth The Philippines was once again the best-performing market in Asia last year, with an impressive contribution from regional casinos, as well as the increasingly well-established integrated resorts in Entertainment City.


SOUTH EAST ASIA

O

13

verall gross gambling revenue rose 15 percent to PHP248.46 billion, according to figures from the regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR). The four Manila IRs contributed the lion’s share, reporting revenue of PHP165.2 billion, up almost 17 percent on the prior year period. However, it was the developing casino cluster in Clark that registered the strongest growth, jumping almost 41 percent, with regional resort operator Thunderbird also turning in a healthy gain of 27 percent. The Clark Freeport Zone now has six operating casinos, with at least a further two properties in the works. The D’Heights casino held a soft opening in July last year, boasting 309-hectares spread over a mountainous site to the west of the zone. The luxury resort features four gaming floors and a Hilton Hotel, being the first of several to open its doors. The D’Heights joins the Widus Casino, the Casino Filipino Mimosa, the Midori Clark Hotel, the Royce and Fortunegate. Almost the size of Singapore, Clark occupies over 33,000 hectares of prime land located in Central Luzon. A former U.S. airport base, the area is now being promoted as hub for tourism, MICE and business investment, in particular as an alternative to the crowded and polluted capital. Transport links have been improved, including flight connectivity, making the area more easily accessible. It is just 3 ½ hours flying time away from Hong Kong, Taiwan,

Singapore, Japan and Korea, the latter being the main source market for the region. In February, Widus Group unveiled details of a rebranding of its properties in the area, to create a new lifestyle brand -- Hann Resorts, which will be the umbrella for the Hann Casino Resort in Clark and the new PHP12 billion Hann Lux Resort in New Clark City.

Almost the size of Singapore, Clark occupies over 33,000 hectares of prime land located in Central Luzon.

The company signed an accord last year with the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) for the creation of the luxury property. Phase 1 will involve investment of PHP5 billion and is scheduled to open within five years, including the development of an Angsana Hotel and the Banyan Tree Hotel, as well as an 18-hole championship golf course, and a clubhouse. Phase 2 includes the development of Westin and Luxury Collection by Marriott, two 18-hole championship golf courses,

CASINOS GROSS GAMING REVENUES 2019

Belle 2019 net profit falls

(in million PhP)

2018 36,934

PAGCOR

35,895

Entertainment City

165,284 141,436

Clark

12,146 8,622

Thunderbird

outdoor recreation facilities, premium villas and residences, a mixed-use commercial center, and a 10-hectare public park for a total investment of PHP7 billion. Australia’s Frontier Capital, which operates the Hotel Stotsenberg in the zone, also announced recently that the reopening of its casino there had helped the group return to profit in 2019. The company secured regulatory approval to reopen the FortuneGate Casino, formerly known as the Casablanca, following a shutdown due to compliance failings. Revenue from the country’s casinos helped boost PAGCOR’s coffers by 11.6 percent last year, to PHP75.8 billion, despite a moratorium on new online licenses. The amount exceeded PAGCOR’s 2019 target by P1.3 billion. PAGCOR said this was mainly a result of gaming revenues from slot machine operations, electronic bingo, table games operations, regulatory fees from its POGO sector, and fees from licensed casinos. Meanwhile, the Philippine government has resisted pressure so far to put an all out ban on its lucrative online gaming industry despite pressure from Beijing, which nonetheless is making it clear it has not abandoned its efforts. According to local media reports, the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines has claimed it has a list of all workers for Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators (POGOs) in the country and is threatening to cancel their passports. Such a move could lead to the mass deportation of thousands of POGO workers.

2,026 1,588 (Source: PAGCOR)

Belle Corp posted a 9 percent decline in net income in 2019 to P2.9 billion ($57 million), driven mainly by a drop in consolidated revenues. Belle said its overall operating performance was affected by weaker results at Pacific Online Systems Corporation, which leases online betting equipment to the Philippines Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) – revenue from Pacific Online fell 49 percent in the year, due to competition from small-town lottery and temporary suspension of PCSO and keno operations in the third quarter of 2019. Belle Corp’s principal asset is the City of Dreams Manila in Entertainment City, which is being leased on a long-term basis to Melco. The company, however, reported a lower share in gaming earnings at City of Dreams Manila, down 7 percent to P2.98 billion in 2019.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


SOUTH EAST ASIA 14

City of Dreams 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. For Q4, Melco reported a decline in operating revenue for the property to $153.5 million from $155.2 million a year earlier. Adjusted EBITDA fell to $53.9 million from $67.9 million, which the company attributed to softer performance in the rolling chip segment, partially offset by better performance in the mass market table

games and gaming machines segments. With increased competition in the market, City of Dreams Manila’s rolling chip volume was $2.02 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019 versus $2.38 billion in the fourth quarter of 2018. Mass market table games drop increased to $216.3 million compared with $197.3 million.

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 is seeing a strong ramp up with Universal reporting a jump of almost 46 percent in net sales for last year. The company said visitation in Q4 was strong and hotel occupancy is high. It is

now working on adding extra hotel capacity. Construction on the Coral Wing (Tower B) is nearing completion and will add a further 993 rooms, making it the largest hotel in Entertainment City. In its Q4 results statement, the company said it expects to see further strong growth, with VIP helped by adding new junkets. Though its January sales numbers showed a slowdown as the impact of Covid-19 began to bite, particularly in VIP. Universal is preparing to take its local unit, Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment public to help accelerate its expansion.

Resorts World Manila 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. In February, the company announced a 20-year lease accord with a Suncity Group unit and Westside to develop and operate its casino hotel. The agreement comes as part of moves by Suncity to operate a casino in the Philippines, which began in October last year when Suncity acquired a controlling stake in SunTrust for the rights to build a five-star hotel with at least 400 rooms, a casino with 400 gaming tables, and 1,200 slot machines for both mass and VIP markets, and a 960 space parking lot. Under the lease agreement, Suntrust will pay an annual rental fee of US$10.6 million, commencing on the first day of commencement of the casino and payable in two installments on a semi-annual basis.

Bloomberry Resorts

APE enters lease accord with Cebu casino Asia Pioneer Entertainment Holdings has announced that it has entered into an agreement with Glimex Inc. of the Philippines to lease electronic gaming equipment for use at Palace Casino, located at JPark Island Resort in Cebu the Philippines, for a term of 24 months. APE will place up to 86 units of electronic gaming equipment at the casino on an operating lease basis, and will receive a variable rental income equivalent to 22.5 percent of the net performance on a quarterly basis. This agreement expands upon the existing 24 units APE supplied to Glimex in December 2018. Tony Chan Chi Lun, CFO of APE Holdings stated, “This is a strategic move for APE to scale our operating leasing business in Asia.”

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020

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.


SOUTH EAST ASIA 15

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Gaming Summit. Held in parallel with the 2020 Gaming Regulators European Forum (GREF) Annual Meeting, you’ll have an excellent opportunity to meet with global regulators, operators and advisors to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing betting and gaming. Visit theiaga.org for more details.

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SILVER Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


SOUTH EAST ASIA 16

MALAYSIA

Genting gains ground in U.S. In 2018, on Genting Hong Kong’s 25th anniversary, President Colin Au summed up the company by saying, “We come from Malaysia, a small country, but we go out to the world. We open our eyes and learn new things.”

T

hat may be a bit of an understatement. Genting, which launched in 1971 with a hilltop hotel near Kuala Lumpur, has become a multinational gaming giant. The Lim family business is actually a trinity, made up of Genting Hong Kong (cruise lines and Resorts World Manila); Genting Singapore (Resorts World Sentosa); and Genting Malaysia (casinos and iGaming operations in Europe, the UK and elsewhere). The company didn’t get a toehold in the United States until 2010, when it beat out domestic operators Hard Rock and Penn National for the right to build and operate a VLT parlor in Queens, one of New York City’s five boroughs. With a customer base of more than 8 million on its doorstep, Resorts World New York City, at the historic Aqueduct Racetrack, soon became the most successful slots casino in the nation. According to Frank Fantini, founder of Delaware-based Fantini Gaming Research, Genting has three primary strengths— experience, money and scale—and has no interest in playing small. “They’re succeeding with giant projects,” Fantini said. “Why would they fool around in Cincinnati?” Ben Lee, managing partner of Macau gaming consultancy iGamix, agreed, adding, “They’re a cash-flow monster, and don’t really need high levels of debt to finance their expansions. Thus, they’re able to afford to take long-term positions on their projects.” For instance, Miami. In 2011, Genting bought about 30 acres of prime real estate in the South Florida resort hub, including the iconic Miami Herald building on Biscayne Bay, with a plan to build a casino resort there. It was the cornerstone of what the company hoped would become the Macau of the Americas. Formidable opposition, chiefly from the powerful Seminole Tribe, the entrenched parimutuel industry and the Disney Company, has kept that goal out of reach. But as Fantini observed, Genting is “patiently maintaining a presence in Miami, if that day ever comes.”

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020

The cash-rich company could top itself next year with Resorts World Las Vegas, now in development on the northern end of the Strip, at the site of the former Stardust Casino. The massive complex, sprawling across 88 acres, will have 3,500 hotel rooms and a 110,00-square-foot casino with slots, table games and high-limit areas. Original renderings of the property, first conceived in 2016, showed an uber-Asian theme, with pagoda-like silhouettes, oversized lantern fixtures, and gleaming red and gold

facades, in what seemed a clear invitation to the Asian high roller. That look was later soft-pedaled to “Asian-inspired touches”—a smart move, according to Lee. “No Asian is going to go to Vegas and stay in a resort that screams, ‘Asians here!’,” he said. “What attracts Asian players are resorts that meet the service standards they’re used to—compare any five-star hotel in Asia versus the ones in the U.S., and you’ll get an idea.” Genting’s new, sleeker design faced pushback from Wynn Resorts, which claimed


SOUTH EAST ASIA 17

the modified curved-tower exterior was too similar to Wynn Las Vegas and its sister property, Encore, right across the street. Days before heading to court, the rivals settled a trademark infringement lawsuit, with Genting promising more design refinements. That said, Resorts World will likely take another cue from its Strip neighbor, said Fantini. Just as Wynn taps into its Macau player base to bring Asian VIPs to Las Vegas, so will Genting cross-market to customers in Malaysia, Singapore and, yes, New York. “It’s a huge property, and they’re not going to fill it with a handful of whales from China,” he said. “They need thousands of people in that property every single day. They’re going to have to appeal to a broader base—mainly the affluent North American market,” including Canada and Mexico. Bob DeSalvio, a veteran of the U.S. gaming industry who was recently appointed president of Resorts World New York, said the company “has put it best foot forward

in the U.S. It was really strategic, where they put their resources. We’ve developed Resorts World New York City for the future, and hope someday to get live table games there.” Part of that long-term plan is a $400 million expansion that includes a 400-room hotel, which will open this year. All of it is located just minutes from JFK International Airport, which is the busiest international passenger gateway in North America. It’s all interconnected, said DeSalvio. “Look at the entire portfolio, in Singapore, in Manila. We have an incredible resort outside Kuala Lumpur, with 10,000 rooms. We have multiple casinos in the UK. We’re developing Resorts World Las Vegas. The company is very, very strong all over the world. The idea is to take this collection of assets and make sure we can handle customers no matter where they travel. “Our long-term goal is to be able to take care of the customer anywhere in the world at one of our Resorts World products.”

GROSS GAMING REVENUE UK & Egypt

Malaysia

Revenue

US & Bahamas

16%

70%

15%

Adjusted EBITDA 81%

7% 13%

(Source: Genting Malaysia)

Police bust mini-casino Malaysian police have busted a “minicasino” hidden inside an entertainment outlet in southern Kuala Lumpur, arresting 58 people, local media reports. The police raid took place on January 18 and also involved 26 women entertainment hostesses. Police noted that games being played at the illegal casino included Sam Cheong and Tau Ngau, with bets of around US$3,700. Police Assistant Commissioner Mohd Hedzir Hussin said all the suspects were brought to the Serdang police headquarters for further action. “The suspects were aged between 19 to 40 years old. Checks showed that the entertainment outlet had a valid license, until April 13, which was issued by MPSJ (local council),” he said.

Malaysia to redirect tourism marketing Malaysia is redirecting its tourism marketing efforts to locals and other Southeast Asian markets to offset an expected plunge in arrivals from China, local media reports. The country has barred travellers from all Chinese provinces put on lockdown due to the Covid-19 virus. Despite the expected shortfall from China, Malaysia still hopes to meet its target of welcoming a record 30 million tourists in 2020. Tourism accounts for 11.8 percent of Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP), with 28 million foreign visitors coming to the Southeast Asian country last year, 11 percent of them from China.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


SOUTH EAST ASIA 18

singapore

IRs to get tax break for 2020, but higher entry levy stays Singapore’s government has granted tax breaks and other incentives to the industry to help offset the impact of the Covid-19 virus on travel, though has chosen not to reduce its entry levy for locals.

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he government said the two integrated resorts will receive a tax rebate this year of 10 percent, while a property tax rebate of 30 percent will be granted for the accommodation and function room components of licensed hotels and serviced apartments, as well as MICE venues. International cruise and regional ferry terminals will receive a 15 percent property tax rebate, while a temporary bridging loan

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programme will be introduced for a year to help businesses in the tourism sector with their operating costs and cash flow. The government will also defer a planned hike in its general sales tax to 9 percent from 7 percent by about a year. The measures were announced in the island state’s annual budget address in February and formed part of a $4 billion package designed to help stabilize the

economy in the wake of the outbreak. Tourism arrivals are expected to be down by about 20 percent to 30 percent this year, with the high-spending China visitor likely to be worst affected. The Singapore Tourism Board has also said it will waive licence fees for hotels, travel agents and tourist guides, and defray enhanced cleaning costs for hotels that provided accommodation to confirmed


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and suspected cases of Covid-19 infections. MayBank Investment Bank estimates the reduction in property tax will save Genting about S$3.8 million for 2020. “This constitutes only 70bps of our FY20 core net profit forecast of $539.1 million,” Associate Director Samuel Yin Shao Yang wrote in a note. “We were hoping that the 50 percent casino entry levy hike of 4 Apr 2019 would be rolled back a tad.” The higher levy came as a sting in the tail for permission for the two IRs to expand facilities and add further gaming tables. As part of the package, the exclusivity period granted to the two IRs has been extended to 2030, while a two-tiered system of taxation for GGR will be introduced from 2022. Genting Singapore, which operates Resorts World Sentosa, has said it is pessimistic about the outlook for the coming few months. The virus has had a devastating impact on tourism, while the company’s mass market segment is still suffering from the entry fee increase.

“We will be embarking on a stronger productivity drive and utilise this period to refresh and develop our offerings,” Genting said, while reporting a 9 percent drop in Q4 revenue. According to Union Gaming, Genting saw its VIP revenue decline around 2 percent, though its mass and slots gross gambling revenue dropped 17 percent. “However, like VIP, we think the mass/ slots segment at RWS will continue to be challenging, due in part to the increased locals entry levy, as well as travel-related slowdowns due to coronavirus. For the full year 2020 we forecast a mass/slots GGR decline of 8 percent,” it said. Both IRs have stepped up precautionary measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, whilst rolling out promotions to draw more local visitors. Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands have employed thermal scanners to scan all visitors entering the property – as well

as twice-a-day temperature checks for staff. The company has also increased the frequency of sanitization of common areas, as well as regular disinfection of gaming chips, tables and slot machines at casinos. At Resorts World Sentosa, croupiers are required to sanitize their hands at the start and end of each game. Marina Bay Sands has suspended its light and water show Spectra, and has suspended any large scale events involving staff. There are also shorter operating hours at Resorts World Sentosa’s attractions including Universal Studios Singapore and S.E.A Aquarium. Marina Bay Sands has rolled out promotions to draw in more local visitors, such as a weekday staycation package that includes a free room upgrade, breakfast and $50 dining credit from Feb 20 to April 29, whilst also offering complimentary parking to shoppers who spend more than $100 in specified periods.

Singapore Pools reveals software blip

GROSS GAMING REVENUE Resorts World Sentosa Q4 gaming revenue S$387.5m Marina Bay Sands Q4 casino revenue US$602m

-13%

+20.4%

Genting drops Osaka bid to focus on Yokohama Genting Singapore has dropped its plans to bid for a licence in Osaka Japan, joining a crowded field in focusing on the Yokohama location. The company’s shareholders in early February voted overwhelmingly in favor for the company’s plans to invest up to $10 billion on a property in Japan. The Japan IR project offers the group an opportunity to leverage its core expertise in the development, operation, ownership, and management of IR destinations, to achieve geographical diversification and sustain its growth trajectory in the longer term,” said Genting Singapore in a written notice sent to shareholders when announcing the EGM. Genting reiterated during the meeting that funding will come from existing cash, borrowings, and local partners, rather than tapping into existing shareholders to fund the project.

Singapore Pools revealed software glitches in its betting systems, affecting some iToto bets and 4-D Quick Pick bets. Between Oct 2, 2018, and Dec 20 last year, iToto bets that were sold to some online and outlet customers had left the number 49 out of the set of random numbers generated in punters’ bets, Singapore Pools said. This made up 0.04 percent of Toto sales. During the same period, the numbers zero and nine were also left out of bets that were randomly generated for customers who had placed 4-D Quick Pick bets over the telephone. Singapore Pools is the only outlet in the island state authorized to offer online gambling services.

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Tech tools to fine tune operations For this magazine edition, we are focusing on some of the key themes that will be explored in depth at the ASEAN Gaming Summit, which has been postponed to July from March due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

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ey amongst those will be how operators, both land-based and online, can incorporate new technology to improve operational efficiencies. What’s already being used and what can we expect as we look into the crystal ball? We also examine whether the industry, which has always been a people-focused business, risks losing its personal touch with the introduction of too much automation. Our first article in the series hones in on the advantages of machine learning and artificial intelligence. It is here that we are reminded that it’s necessary to use the tools available to improve the customer experience and not to be tempted to replace humans with robots. We look at the various applications of the technology and at what we can expect to see. Our second piece tackles the thorny issue of

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facial recognition technology. Regulators in Macau have told the casinos that for now they may only use the tech for security purposes, though operators are salivating at the prospects of revamping customer relationship management, VIP services and marketing departments. The technology has advanced to the stage of accuracy being close to that of a fingerprint. We also look at how these technologies can be adopted to improve responsible gaming practices. Again here, both facial recognition and machine learning are being deployed to identify risky behaviour before it becomes a problem. For our last article in the series, we focus on new tools being deployed in customer loyalty programs. With competition hotting up across Asia, it’s one area that is seeing strong demand in sales as operators seek to get the competitive edge on rivals.


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Losing the human touch? Artificial Intelligence is still in its early stages, but in gaming questions have already been raised as to whether the industry is losing its personal touch, and if technologies such as these can exacerbate problem gambling.

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udhir Kale, CEO of GamePlan Consultants and a marketing / loyalty expert cautions against betting too big on robotics, machines and artificial intelligence in our hospitality driven industry. “It is only a matter of time before we see robotic concierges (as seen in some hotels), robot dealers, and even AI-driven robot hosts,” said Kale. “But as we get increasingly sucked into the promises of big data, sentiment analysis, facial recognition systems, machine learning, and AI, we are facing a real paradox. Technology allows us to understand the customer like never before, but these insights are seldom used to relate to customers in human-to-human interaction.”

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Sudhir is an expert in casino loyalty programs. He said that these new technologies, which may save costs and improve efficiencies, lack a critical element for our industry: the “human touch”. “Automated loyalty kiosks are depriving casinos of that human touch that alone makes guests feel welcome and keeps them coming back.” In land-based gaming, advancements have been made pairing artificial intelligence with facial recognition systems - not only to identify and tag patrons - but to understand their risk profiles, and categorize patrons based on their propensity to ‘bet big’. This has raised concerns of whether Artificial Intelligence can exacerbate problem gambling.


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Last year, Macau’s gaming regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) banned the use of artificial intelligence tools that could help casino operators track gamblers more likely to bet big. According to a Bloomberg report, this new technology uses algorithms to process the way a customer behaves at a gaming table to determine their appetite for risk. The higher the risk appetite, the more a gambler stands to lose - which means profit for the casino. The regulator has taken the side of caution, barring any casinos in its jurisdiction from installing digital surveillance equipment equipped with cameras or facial recognition systems - unless previously approved by the DICJ. According to experts, while it may seem that our gaming industry is already powered by Artificial Intelligence, most examples are in fact, simply iterations of Machine Learning technology - which has been around for nearly sixty years already. “With Artificial Intelligence being such a buzzword these days, there will

be some who will take certain liberties calling their technology ‘intelligent’ when it is not,” explained Earle Hall, technology

Automated loyalty kiosks are depriving casinos of that human touch that alone makes guests feel welcome and keeps them coming back.

expert, futurist and the chief executive of AXESNetwork. Machine learning is one where a system

acquires knowledge or skill through experience. It relies on large data sets and identifies common patterns - which allow it to do a very narrow task, better, explained Hall. While it is a subset of AI, the system is merely trial and error where the learning is based on narrowing the false, untrue or error results. We can see a similar use of this technology in online gaming, such as EveryMatrix’s CasinoEngine, which uses machine learning to power its recommendation engines putting games the player is most likely to enjoy at the top of its list. In the land-based casino industry, machine learning has been used to drive engagement and loyalty, with sophisticated CRM systems deciding the best and most appropriate offers to give to customers at any given time to maximize their stay. Machine learning technology is not new, but there is constant work being done to improve models, accuracy of predictions, and deliver better decision making. That being said, in the end, this form of ‘intelligence’ relies on the set of predicted outcomes - which is less ‘intelligent’ and more ‘learning’ - as opposed to artificial intelligence, says Hall. Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, describes machines or computers that ‘mimic’ the natural intelligence displayed by humans. It can adapt to new situations and problem solve in ways that machine learning falls short. Silicon Valley entrepreneur George Yang, CEO of AI Pros, has been developing an AI-powered chatbot - aimed at replacing costly call-center employees. Due to the sheer complexity of the spoken language - which can differ based on culture, gender, past-experiences, emotion, and a limitless amount of factors, it would not be possible to utilize a machine learning system for this task. Yang’s work revolves around the use of artificial intelligence and natural language processing. The chat bot is aimed at mimicking a customer service agent, in industries such as hospitality, banking, finance, medical and gaming. It can understand unique jokes, respond to sarcasm, and inflections and tones in real time. Despite this, it will take time before Artificial Intelligence expands out to every corner of our industry. How it will be utilized, and how it will be regulated will be key in determining how it will flourish.

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Facial recognition technology casts eye beyond security Advances in facial recognition technology will see new and widespread applications that revolutionize the way casino operators interact with their players.

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acial recognition is not new to the casino sector, but it has traditionally been restricted to security teams, primarily as an aid to keeping barred individuals off a property. But the technology has developed to a point where many now see it as central to growth plans over the coming years - with the potential to overhaul CRM, VIP and marketing departments. At December’s G2E conference in Manila, Scientific Games’ sales director for Asia Clinton Long described the technology as a “game changer for the industry,’’ adding that operators so far are only “scratching at the surface”. He said that the technology could be used to significantly enhance the gaming experience on the casino floor, including everything from identifying players as they move throughout a property to ascertaining their likes and dislikes via emotion recognition. Roger Lwin, vice president of gaming operations for City of Dreams Manila was equally optimistic. “Facial recognition technology has tremendous opportunities for us. Before the VIP customer comes in, the host could already have their favorite drink on hand. For operators, anything that improves our profitability, efficiency and customer experience - we’re in for that,” he said. Such applications are already in use. AGB understands that several casino operators in Asia are operating facial recognition technology that alerts managers when VIPs enter a property. And it was reported last year that Wynn Macau, Galaxy Entertainment Group and Melco Resorts & Entertainment were all in discussions with suppliers to roll out the technology. “[Most people’s first thought with facial recognition is]: ‘Great, I would like security to get a text message when a bad guy shows up. I would also like my hosts to know when a VIP player enters the property,’” Dave McCormick, director of marketing at eConnect, told AGB. Las Vegas-headquartered eConnect operates offices in Asia, with a focus on delivering facial recognition technology that can serve up actionable insights. The company works with major operators in Macau, Singapore, Cambodia and the Philippines. “To fully appreciate the power of facial recognition, you must first understand how accurate it has become. Prior to neural networks, and as far back as 2002, systems attempted to measure the distance between the eyes and

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ears,” said McCormick. “This may have worked with a database of around 1,000 people, but failed miserably when scaled or when the subject was not looking directly at the camera. With the use of neural networks, systems are trained with billions of faces. The accuracy is approaching that of a fingerprint. Glasses, hats and various poses do not prevent successful recognition,” he added. These enhanced capabilities open up entirely new fields of application for the technology, particularly across VIP, CRM and broader marketing, and even in


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the tracking of wagers on the table. “When recognition occurs, the unique attributes of the faces are rendered to a small piece of vector data. This is important to know, because this data can be stored for years and years. Whether carded or not, it is quite easy to begin creating a profile for each person. “How often are they visiting? What is their duration of visit? Are their visits trending upwards or down? How many people are currently in the casino? What percentage of the guests are first time visitors?” said McCormick. The tracking and storage of such data does, however, raise regulatory and consumer concerns, particularly if transmitted internationally. McCormick concedes that facial recognition, as with much new technology, is pushing at the limits of personal privacy. But he said that the technology has already progressed to a stage to which it would be tough to put the genie back in the bottle. Macau will likely be at the forefront; the

Chinese government is already operating a large scale facial recognition program, while the country’s banking sector is also

With the use of “ neural networks,

systems are trained with billions of faces. The accuracy is approaching that of a fingerprint.

embracing the technology. However, the Macau government so far has said such systems can only be used for security.

Still, there are also applications for facial recognition that could keep regulators onside. “One of our initial regulatory uses for facial recognition, was to group and total anonymous kiosk transactions to the face,” said McCormick. “If a person were to visit multiple kiosks and cash out more than $10,000 within 24 hours, we alert surveillance allowing them to create the proper AML / FinCen reports.” Assuming a balance can be struck to allay the concerns of both regulators and customers, it is likely that facial recognition will become a key tool for operations teams across a casino. “I think we’ll start to see more and more departments, specifically marketing, take advantage of the technology,” said McCormick. “I imagine kiosks will create custom offers and prizes for the individual. Casino operators will have a better understanding of their uncarded players, and perhaps the players card will be a thing of the past.”

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Bonusing and loyalty strategy key to mass-market retention With Macau continuing to haemorrhage VIP gamblers, there has never been a greater onus on operators in the special administrative region to latch on to the relative predictability afforded by the premium and mass markets.

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his is not a trend confined to Macau, though. A 2019 report by Mordor Intelligence found that gaining new customers can be 25 percent more expensive than retaining existing ones for companies in the Asia-Pacific region. The report also outlined how the loyalty management market in the region will expand by a compound annual growth rate of 25.1 percent to reach $2.29 billion over the five years through to 2024, illustrating an appetite for consumers to enjoy stable and sustainable relationships with brands and services. “Operators, especially in Macau, are shifting their player loyalty marketing efforts from a VIP and junket priority to that of a premium or mass market,” Everi’s executive vice-president of financial technology and loyalty, Darren Simmons, says. “Attention is now being placed heavily on how to reward based upon the player’s loyalty. In the past, it was easy to identify VIPs and to focus on these customers with direct interaction. With the emphasis now on the mass market, additional consideration is being placed on getting a player’s card in their hands. Marketing and

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loyalty are becoming more important for operators.” On a basic level, mobile is seen as a crucial tool for encouraging loyalty through personalised communications. “We are beginning to see more penetration of mobile technology among mass-market players,” Simmons adds. “Casino guests want and need to receive information via mobile applications on the property’s events, competitions and offers. A mobile loyalty program enables operators to interact and engage with their guests regardless of their location.” According to Nelson Cheung, IGT’s System Sales Manager, Asia, such programs are improving efficiencies in casinos, as well as boosting revenues. “From a loyalty and bonusing perspective, operators want to offer bonuses to players during a play session and market directly to the player’s mobile phone while on the casino floor,” Cheung says. “Venues want to be able to identify hot play areas and new players in real time so they can proactively and quickly enrol uncarded players while catering to hosted players, which are features that our Mobile Host solution provides.”


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The mobile focus also tallies with the increasing shift towards cashless payments in Asia, with Cheung highlighting IGT’s Resort Wallet and Cardless Connect solutions. “A notable trend in Asia markets is that consumers are accustomed to using their mobile phones for both loyalty and currency transactions,” Cheung adds. “Cardless Connect enables a player’s smartphone to become a loyalty card and, in conjunction with this, Resort Wallet transforms a smartphone into a secure digital wallet. IGT’s Intelligent Offer allows operators to factor real-time player behaviours and events in the evaluation and award of bonuses.” The IGT ADVANTAGE Intelligent Bonusing products, which have been especially popular in the Philippines, offer non-cashable rewards. Random Riches gives operators the ability to deliver random or fixed amounts of ‘Xtra Credit’ non-cashable rewards when the player achieves points levels set by the operator, while Intelligent Bonusing deployments in the Philippines also include Lucky Coin, a pool-based jackpot; Lucky Draw, which creates exciting floor-wide bonuses; and Lucky Time, a time-based mystery jackpot. Non-gaming bonusing as a broader offering is important, especially for the reputation of the operator. Some research suggests loyalty programs can exacerbate problem gambling. According

to a 2016 study, 47.1 percent of punters who were part of gambling loyalty programs were either moderate-risk or problem gamblers. Everi’s loyalty platform offers selfservice solutions through enrolment and promotional kiosks – which boast highresolution monitors, integrated touch screens, and multiple interfaces – alongside a loyalty mobile application. The enrolment solution, which features facial recognition and biometric authentication, offers instant bonuses when players sign up, providing “complimentary services that can increase overall satisfaction and generate loyalty” like shopping, entertainment and dining. “We believe this technology enhances the guest experience while assisting with security efforts on the casino floor,” Simmons said. Everi’s promotional kiosk allows players to view their status progress and available rewards, as well as redeem rewards, with a multi-language platform available in Asia. Meanwhile the loyalty mobile app can be tailored to enable guests to engage and interact with the casino on or off property. Everi is anticipating significant growth in the Philippines, South Korea and Singapore, and “especially Macau, where the focus is on mass-market players… and promotional kiosks interact with the mobile marketing efforts of the casinos.” Transact Technologies is another supplier seeing strong demand for loyalty based products across the region.

“Player loyalty continues to be a key focus for operators, and they are looking into the technologies encompassing this. Fortunately for TransAct, we have the perfect tool in Epicentral which can increase player loyalty and as a result, deliver positive results for operators,” it says. Everi’s Simmons adds: “We believe operators will try to advance their marketing efforts and maintain their competitive advantage both in their local market and throughout Asia by borrowing this mass-market approach to linking loyalty to rewards.” Whether it is via mobile or via selfservice kiosks, targeting customers with a personalised approach can be powerful. For example, IGT’s Intelligent Offer allows beacons to transmit a specific offer to a player within a designated range, enabling the operator to deliver relevant promotions in real time. However, in general, Simmons believes that casinos in Asia are “still playing catchup with the loyalty aspect of marketing and even more so with the technology associated with those marketing efforts”. He adds: “Technology that unifies all aspects of the player card attributes is required, almost modelling how loyalty and marketing is executed in markets like Las Vegas. Attracting mass-market players by applying Las Vegas experiences can be an effective method to sustain a competitive edge for operators.”

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Can technology promote responsible gambling? The gambling sector, the online element in particular, has always been fond of making big claims about how new technologies can be harnessed to improve returns, profitability and margins.

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n 2020 however, artificial intelligence (AI) is very much talked about with the perspective of how it can improve the social responsibility and the responsible gambling (RG) credentials of the industry. And with good reason. Reducing rates of problem gambling and demonstrating that its best business practices adhere to the highest levels of player protection and social responsibility are the best and, in truth, only way operators will avoid fines or further regulatory clampdowns. That is why the matter is so topical amid a regulatory atmosphere that is reaching boiling point when it’s combined with mainstream media coverage that is so strongly anti-gambling. That is the case for European markets like the UK, where it is near certain that the Gambling Act review that will be taking place in the coming months will bring with it further prescriptive regulations; along with

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other EU countries like Spain, Italy or Sweden, which have been harsh on operators recently. The industry to a large extent has acknowledged that it has come up short on its RG failings over the past decade and more, which is why it is looking at technologies like AI and facial recognition technology (FRT) to help it recognise, classify and manage problem and at-risk gamblers. For all the talk of brave new technological worlds however, there are pitfalls to AI and FRT. In addition, much of the use of AI so far has centred around predictive technology and how it can tailor and offer yet more markets and gaming content to players, rather than how it can help operators fight problem gambling, money laundering, improve due diligence or ensure provenance of funds. Needless to say, that isn’t the ringing endorsement for RG that the industry is so keen to promote.


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Sally Gainsbury, Associate Professor and co-director of the Gambling Treatment & Research Clinic at Australia’s Sydney University says that artificial intelligence, like all gambling technology, needs to have its risks understood from a responsible gambling perspective. “Technology is transforming how people gamble, bringing advantages to operators and customers in terms of products. However, it is essential to understand the new risks for customers based on these changes and how to use technology to offset these and ensure that any harm coming from gambling is minimized.” Gainsbury’s department at the University of Sydney has been using machine learning to identify problem gambling amongst online wagering customers in Australia. “If we can identify clusters of players and identify risk factors for problematic gambling we may be able to detect players who are at risk of experiencing harm before these become serious,” she explains. Hervé Roussel, founder of Ho Chi Minh City-based start-up Quod AI, says: “It is possible to identify and classify gamblers based on amounts gambled, time and location of the activity, type of gambling: whether it is sports betting and if players bet on the same team, in the same type of competition

(i.e. FA cup or league matches), what type of bets are placed: pre-match, in play or half-time, Asian Handicap, 1X2 and so on. “The same applies to casino: slots vs. table games and it can be classified according to how much customers bet and whether they

With the use of “ neural networks,

systems are trained with billions of faces. The accuracy is approaching that of a fingerprint.

are displaying aggressive/passive betting patterns or loose/tight betting patterns, these criteria can also be applied to poker.” Gainsbury adds: “This would enable various levels of interventions depending on the risk level identified – for example ranging from a personal email suggesting

use of deposit limits or a time out, to a phone call to check in and assess other potential risks such as gambling beyond affordable levels.” The pitfalls centre around the fact that AI removes much of the human element and judgement capabilities that can be so important in assessing cases, in real time or after an event. As Joe Pisano, co-founder and CEO of AI responsible gaming start up IMAGINE, says: “AI, like any technology, is a double-edged sword. It has the ability to solve problems and increase efficiencies - but at the same time, it could take away the very element that makes our industry human.” Quod AI’s Roussel adds: “AI models have been built to approve or reject players based on demographic profiles, but this can also lead to issues like not explaining how or why certain decisions are reached, whether there is any element of human bias in formatting the AI and of course the quality of data has to be there.” In other words, for all the possibilities AI offers to the gambling sector, there is much to be said for the human element. Despite all its imperfections it will surely continue to play a key role in determining how much of an impact AI has on the gambling sector - now and in future years.

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JAPAN

Daniel Cheng*

The seven trials for Japanese IR legislation Japan has seen numerous twists and turns in its bid to establish an integrated resort industry, though perhaps one of the most unwelcome was the arrest of a deputy minister at the centre of a money-for-favours scandal surrounding IR development plans for Okinawa and Hokkaido.

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apan has seen numerous twists and turns in its bid to establish an integrated resort industry, though perhaps one of the most unwelcome was the arrest of a deputy minister at the centre of a money-for-favours scandal surrounding IR development plans for Okinawa and Hokkaido. A reticent government is putting on its bravest face as the media and opposition legislators are smelling blood and going for the jugular. The first fallout came with the announcement that the planned January release of the IR Basic Policy will be delayed by at least one month. This may just be the tip of the iceberg with a stormy forecast of further tribulations down the road for the next eighteen months. Seven landmark events in the horizon pose potential trials. Trial 1 (2020 Ordinary Diet session) Right off the starting block of the year’s 6-month Diet sitting, the opposition bench has been peppering questions on how far and deep the culpability goes in the IR corruption investigations. Not a day goes by without extensive coverage in all the major news media, which further raised public opposition towards IRs in both opinion polls and street protests. Each new startling revelation is akin to inflicting a deep knife wound with a potentially fatal stab if it were to embroil any of the senior LDP leadership. Trial 2 (Tokyo gubernatorial election) ‘If you can’t beat them, join them.’ That might be the anthem the LDP is playing to avoid another rout in July by incumbent governor, Yuriko Koike. Such an alliance of mutual interest could include an offer of a Tokyo IR host license among the LDP concessions to Governor Koike. In such a scenario, Osaka and Yokohama could suddenly find themselves in the crosshairs of elimination whereby either one may have to make way for Tokyo to ascend. Trial 3 (Tokyo Olympics) Three weeks after the Tokyo Governor contest, the eyes of the entire world will fall on the city of Tokyo as it hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics. Anti-casino proponents, in the legislature as well as the public, will capitalise on getting their message across under this intense scrutiny, knowing that the government dared not put a step wrong during this period. Any new IR controversy erupting during the games would pose a major setback for its passage.

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Trial 4 (U.S. Presidential elections) The biggest lobbyist for U.S. casino interests in Japan has been none other than the President of the United States. It can be envisaged that if a new president walks into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come November, the U.S. camp will lose their prime backdoor dealmaker and give a psychological boost to non-U.S. bidders, particularly Genting. Trial 5 (Yokohama mayoral election) The star host candidate is not without worries. Yokohama is seeing the most of public anti-casino protests. A united anti-casino lobby is pushing to void city hall’s unilateral IR decision and trigger a referendum, and they already have one-third of the required signatures to make it happen. If the mayor skirts the referendum snare, another big question mark will loom at the very penultimate juncture. One month after the deadline for submission of host IR bids in July next year, the mayor’s term comes to an end; if she is to run for re-election, it will be the first time she will be facing an electorate which has consistently polled more than 60 percent against having an IR in Yokohama. If this group conveys their disapproval into votes, a new mayor would almost certainly pronounce an eleventh hour withdrawal to host an IR, despite the highly probable fact that Yokohama would already have been a host-elect at that point. Trial 6 (Shinzo Abe term ends) Barring anything audacious, Prime Minister Abe is set to relinquish his position in September next year, with the accolade of being the longest serving premier in the country’s history. In the extreme scenario where the opposition snatches the reins, the IR legislation could be abolished altogether. Trial 7 (Lower House elections) The timing could not be worse for the Lower House elections which need to be called

a month after Abe steps down in October next year. The LDP would likely be at its most vulnerable during that time, hence it is more likely that the government will trigger the elections earlier. * Daniel Cheng is a regular industry commentator, and formerly held senior executive positions with Hard Rock and various major international entertainment and technology companies.

MGM only accepted bidder in Osaka The Osaka Prefectural Government said only one candidate made an acceptable bid for the Yumeshima IR project, the MGM-Orix consortium. Presumably, this makes it certain that MGM Resorts has now become the “winner” of the oncecoveted position as Osaka’s IR operator partner. Galaxy Entertainment and Genting Singapore were also in the Osaka race, but it appears that both firms dropped out. While MGM Japan officials will be justifiably proud in reaching an apparent success in Japan’s second-largest urban market, the circumstances seem to be far from ideal. It will certainly be an embarrassment to the Osaka government that only one IR operator candidate came through with a bid.

Kitakyushu, Miyagi drop out of IR race Kitakyushu City and Miyagi Prefecture have dropped out of the IR race, citing their lack of critical mass and local hurdles. “We will be passing on any bid under the current IR legislation,” explained Mayor Kenji Kitahashi of Kitakyushu. “Unless the national regulatory conditions are altered, it will be difficult for us to make a bid so long as I am in office.” Governor Yoshihiro Murai said Miyagi Prefecture’s chances of winning were low. Also, according to the prefecture’s calculations, if an IR were established near Sendai Airport, it would take from 20 to 46 years to recover the investment, and thus was not economically feasible.

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south korea

Foreigner only casinos seen struggling with tourism drop South Korea’s casinos reported a strong start to the year, though the country’s foreigner-only operators are again likely to suffer from a drop in tourist numbers as a result of the coronavirus.

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ocals are only permitted to gamble in to KRW490.8 billion. However, the company, which operates one remote property in South Korea, which generates more revenue that the the Seven Luck casino in Gangnam Seoul, the rest of the country’s casinos put together. Seoul Hilton and the Busan Lotte, said it had In recent years, operators in the country have noted a turnaround in the fourth quarter when been on a roller coaster ride, with the tourism net income gained 167.5 percent year-on-year market hit by the Middle East Respiratory and revenue rose 17 percent. That performance continued into January, Syndrome in 2015 followed by a travel ban by China over Seoul’s decision to deploy a U.S. when GKL posted a 58 percent jump in yearon-year net sales in January, lifted by its two air defence missile system in 2017. Now, after a positive year of operating results casinos in Seoul in particular. The total sales amount for GKL’s three in 2019, the sector looks likely once again to casinos in January 2020 suffer from the impact of was nearly KRW54.6 events beyond its control. billion (about US$45.9 Paradise Co., which The Seoul million). The Seoul operates four properties, Gangnam casino nearly saw its casino revenues Gangnam casino doubled its year-on-year increase 23.4 percent nearly doubled its sales, and Seoul Hilton year-on-year in 2019, reaching KRW 784.8 year-on-year sales, Casino also turned in an impressive advance. billion (US$673.1 million). and Seoul Hilton The Busan Lotte Casino, For January, the positive trend continued with a Casino also turned however, reported only modest gains. Table 28.3 percent jump. in an impressive games contributed The company’s results far more to the sales are being helped by advance. increase than did the revenue from its Paradise slot machine segment. City integrated resort, Both of the foreignerwhere sales were up 51.2 percent last year. For January, the IR accounted only casinos chose to bar tour groups from China into their casinos, even though the government for half of group revenue. Paradise City is a joint venture with has not imposed an all out ban. Paradise Co., Japan’s Sega Sammy and was the first true which stopped accepting Chinese as of Jan. integrated resort to open in South Korea in 27, said however that most of its customers an area designated as an entertainment hub are individual VIPs and not package tourists. The company warns on its web site that close to Incheon International Airport, one lines have been set up to channel visitors toward of the busiest in the world. The company also operates the Paradise thermal scanning points for body temperature Walker Hill casino in Seoul, the Paradise Casino checks before they enter the gaming tables. GKL, a unit of the Korea Tourism Organisation, Busan and the Paradise Casino Jeju Grand. Rival foreigner-only group Grand Korea has also put a similar policy into place. As of Leisure reported a 6.9 percent drop in profit going to press, the South Korean government to KRW72.4 billion (US$61.2 million) in has only barred entry to non-Koreans who had 2019, while annual revenue rose 2.2 percent visited Hubei province, where Wuhan, the city

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020

at the epicentre of the outbreak, is based. The Korea Institute for International Economic Policy has estimated that the virus may lead to a drop of 15 percent in tourism this year. In a report cited by Yonhap News, the institute noted Chinese visitors accounted for 39 percent of all foreign visitors to South Korea between January and November 2019, while their average spending far exceeded that of tourists from other countries at US$1,887 to $1,342 per person. A drop in the number of Chinese tourists by 1 million may lead to an annual reduction of up to $2 billion in tourism income for South Korea, it added. Meanwhile, Kangwon Land, the casino and resort company based in Gangwon Province that uniquely allows locals to gamble, reported full-year profit in 2019 was up 12.7 percent. With sales at KRW1.52 trillion (about US$1.28 billion), which was up 5.7 percent year-on-year, combined with lower costs, net profits for the year came in at KRW335 billion (about US$281 million).


NORTH ASIA 35

Finance Ministry mulls lotterystyle tax for bitcoin South Korea is considering taxing gains from cryptocurrency transactions in the same way as it treats winnings from the lottery, or other prizes. The Ministry of Economy and Finance has recently ordered its office of income tax to review a taxation plan for cryptocurrencies, according to officials. The move raised speculation that the government may categorize gains from cryptocurrency trading as other income, not capital gains. As such they would carry a tax rate of 20 percent. A government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the finance ministry has not finalized its plan to tax cryptocurrencies.

Jeju poker tournament becomes casualty of coronavirus Triton Poker postponed the kick off of its super high roller season 2020, which was due to begin in February on Jeju island, due to the spread of the coronavirus. The event was to include 12 tournaments, including the 1,000,000 HKD Main Event on February 20. If Triton Poker’s stop in Jeju is not rescheduled in the next few months, the 2020 series won’t officially begin until May with the Triton Poker Super High Roller Series Montenegro. “The safety of our players and support staff remains our utmost priority. Coupled with our duty to do everything we can in our power to prevent the virus from spreading, we’ve taken the difficult but correct stop of postponing the event with immediate effect,” it said.

visitor arrivals Percentage share of the top tourism markets China 34.7%

Others 30.1%

United Kingdom 0.8% Hong Kong 4% United States 5.6%

Taiwan 7%

Japan 17.8%

(Source: Source: Korea Tourism Organisation)

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


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new zealand

SkyCity fights fire, virus damage SkyCity Entertainment, New Zealand’s only listed gaming company, has cut forecasts for the year and says the near-term outlook is gloomy, as it grapples with the aftermath of a fire in a key project and now the impact of the Coronavirus.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


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he operator, which has properties in both New Zealand and Australia, hit the headlines in October after a fire devastated the Auckland International Convention Centre, whose completion will now be delayed until 2022. The company reported a more than 16 percent drop in normalized profits in the half year to December 31, which reflect the impact of the fire, but do not yet factor in the Coronavirus. The effects of the virus on inbound travel from Asia to New Zealand and Australia are still to be fully felt, although the company acknowledges that it has already seen some damage with international business described as “weak.” Chief Executive Graeme Stephens told an analysts’ briefing that group turnover was down about 8 percent as a result. “We had an appalling November and a weak December,” he said. Turnover in international business was down 40 percent, with visitation from China down and with major players staying away. He expects international business to remain weak and the target for turnover for the year has been reduced from $14 billion to just $10 billion. This equates to a $15 million drop in forecast EBITDA for the full year. Table games are “soft” but EGMs were not showing any impact. Unlike some regional operators, SkyCity has strong domestic support and the New Zealand business had been showing double-digit growth prior to the fire and outbreak. Less than five percent of the company’s EBITDA came from China-based travellers, with 90 percent of the business revenue being

AUSTRALASIA 37

generated locally. However, Stephens was careful to say that figure excluded international business which makes up ten percent of the group’s EBITDA. In headline terms, the company’s reported profit was up nearly three-fold to $328 million

Turnover in international business was down 40 percent, with visitation from China down and with major players staying away.

($213 million), but the reality is that on a normalised basis net profit after tax is down 16 percent to just $75 million ($49 million). The main reason for the sharper than normal disparity between reported profit and normalised profit is that SkyCity has already received insurance payouts for damage to the convention centre, the associated hotel development and for the reduced revenue from the sale of its carparks. This is worth a total of $226 million and has been booked as revenue but so far there is no compensating payout for repairs.

SkyCity has now hired an independent expert to quantify the cost of making good the damage, which has been estimated at between $220 million and $250 million. A note to the company’s accounts says that the SkyCity group has assumed an insurance recovery for both buildings of $220 million, and recovery is stated to be “virtually certain.” Damage to the new hotel which is part of the convention centre development is valued at another $6 million. The fire has had a negative effect on the value of the sale of carparks by SkyCity to a subsidiary of the Macquarie bank. The bank is not able to access the carpark due to damage to the building and is losing revenue, and SkyCity has written down the value of the sale by $66.5 million. This is the first time these figures have been disclosed. Fletcher Construction said that construction work on the damaged SkyCity convention centre would begin in mid-year, and Stephens said the company would get a re-instatement plan from Fletcher’s by the end of February. Fletcher’s Chief executive Peter Reidy said Thursday that the damage from the fire was extremely complex to deal with and just preparing for the rebuild had taken months of work. Auckland was due to host a large APEC leaders meeting in mid 2021, and there had been hopes that a new construction timetable would still enable that target to be met. Stephens said that it was now expected that the deadline would be missed by at least a couple of months, and the convention centre would now be ready in 2022.

Gambling harm report slammed as flawed The Gaming Machine Association of New Zealand says a highly respected economics advisor has labelled a report commissioned by the Ministry of Health on problem gambling as “seriously flawed” and that “no weight should be placed on conclusions.” The report, Measuring the Burden of Gambling Harm in New Zealand, was produced for the Ministry of Health at a cost of $319,000 and is now accused of more than ten research shortcomings. In the report, “low risk” gambling, such as buying a Lotto ticket, was claimed to be as bad for a gambler’s health as the untreated amputation of a leg, while “problem gambling” was claimed to be as bad as suffering from a severe stroke or terminal cancer. A review of the studies’ methodology produced by TDB Advisory concludes that these outlandish comparisons were made possible by a long line of deliberate selection biases and errors.

Racing plan faces renewed opposition Opposition to the New Zealand government’s radical changes to the racing industry has resurfaced after many months of behind the scenes discussions and negotiations. The proposed changes include a reduction in the number of racing venues, increasing stakes and other changes to modernize the industry follow a governmentcommissioned review by Australian racing industry expert Joe Messara published in 2018. Many racing clubs in smaller cities and towns reacted negatively to the prospect of up to 20 clubs being closed or their races being switched to a bigger venue, and to their land being sold to fund the industry. Graham O’Brien from Hawera, a small town with its own club, said the changes were about sacrificing small clubs and called the changes “the biggest land grab since colonial times.”

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


AUSTRALASIA 38

australia

Melco drops Crown stake purchase Hopes for a new partnership between Melco Resorts & Entertainment and Crown Resorts have been put on the back burner after the Macau operator said it was abandoning plans to buy a second tranche of shares in the Australian company.

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elco agreed in May last year to China led to the arrest of 18 employees. Melco buy 19.9 percent of Crown, its CEO Lawrence Ho told the Financial Times at former joint venture partner, in the time that he didn’t endorse the practices a two-stage deal worth US$1.2 being deployed. A renewed partnership between the billion. It bought the first tranche of 67.7 million shares in June last year, but subsequently operators had been seen as a positive deferred the acquisition of a second tranche development that would provide Crown with of the same amount to allow time for probity access to Melco’s deep database of Chinese premium customers ahead of the opening checks by Australia’s regulators. The extension followed an investigative of its Barangaroo property later this year. The VIP-only resort is only permitted to news report alleging extensive malpractice at Crown, including links to organised crime and offer table games and will be the second largefast-tracking of visas for Chinese high rollers. scale casino in Sydney, which some analysts say may not be able to support However, it was not the competition. the regulatory probes that “We estimate VIP scuppered the deal. Melco margins will compress and announced in mid-February We estimate are unlikely to recover,” it would not pursue the VIP margins will JP Morgan wrote in an acquisition due to the in-depth analysis of the economic impact of the compress and Australian gaming industry. coronavirus on the region are unlikely to “Although we believe initial and would not seek a seat interest in Barangaroo will on Crown’s board. recover. be strong when it opens The company said at 2-3 months earlier than this time it plans to focus originally announced, the on its core business and that its capital will be deployed on investment in negative impact of two casinos in one location “core” assets, such as Macau, the Philippines, is gambler ‘choice’. Reduced margins from offering better sweeteners to capture local, Cyprus and its pursuit of a license in Japan. “While Melco believes Crown has world- finite, gambling dollars poses a real risk.” The firm also said it expects turnover class assets that are complementary to its global business, it is Melco’s belief that, at to fall in Melbourne, with inbound tourists this time, its capital needs to be deployed on likely to choose Sydney due to the new property opening. its core assets,” it said. “In the lead-up to Barangaroo’s opening at The two companies broke up a decadelong joint venture in 2017, which had been the end of CY20, we believe both casinos will seen as one of the most successful in the seek to ‘steal’ customers through offerings, gaming industry. Together, Crown and Melco sweeteners, and program matching,” it said. Australia’s operators were already facing developed the City of Dreams complex in an uncertain future for 2020 even before Macau and Manila. However, the relationship soured after the outbreak of the coronavirus took its toll Crown’s aggressive marketing tactics in Mainland on travel. The country’s tourism industry

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


AUSTRALASIA 39

has been struggling from the impact of devastating bushfires that have been widely reported worldwide. The operators are also not expected to enjoy the same level of support from domestic consumers in 2020, given weakening consumer confidence. Westpac’s consumer confidence levels in the economy decreased by -6.2 percent to 93.4 in Jan-20 vs 99.6 in Jan-19 and down -1.8 percent relative to Dec-19. Meanwhile, Crown announced a man-

agement reshuffle to “better align with contemporary governance practices.” Ken Barton, the chief financial officer of the company, was appointed as chief executive officer and managing director of Crown. While Executive Chairman John Alexander stepped down and will be replaced by nonexecutive chair, Helen Coonan, a former Liberal senator. She said the new governance structure has been considered for some time and is more in line with the traditional model of a non-executive chair and separate CEO.

GROSS GAMING REVENUE 2017/2018 Casinos $5.10b

+6.5%

Gaming machines $12.52b

+3.2%

Sports betting $1.23b

Racing $3.54b

+7.1%

Total gambling expenditure 2017/2018 $24.88b

+5%

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

Reichel joins Donaco’s executive exodus Donaco International said in February that the company’s long-time General Counsel and Secretary Ben Reichel would leave the company, continuing the rapid turnover in the top executive ranks. Reichel first indicated his intention to leave on the eve of last November’s tumultuous Annual General Meeting, at which shareholders voted to ditch most of the existing board of directors. According to the press release, “Reichel will continue to be available to assist the board and the company after that date via a mutually agreed consultancy agreement.” The Donaco board appointed Marika White as the new company secretary.

Sportradar expands Tennis Australia accord Sportradar, has agreed a wide-ranging, multi-year partnership extension with Tennis Australia, leveraging its audiovisual (AV) and data content, encoding technology, and Integrity Services to protect matches and expand their presence across global audiences. As part of the deal, Sportradar will continue to deliver their AV, data and Integrity Services for the Australian Open, the Grand Slam of the Asia Pacific, including the Main Draw, Qualifiers, and Wild Card play-offs in Melbourne and Zhuhai, China, as well as the ATP 250 Adelaide. Sportradar will deliver the matches via its AV encoding services, providing high-definition streams for the Australian Open’s official website, app and social media channels, and broadcast partners in multiple territories, including Australia, New Zealand, India, and the Sub-continent, and the Americas.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


AUSTRALASIA 40

CNMI

Virus inflicts further pain on IPI Imperial Pacific International says it’s committed to completing its project on Saipan, even though it continues to struggle on multiple fronts, including tax bills, worker shortages and now the fallout from the Covid-19 virus.

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oday, the new coronavirus outbreak is impacting the world, the CNMI tourism industry, and our community at a speed which has already outpaced the SARS epidemic of 2003. Impact on travel demands throughout all of Asia began weeks ago and although our company is faced with the difficult decision to mitigate these challenges, IPI still holds true to the CNMI and its people,” the company said in a statement. “Our company has struggled, our employees have struggled, and our ability to create a steady stream of income has suffered. Throughout all of these unexpected adversities, IPI did its best to honor the commitments that it made to the

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020

CNMI back in 2015,” it added. The IPI statement also emphasized its contributions to CNMI, though offering some numerical figures that critics were hesitant to believe. “Since the award of the casino license, IPI created thousands of jobs and generated countless business opportunities for hundreds of local businesses. To date, IPI has invested around $1 billion in the CNMI and paid over $300 million in taxes and fees to the government.” It claimed it had “lost over $500 million accumulatively.” The Hong Kong-listed operator was scheduled to have finished the project 36 months from the awarding of the license, but

was granted an extension in 2018 until no later than February 2021. Part of the delay has been caused by a shortage of labour, with the government clamping down on a key form of visa under which its workers entered the Commonwealth. As of early this year, the company again warned that it did not have sufficient labour. IPI vice president for construction Eric Poon says the company is still waiting on the approval of “hundreds” of H-2B visa applications made in 2019, which is key to completing construction of its hotel tower on time. Poon said that the resorts’ hotel beachfront villas and construction of the North Wing are now completed, with only furniture installation


AUSTRALASIA 41

IPI settles case with former VIP host

visitor arrivals Japan

Korea

China

Other

700 600 500 400 300 200 100 0

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

(Source: United States Government Accountability Office)

A CNMI district court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former Imperial Pacific International VIP hostess against her company after the two parties reached a settlement, local media reports. Shirlene Loh was a former VIP services host from October 2015 to August 2016. Loh said she worked 14 hour days, without a break, but IPI failed to give her the minimum wage rate and OT as required by the labor standards act. She also alleged that her share of tips was taken by the VIP services supervisor. However, last month, both IPI and Loh filed a notice of settlement and will be filing a dismissal as soon as the documents are completed.

Guam cockfighting ban in force Guam’s cockfighting ban came into effect in December, bringing down the curtain on a gruesome but decades-old Guamanian custom. According to a recently-released Animal Wellness Foundation and Animal Wellness Action survey, public opinion is ready for the move. It found that only 7 percent of Guamanians have been to a cockfight in the last year, and only 21 percent believe that they should continue. This stands against 60 percent of those surveyed who support the federal ban on cockfighting. When the ban takes effect, those who sponsor or exhibit birds in a cockfight face a fine and a maximum prison term of five years. Attending a cockfight will be punishable by a fine and up to one year in prison. Among other things, some commentators believe that cockfight betting has been a venue for money laundering in Guam.

and building inspection in progress. However, Poon told casino commissioners that the delay in the H-2B visas could cause a “potential delay of the ongoing hotel tower construction phase and other venues,” and added that the current workforce of 572 construction workers would not be able to meet targeted deadlines. Poon said they need about 1,000 construction workers to meet the completion deadline of February 28, 2021. “This is our only concern, and I hope this can be addressed soon,” he added. While worker shortages may be the only concern on the development side of the project, there are significant question marks over revenue. Tourism slumped in fiscal year 2018 to about 607,000 and in fiscal year 2019 to less than 425,000 due to the impact of Typhoon Yutu. That figure will take a further hit from the coronavirus, with the governor of the islands banning all arrivals from Mainland China for a period of 30 days from Jan. 29.

Over recent years the tourism mix to the CNMI has shifted, with a decline in visitors from Japan and Korea and growth in tourists from China.

Throughout all “of these unexpected adversities, IPI did its best to honor the commitments that it made to the CNMI back in 2015.

In its 2019 interim report, an independent auditor noted that during the 6-month period ending June 30, 2019, the casino operator incurred a net loss of almost HK$1.9 billion

($240 million), which may cast significant doubt on the company’s ability to continue in business. The operator did manage to negotiate an accord with the government on taxes, agreeing to pay about US$18 million in outstanding taxes, US$10 million of which has just been paid and the balance of about US$8 million by the end of March. The CNMI Department of Finance had previously stated that the owed amount was about US$30 million, but IPI appears to have been successful in having this amount reduced through its claims that it had overpaid its taxes in previous years. But as trouble for IPI subsided in one quarter, it rose in another, as the firm’s new lawyer David Banes warned that a US$5.6 million lawsuit filed by Pacific Rim Development, a construction-related firm, against IPI could “lead to the shutdown of the casino, with hundreds of workers losing their jobs, and sending a far-reaching ripple effect through the entire CNMI’s economy, which relies almost exclusively on tourism.”

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


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INDIA

Adda52 sees room for growth as market expands Online gaming in India is recording explosive growth, with the total number of gamers expected to hit 300 million by the end of next year, from just 120 million in 2016.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


A

ccording to figures presented at ICE Totally Gaming in London by the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), gross gambling revenue is estimated at about $565 million, with fantasy sports and rummy making up the largest share with $260 million and $230 million respectively. Adda52.com, founded in 2011, has been at the forefront of popularizing online poker in India and is the country’s largest online poker and card-game site, with more than two million registered users. It is also a founding member of AIGF and a working committee member of the Skill Games Federation in AIGF and Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). In August 2017, it was bought by Delta Corp, India’s only listed gaming operator. Adda52.com CEO Naveen Goyal provided his thoughts to AGB about the growth of online gaming in India and the development of the market in a recent email interview. Although skill-based gaming is technically legal in India following a ruling by the Supreme Court, there have been multiple challenges, while police in Kolkata and Bengaluru have carried out high-profile raids on poker clubs. Goyal, who took over as CEO in September last year, says the police action has been focused on physical poker room setups and has not affected the online businesses. He argues strongly that poker is undoubtedly a game that involves skill. “Adda52 is an online platform for poker in India. The company was started with a vision of transforming the landscape of online gaming, especially in the field of mind and skill-based games in India. Today online poker is not just an exciting game, but also helps to enhance one’s mathematical and observation skills. It is a mind sport. It is taught as a course in premier business schools in India like IIM-Kozhikode etc. alongside the other prestigious institutes like Harvard and MIT,” he said. In 2019, the industry enjoyed strong growth, attracting both national and international players. Goyal says that interest isn’t restricted to major cities, with second and third-tier cities also seeing an increase in activity. “All of this is a result of efforts put in by the brand, such as launching integrated brand communication, introducing new poker variants alongside product features on responsible gaming, creating unique and exciting campaigns for players during Diwali & December holidays, hosting the international poker tournament series of World Poker Tour (WPT) and so on,” he said. “Interest among women players is slowly catching up. Bollywood actress Minissha Lamba is a celebrity poker player who has been

SOUTH ASIA 43

associated with Adda52 for the past few years Chinese involvement has been particularly strong, and has been an inspiration for many women with China’s biggest gaming and social media players worldwide.” company, Tencent Holdings, investing $100 million To allay concern about problem gambling, in Dream 11, India’s biggest fantasy sports platform. the company has introduced a “responsible Other companies that have received funding gaming” feature that from Chinese investors allows poker enthusiasts include Gamepind, which to keep a check on the is a joint venture between Today online game. Indian company Paytm “With the help of and Alibaba-owned poker is not just this feature, for example, AGTech Holdings. an exciting game, players can set the table Goyal says Adda52 blind limits.Once they is unconcerned by the but also helps to set the limit, they will entrance of rivals. enhance one’s not be able to play any “Our focus is always tournament or (Sit and on adding value to the mathematical and Go) SNG whose buy-in ecosystem and enhancing observation skills. is more than the set limit. the experience of the Another highlight of this players slowly and steadily. feature is the provision Our competition in the of self-exclusion. Using this option, players can market, in fact, helps us to be at the top of our exclude themselves from depositing and playing game and bring innovation to our offerings.” any game on Adda52.com by selecting the period Despite now being part of a larger, landfor which they wish to be excluded from all based gaming company, Goyal says Adda52 gaming activities. This helps in ensuring that has no plans to introduce physical poker clubs. players can take a break whenever they wish to.” The company’s focus will remain online and on As the market has expanded, so have the improving the player experience through its “for number of companies moving into the space. the players, by the players” mantra.

online skill industry fantasy sport US$260 million poker US$60 million rummy US$230 million digital skill gaming & esports US$15 million TOTal ggr US$565 million

Goa bans locals from casinos Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announced a policy banning all residents of Goa from betting in its onshore and offshore casinos as of February 1. He also said that he would appoint the nation’s first gaming commissioner. “All Goans will be banned from entering casinos for playing purposes from February 1. They can continue to work in the industry, but will not be allowed to gamble,” Sawant told reporters. He added, “The Commercial Tax Commissioner will be appointing a Gaming Commissioner, who will enforce the ban.” The first onshore casinos in Goa were licensed in the early 1990s, with the offshore casino industry getting its start later in the decade. There are now about a dozen onshore and six offshore casinos legally operating in the state. Still, there has been little effort by the local government to rationalize the regulatory regime.

Kerala considers coastal casinos The state government of Kerala in southern India is mulling the possibility of licensing coastal casinos, but has yet to make a final decision. Speaking in the Legislative Assembly, Kerala Excise Minister T. P. Ramakrishnan said that the state government was not moving forward at this time. “The government has not yet decided to give permission to casinos in coastal areas,” he said, hinting that this policy could change in the future. A year ago, the Kerala High Court ruled that playing rummy for stakes is considered gambling and thus an offense under the Kerala Gaming Act 1960. The ruling was considered a huge blow to online rummy and to skill gaming in India.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT 44

SUPPLIERS SPECIAL INTRO

Suppliers seek to shake off Covid-19 gloom There is no doubt that Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the gaming industry across Asia, with no clear end in sight to the crisis. A two week closure of casinos in Macau, travel restrictions across the region and disruptions to manufacturing supply chains are all taking their toll.

D

espite the never ending gloom from the headlines, suppliers are showing remarkable resilience in the face of the crisis, with most telling us they remain bullish on the prospects for Asia. Many are coming off a strong year in 2019 and before the crisis erupted were looking forward to a positive 2020. In this edition of the Supplier Special, we ask companies for their views on what impact the virus is having on their business plans. The most common response is that it has curbed travel and networking opportunities, with events such as the ASEAN Gaming Summit, being postponed until later into the year. In the online sphere, many companies are reporting a bump in business from the coronavirus as gamers take to the screens in the privacy of their own homes to play. Here, we hear about the increasing use of mobile technology, which in the space of a few short years has grown to dominate the market, forcing suppliers to adapt their product offering.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020

Most companies say they are pressing ahead with their agendas and expect activity to pick up rapidly once the virus is contained. Asia remains a key focus for those who already have business in the region and for those who are still trying to get their feet on the ground. In the interviews, we also ask about key trends suppliers are noticing in the Asian markets and in which areas they are seeing most growth. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Philippines comes out on top for land-based suppliers, being once again the best-performing market in Asia last year. The government has placed a moratorium on investment in new integrated resorts in Manila, but is keen to see the development of clusters elsewhere in the country. Last year, it was casinos in the Clark Freeport Zone that led growth. Vietnam is also seen as a strong contender, while in the online world India continues to create considerable buzz. The interviews provide an insight into the trends and growth patterns across the Asian market as a whole, as well as the development plans of the individual companies.


SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT 45 1XBET

Sporting cancellations a concern

W

hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? As a socially responsible company, we are concerned about the situation with the coronavirus. We worry about our employees, affiliates, and players - and we hope that scientists will find a way to deal with the virus in the near future. At the moment, the coronavirus has not had a large-scale impact on our plans. But this can change, because several sporting events have already been postponed due to the threat of an epidemic. However, if, for example, the Olympics or Euro 2020 are canceled in the summer, then, of course, this will impede the plans of the entire betting industry. But we believe in positivity - and build global plans, trying to actively develop in a wide variety of markets. Of course, Asia is one of the most interesting areas for us: a densely populated area in which people love sports and have an ever-increasing level of digitalization.

countries in the world are in Asia, it is tempting to single them out first. But we believe that each of the countries of such a large region has its own specifics of work, therefore it would be incorrect to single out one of them. We can say that our line of events is diverse enough to instill interest among sports fans from dozens of Asian countries.

In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? Given that four of the five most populated

Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? At the moment, we are actively engaged in

Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? We can say that Pan-Asian trends are part of global trends - for example, mobile bets are gaining more and more popularity. Players prefer to bet on those sports that are popular in their countries - say, cricket or kabaddi. However, they are also interested in sports which are popular around the world - football, tennis, and basketball. We firmly believe in the harmonious development of all spheres - and are ready to offer customers everything that only they can imagine.

testing a wide variety of products with different audiences and it is too early to draw any definitive conclusions. But now we can say that live rates are especially popular. In Asia, fans are very loyal to their favourite teams and want to support them during matches. Our traditional promotions, such as risk-free bets on the most interesting football matches in the world, are also extremely popular. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? We are very pleased with how we are progressing in the Asian market. Last year, 1xBet won an award in the “Best Sports Betting Solution” category at the G2E Asia @ the Philippines Product Awards. This is an indicator of the correct development of the company in the market, where we plan to continue to actively move forward. Players should follow the announcements - and in the near future, they will find many pleasant promotions.

Alderney egambling

India gains traction

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hat has been the biggest development for your company in Asia this year? As the rapid growth of the Asian market evolves, the region remains of continued interest and we have spent a lot of time on the ground broadening our network through attendance at the key conferences, meeting with operators and suppliers and liaising with other regulators and industry advisors. In terms of developments, we continue to offer our Associate Certificate to both B2C and B2B companies, providing the Alderney licensing benefits to businesses wherever they are based globally. Where are you experiencing the most demand at present? It’s no secret that Asia offers a vast opportunity but it’s also true that no other market offers such diversity in regulation. We are seeing demand from many operators who are looking to take their products to a global market and are therefore seeking a Licence from an established, trusted regulator to assist them with that expansion.

The Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC), through its well-regarded and robust regulatory regime provides an excellent framework for operators and service providers, which in turn provides support and comfort to the full gaming ecosystem; banks, investors and intermediaries, for example. It’s in this way that we’re able to best serve the industry. The AGCC also offers a solution for businesses to obtain a Licence but with no regulatory requirement to be based in the Island (although for those who choose to base themselves in Guernsey or Alderney, there are many additional benefits – tax, geographical location and ease of doing business to name but a few.) The Associate Certificate, available to both B2C and B2B companies, provides all the advantages of the Alderney Licence, but for foreign based businesses. We expect to continue to see the demand for these products grow in the Asian markets. What are your plans for Asia this year? Our pipeline is already handling enquiries

from many Asian businesses and we’re assisting operators and suppliers from all over the region. Like all businesses, we’re keeping a watching brief and heeding travel advice this year, but that hasn’t so far had an impact on our work in global markets and we’ll continue to offer advice to ambitious businesses on the optimal regulatory solutions for them. Which do you see being the most promising markets in the next few years? As a global regulator advising businesses all over the world, we’re working with a lot of operators, suppliers as well as their intermediaries and advisors both within and accessing the pre regulated space. These markets are huge and diverse offering immeasurable untapped potential. Asia, Africa and Latin America are really interesting markets but it is India which still seems to be gaining the most momentum. We’re already working with operators in this space who are keen to demonstrate their commitment by obtaining a reputable and well regarded global Licence.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT 46 All-in Global

Betting on language solutions

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? As a sponsor, official language service provider and organiser of the official poker tournament, the ASEAN Gaming Summit is the centre of our Asian expansion. Many of the Asian markets are becoming increasingly popular among our clients, and we are working every day to ensure we have the best translators available for all of the big Asian languages. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? From 2018 to 2020 we have seen the most growth for language services in Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai. Japanese and Korean remains steady but important. All of these 5 languages are among our top 25, with Malaysian and Indonesian following closely. We are expecting a significant increase in the demand for our services to cater for the Indian population.

Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? We live in a tech world and we recognize it’s extremely important to adapt not only our services but also the way we offer them to a future proof version. In fact, we have been working to offer more effective options to our clients that enable automated and faster processes. Soon we will launch a campaign to present all the new functionalities we’ve been preparing such as a Drag & Drop folder in order to reduce the need for sending emails, CMS connector, API that integrates with pretty much any system and other features that we are excited to announce. Creating and localizing content for a technologically savvy generation is also a topic that we’ve been promoting among our clients as a way to stay ahead of the competition. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? Although we rebranded from All-in

Translations to All-in Global, translation and localization remains our most popular service. But over the years we have become a one-stopshop for language solutions you can bet on, including content writing, multilingual SEO and audiovisual services. We are particularly excited to see how the esports markets of Asia will respond to our efforts there.

APE

Market sentiment seen improving, SE Asia strong

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? Due to the Coronavirus, some policies were imposed by the Macau government to protect the health of citizens, such as the 15-day casino closure, tourist immigration control, etc, which will have a huge impact on the overall economy, especially the gaming industry in the first half of 2020. But we believe the market sentiment will get better, along with the opening of two new casinos – Lisboa Palace and Lisboeta, which can bring an effective stimulus to the market. At the same time, our suppliers planned to bring innovative products into the Macau market in 2020, we expect these products to bring alternative excitement to the casino floors. For SouthEast Asian countries, we plan to extend our footprint by expanding more EGE leasing sales in the Asian gaming market.

In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? SouthEast Asian countries, such as the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam have greatly increased Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) over the past few years. Casinos such as Okada Manila, City of Dreams Manila, NagaWorld etc., showed a strong performance in 2019. Moreover, with new casinos, like Hoiana in Vietnam and others which are ready to open in 2020 and 2021, we see there is strong demand and an unmissable opportunity among SEA countries, which is a huge potential market for APE to expand into in the next few years. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? Customers trended to play on stand alone electronic table machines for a faster and personal gaming experience. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? There are some innovative products that our global partners plan to bring into the Macau and Asian market, such as Jumbo’s newest product, the Bao Ni Fa linked progressive slot machines. In Bao Ni Fa, players can have a chance to win

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020

up to four jackpots at the same time, which is a very attractive feature to players. The Blackjack community, which was developed by Slovenian ETG producer Spintec is also a potential product. Five additional side bets are added on top of the simple blackjack to give players additional excitement. Moreover, the Golden Blocks linked progressive slot machine is an innovative product developed by Konami. The games have been designed with Chinese graphic symbols aimed at the Asian market. Players can win up to 20 bonus spins and multiple jackpots in the games. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? Leasing sales is one of our business focuses. Since 2018, we have been cooperating with Glimex Inc., which is a Philippines company, to expand our presence in the Asian gaming market. So far, more than 86 EGE units have been leased to a casino in Cebu through Glimex. We also entered into a financial leasing agreement with Siam Star Leisure Co. Ltd. from Cambodia. These two leasing sales brought us considerable revenue. We see leasing sales as having business potential and we will further expand this business in Macau and SouthEast Asia.


SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT 47 bbin

Card games a new hit

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? In regard to the coronavirus outbreak, as we focus on iGaming systems and software development, it has had less influence on us so far. Viewed from a broad market perspective in Asia, live casino and casino games possess the highest popularity and henceforth the biggest market share. In each category, Baccarat and elimination games are the hottest products. Knowing such market preferences, BBIN continues to launch new products that cater to Asian clients. On the other hand, BBIN plans to introduce new products which are not yet common in Asia, e.g.: Hi-LO games to make the gaming experience even more diversified. It has also developed new products which are inspired by the local popular culture, e.g.: the claw-machine game. BBIN experiments with new games and further tests the market acceptance. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? Fewer and fewer activities are coming from

desktop computers. From our market data analysis, only thirty percent of the activities comes from the desktop, while seventy percent is now from mobile devices. The use of mobile devices has far surpassed the use of desktop computers, demonstrating a great change in user habit and experience. This has influenced our product development to shift the focus to mobile games, to think about creating a game suitable for the mobile interface and how to enable an even faster and still engaging betting experience. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? In addition to diversifying products in the four categories, card games is a new type of game that shows great potential for growth. In terms of game design, card games allow for more interaction and players can choose to be a banker or a player. These distinct features have made card games a new hit in recent years. Since 2018, BBIN has started to include card games in its product portfolio and in 2020, BBIN will continue to launch

new card games to provide an even wider variety of gaming choices. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? Regarding product development, BBIN has a long-term project to keep optimizing its platform infrastructure and enhancing the security level. It also plans to launch new modular campaigns that allow clients to organize special programs with ease and speed. Even more excitingly, BBIN continues to incorporate the gaming spirit into its CSR projects that raise awareness for various global issues. BBIN’s nonprofit brand TGB Charity regularly launches new online campaigns with interactive designs and invites visitors to participate. Keep a close eye on TGB’s website (tgbcharity.com) and show your support with BBIN.

Bet Invest

Expanding eSports offering

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? Asia has always been one of our priority regions for development, and it still is. For this reason, we monitor key industry trends in this area with particular interest. We are of course concerned about the coronavirus epidemic that has broken out globally and in Asia in particular. We understand the damage to the industry that will be caused for our colleagues whose business involves mainly land-based operations. We are also aware that changes are having to be made to some of main events in the industry, and in the world as a whole – from leading gambling exhibitions to the Tokyo Olympics. We’re all keeping on top of the situation and hoping that the situation will improve. For now, our participation in several gambling events and the timescale for us entering certain new markets is in question. Nonetheless, our plans for 2020 include increasing the number of Asian countries in which our clients can use our products and solutions, and increasing the number of markets. For example, we are actively

researching regulations in India and various other Asian markets to assess our opportunities in this region. We believe that the coronavirus situation will be brought under control and our plans will go ahead.

create with their own products and solutions. This is why clients have a preference for gamification solutions: from games with engaging themes, outstanding graphics and multiplayer systems, to the option to play in VR, etc.

In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? For us, the most promising areas in Asia are the more populated regions: Japan, Korea, India. These countries have local regulations which give the market a better scope for development. As well as this, the features of the industry in these regions give us, as a sports betting provider, the opportunity to expand our services, and the end user the opportunity to broaden their user experience.

Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? Asia is the white hot centre for eSports – it is here that you find the highest percentage of players betting on eSports. In 2018, we released our own eSports department of experienced specialists; they are people from a gaming background who know the industry inside out. Over the course of two years, we developed and released our eSportsbook with features and markets that not all providers can offer. At the moment, we are focused on expanding our eSportsbook offer.

Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in the adoption of new technologies? The trademark features of Asia are the focus on cutting-edge technology and immersive entertainment. And this is the user experience that the leading sports betting providers wish to

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT 48 Betconstruct

AI use brings positive results

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? As always, we have a lot of new releases coming every year concentrating on innovation and the possibility to give our partners more flexibility and freedom. Covid-19 hardly affected any of our projects, but rather stood in the way of networking events which we planned to attend. Unfortunately, many business events and meetings were postponed or cancelled in recent months. The virus also impacted the popularity of gambling venues. However on the brighter side, it is also an opportunity for our land-based partners to consider entering the online world with BetConstruct’s white label or turnkey solution, to maintain or convert their existing business for further development. Hopefully, the situation will be more stable soon and we will all be back on track. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? At this moment, China is still one of the top markets in terms of revenue, but South East Asia is also growing and is a very promising region to expand. One of the main reasons for this may be that the region is more open and accessible for marketing through social media

platforms. Recently, we received many client inquiries from India. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? In terms of new technologies, of course the trend moves towards automation of existing tools. Increasing the level of flexibility will facilitate the use for both business owners and their end users. Infusing AI brought positive results to such products as risk management. Our tool, called Umbrella, is a semi-automated SaaS developed to detect and manage unprofitable players from an early stage through the whole lifecycle to assist in decreasing financial loss for betting operators. In just 3 months of usage, Umbrella decreases bad turnover from 70 percent down to 50 percent and contributes to the growth of the average monthly pool of VIP and positive players by 20 percent. We thoroughly investigate the Asia market, with a focus on each country and its peculiarities. This allows us to get more creative with the developments in both the betting and gaming sectors. That is how our Esports grew so fast to become separate from our Sportsbook offer, and our Live Casino started delivering Asia-facing games such as Dragon Tiger and Teen Patti.

Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? We believe sportsbook-related products have major potential for the entire Asian market. Providing a comprehensive sports betting offering is one thing, backing the software with powerful support, risk management, video streaming content and additional hassle-free solutions is a whole new level. That’s why alongside its industry-leading Sportsbook, BetConstruct delivers anti-fraud tools, front-end design builder, BetCloud solutions, allowing for secure betting over established limits and many other products. This scope is what really makes for great providers. Our gaming portfolio grows exponentially too, both with our in-house efforts and the content from top 3rd party providers. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? As always, we plan to continue to improve our existing products and come up with genuine solutions that facilitate the operator’s work. Since the encouragement we get comes directly from the success and feedback of our operators, we do our best every day to support them.

Comtrade

Demand for stable and custom tech grows

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? Asia remains a major focus area for our business. Our clients in Asia are some of the biggest operators present there, and they never standstill. This means we are constantly busy delivering on their business requirements. Although the virus hasn’t directly affected our projects it has definitely made us think more carefully about our travel. Also now, with the postponement of two of the largest events, its impact is increasing. You have to feel for the casinos in Macau though and the fact that all their 2020 plans and budgets have been decimated. This will have a much wider industry impact over the year. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? India definitely seems to be the country with the most future potential. A country

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020

with nearly 1.4 billion people who love sport will always offer huge opportunities. Over 50 percent of the population watch cricket, which alone is twice the total population of the USA. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? In Asia, the adoption of the latest technology is always a gradual process. The shift from manual processes and people towards technology and automation has increased significantly over the last few years but it has a long way to go. Asian operators typically need to be much more agile than European ones and the technology providers have to be able to support these demands. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? The biggest area of our business has always been our enterprise level Player Account Management System (iCore). It’s this focus

on excellence in one main product that strikes a chord with operators. Asia is becoming increasingly more competitive and market opportunities can change quickly. The need for software that is extremely stable, automates many processes and is customizable for individual operators will increase significantly. Many Asian operators still like to keep as much tech in-house as possible. We allow them to keep many of those controls they are looking for but without the need for huge internal development teams. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? We will be taking our existing clients into new markets and we also have some significant opportunities with new clients. We always take a very long term view with our business and as always we will take a measured approach with expansion to ensure we continue to provide the highest level of service.


SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT 49 Betradar

Racing ahead with F1

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hat are your plans for Asia this year? With two major cricket events, the Women’s and Men’s Twenty20 World Cups in Australia, the European Championships, a summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, and a new addition to the F1 calendar in Hanoi, this will be a very big year for the industry across Asia. We will be present at a number of trade shows throughout the region, from Goa to Phnom Penh, Taipei and Manila. This is a great opportunity to meet with our clients and discuss how they can capitalise on these big sporting events using our innovative markets as part of our growing coverage worldwide. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? The countries that show the biggest growth potential in Asia are the Indian subcontinent and other jurisdictions that look likely to regulate next, like South Korea potentially. As we have seen in the US, new betting markets provide plenty of commercial opportunities for businesses, if they are armed with the right tools and knowledge. The countries themselves can benefit too, depending on the tax provisions that are put in place with regulated Betting. In addition, the licenses and other controls as part of a regulated betting environment makes it easier to manage and monitor betting to reduce

illegal or black-market activity, which poses a risk to the industry and the sports themselves. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? The demand for content continues. This includes live streaming, increased choice for in-play betting opportunities delivered faster, and betting stimulation tools such as widgets and match trackers, all of which add to a punter’s experience and helps them make more informed bets. We’re also starting to see more licensed Asian businesses invest in marketing, both above and below the line, using our ad:s solution. This gives them access to premium sponsorship opportunities, brand ambassadors and programmatic advertising to help them grow their brand and attract audiences. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? This year we’re really excited about our new live ‘in-race’ odds for F1. As part of our exclusive partnership, we’ll expand the pre-race models that currently exist, using data taken directly from the track on race weekends to develop new in-play betting markets during a Grand Prix. This provides audiences with an all-new and exciting way to experience the sport, and

helps increase engagement with F1. Again, this will be a huge opportunity for our clients, particularly with the first ever F1 Grand Prix held in Vietnam taking place in April this year. We also continue to expand our live odds for cricket, as part of our Premium Cricket Service, and other sports across the world, including kabaddi. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? We will continue to increase our physical presence throughout the region. As more and more countries move to regulate betting, more operators will turn their attention to Asia. The emergence of newly regulated betting markets is part of the reason we expanded our 360-degree betting portfolio to include the Optima platform. With this we can offer everything an operator needs to supply and license in markets worldwide.

Continent 8

Investments in people and infrastructure

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? Continent 8 continues globally to add new locations to meet the growing demands of our committed and growing client base. Asia is no exception with major capacity additions recently implemented in addition to new services launched and enhancements to our current service offerings. In the last 18 months Continent 8 added an additional 12 global data centre locations in parallel to a significant capacity increase to our network. Total available capacity now exceeds 2 Terabytes. One notable addition to our security services portfolio is the launch of Web Application Firewall (WAF), a solution we are witnessing an explosive growth in demand for. Apart from some minor shipping delays we are seeing no real effect on revenue or service uptake resulting from the virus outbreak at this point.

In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? Taiwan continues to be the highest growth location for network, security, dedicated hosting and cloud services. As with operators and networks, Continent 8 continues to monitor regulation and compliance and will continue with our global strategy to serve the eGaming sector in all necessary locations. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? Our clients continuously seek the most reliable and predictable network routes into all Asian markets, including China. They are looking for ISP services not just for low latency, but an experience that is consistent with minimal packet loss. At Continent 8 we invest in people, infrastructure and capacity to

achieve the perfect blend enabling our clients to enjoy a true differentiator. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? The true and unchallenged differentiator in Asia is our high performance, consistent latency and highly available network. We achieve this through investing in cutting edge technology and recruiting only the highest qualified network operations and support personnel. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? 2020 will see the addition of new office locations and staff recruitment across Asia to support growing demand. We will also be announcing enhancements to our services portfolio in the coming months ahead in addition to new locations as client demands dictate.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT 50 Digitain

Mobile momentum grows

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? The impact of the virus is already having its effects. What we saw at ICE certainly proved to be a rather sad example; with many planned meetings unable to take place given the travel restrictions over in Asia. Of course, this not only means lost opportunities for both B2B and B2C sectors in terms of deal building, but also the lack of networking opportunities. ICE is always that time of year when industry players with mutual interests can align projects together, and without that chance to network, I think we (as an industry) lost out on a lot this year.

In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion?   The overall growth of the igaming industry remains incredibly encouraging across the majority of Asia, and the international advance of sportsbook continues unchecked in most developing countries. That said, innovation remains the watchword, both in the markets you offer and the tools with which you allow your clients to engage. Staying positively demarcated from the competition is naturally crucial, and that’s what Digitain does best with our everevolving product portfolio.

For most European vendors targeting Asia, the primary market is, of course the Far East, and we’re seeing the region evolving with rocket speed. South East Asia and India are also excellent opportunities, with both offering a fantastic amount of potential. Their demographics, as well as a young tech-savvy population who will always be excited to get in on the action via their mobile, are proving to be a boon to those who know how to market their product right. Moving forward, I expect to see the region continuing to go from strength to strength. Despite the absence of a legal regulatory framework in the region, the gambling market there is evolving rocket fast, engaging more and more people – once we have a framework in place from a regulatory perspective, I expect to see it really taking off.    Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies?   In terms of trends, the overarching question will always be towards whether Asia fashions its own watershed PASPA moment for sportsbook. Comparisons to the U.S. may at first seem facile. However, the truth is that this patchwork Asian quilt of taste and regulation (not to mention competing tax bands which could inherently price any greedy regions out of the market, or send their players to off-shore illegals) is very

reminiscent of what’s slowly unfolding stateside in sports betting. When it comes to tech and platforms, mobile betting in Asia continues to gain momentum, with mobile traffic already around 75 percent of the whole market  there. It goes without saying that anyone looking to succeed there really has to adopt a “mobile first” policy upon which product development and localisation can be capitalised. The second important thing here is speed. When it comes to ensuring stability and flawless data delivery, it is vital to deploy a Content Delivery Network in Asia. For this, Taiwan is broadly accepted to be the best location for this kind of infrastructure, and until other countries invest significantly – I expect it to keep leading the pack.

EBet

Industry-leading bonuses and high RTPs

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? 2019 has been eBET’s best year ever for growth and product awards. We’re confident that 2020 will be even better through a number of key product launches, strengthened partnerships and market expansion beyond Asia. This month will see two new gaming categories launched on eBET: Fortune Wheel, which is an Asian version of Cash Wheel, and Live 3 Ball Lottery. The Coronavirus has not slowed our product launches but has positively bolstered online play. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? We have seen all countries increase year over year, however, SE Asia has the largest amount of new players. Because of our early entry into

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020

SEA, the eBET brand is a market leader. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? Blockchain and highly customizable products have been at the forefront. Next month we will launch eBET’s live dealer on BSV, with all hand results stored in the blockchain. eBET is also launching a Live Dealer SDK that allows all operators to fully customize all aspects of the UI. Thus allowing operators to have one continuous look and feel across their brand. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? Fortune Wheel supports our current expansion into Southeast Asia because it has both the largest bonuses in the industry and the highest RTP on the market. This is

a product every player and operator wants in Asia. 3D Live Lottery has the fastest one minute 3 ball lottery draws in the industry, which is specifically geared towards Chinese speaking players. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? Launching in May, eBET will expand our VIP tables to include exclusive single-player private baccarat. This offering includes unlimited table limits and allows VIPs to directly speak to their personally selected beautiful dealer.


SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT 51 Gamesource

global market advisors

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Technology to reshape industry

hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? GameSource’s focus this year will definitely be Macau, the Philippines and Vietnam; we are aiming to deploy our products and total solution in various locations within Asia. The virus has definitely hit hard, and the impact is on a global scale, hopefully we will weather the storm sooner rather than later. We are taking this difficult period of time to further improve our products. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? The Philippines obviously is seeing massive and rapid growth, it will no doubt be one of the top gaming destinations in Asia with the amount of new projects coming up. Vietnam also has the potential for further expansion as it is still a rather underdeveloped country. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? A bit of a cliché but non-traditional gaming content will be the future, simply have a look at the mobile/social segment and we shouldn’t underestimate the influence of esports games, attracting enormous audiences and players worldwide. Blockchain is something to be reckoned with for land based casinos as distributed ledgers offer transparency, whereas cloud computing (cloud-based gaming) has gradually become a technology most people are familiar with and have been using day in and out. I would think a combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI), 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data & Blockchain is what could reshape our industry. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? We are extremely excited with our wireless gaming solution. Imagine players being able to be entertained with a new experience of flexibility and mobility and operators maximizing the opportunity to capture a new player segment. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? Without revealing too much information, you can definitely expect to be seeing a massive amount of GameSource deployments in the upcoming 6-24 months across various Asian jurisdictions.

Big data power

hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? Asia continues to remain one of the key markets for Global Market Advisors as we continue to assist our partners. While the current situation has hindered some travel amongst jurisdictions, it has strengthened our ability to assist clients with other projects and operations as they adjust business and marketing efforts for the current situation and reemergence. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? There continues to be growth through the entire Asia market in the areas of gaming, non-gaming, entertainment, sports, and hospitality. While there are pockets that are seeing larger growth in some of the specific sectors listed above, Asia continues to see great potential as the market continues to develop. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? Some of the greatest areas that we have seen growth in terms of technology is facial recognition, table tracking, and robust software allowing customers to more effectively track and reward players. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? Our emerging GMA Analytics division is becoming a game changer for our clients as they look at better ways to understand the data on their current and future customers. We look forward to growing that market in Asia and the rest of the world as a better way for organizations to reach their markets and enhance their loyalty efforts. Companies as well as governments also need to understand how the geopolitical dynamics of Asia are contributing to their developments and how they can be proactive in making adjustments to their business and marketing plans to stay ahead of the curve. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? While the current dynamics have had an impact on current growth, GMA knows that Asia will continue to push forward as an expanding gaming jurisdiction, with new developments and reinvestment in the products that exist today as market share becomes more competitive while providing new offerings to today’s consumer.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT 52 ganapati

Tokyo Kombat comes out fighting

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? Our plan for Asia – and globally – this year is to take on new challenges: new products, new markets and new management. The coronavirus is currently a global issue which is definitely impacting all areas of business. However, since we don’t have offices in mainland China and our business focuses on online products, the direct impact is very limited at this stage. We are fully functional and will continuously provide our services throughout the period.

In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? Southeast Asian countries, such as Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Indonesia are showing the most growth potential for expansion in business and marketing.Another market we are keeping a close eye on is India – it’s definitely looking to be one to watch. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? In terms of new technologies, the adoption of VR, AR, AI and machine learning within the industry is on the rise – these could well become the next big trends. We are looking into these to see if there’s a fit with our future products. There is a general trend of games becoming more interactive, which strongly ties in with what we do at Ganapati. We will be incorporating multiplayer capabilities, for example, in upcoming games, which will definitely help achieve this. We at Ganapati make sure to adapt to client preferences and trends. We definitely aim to keep up to date with new technologies

and implement them where we can. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? Tokyo Kombat! Tokyo Kombat is a 6-player shooting game – based on the wildly popular fish game – where players try and kill Japanese soldiers! The game includes so many original, fun elements, such as an in-game purchase system, Japanese voice actors, a Happy Hour mission mode, and much more. It’s very hard not to be excited when talking about this product in terms of Asian potential! Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? In Asia, players are not generally afraid to try out new things. To be more precise, they want to try new products as soon as they come out. As I mentioned, for this year’s Asia-related plans, we will roll out a lot of new products with new technologies for these players. Our goal is simple – to make the players happy and excited about the Ganapati brand!

iDNerd

ETG growth continues

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? Our plan was to launch our Intelligent table product X-Table in May at G2E Asia and continue deploying our X-Trend interactive BSB product into more Macau casinos and the SE Asian markets. The current Covid 19 travel restrictions have caused a few delays with our plans for sure. Firstly by the moving of the G2E show till the end of July and secondly we have been affected by no fly travel restrictions to markets like the Philippines and Korea. We also notice due to the uncertainty in business, many of the Macau properties are delaying or pulling back on spending for projects, In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? We have been busy expanding into Vietnam, where we will launch our first X-Stadium ETG display product linked to Interblock terminals at the Hoiana IR. Also we have had great response to our X-trend and X-Tables products in the Philippines, where both rejuvenation of existing properties and new properties are

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020

moving forward. The Philippines especially seem more progressive and open for new and innovative concepts. Korea is another area we see some interest and growth in the near future Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? There have been more expansions to ETG products and stadium games throughout the region and I believe this trend will continue. Casinos deploying our new features in X-stadium have reported growth in revenues. The progressive casinos are also looking at new table game innovations and products with smart table adoption and technology being trialled. Camera and RFID technology are still buzz words with some operators, but it seems this is mostly focusing on chip security, we hope to demonstrate our X-trend product can bring some more excitement to tables games by entertaining players and providing better game information so players can make better, faster betting decisions and enjoy benefits in loyalty and bonus features linked to our X-Table. The price of LED hardware products have also been

dropping, so we see a few casinos potentially upgrading their LED and media systems. We now represent many of the major LED manufacturers so have been packaging LED in with our stadium system and making the installation more cost effective for operators. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? We are keen to launch our table innovations, such as our own X-Trend, X Table, as mentioned, but continue to work expanding our ETG product X-Stadium and working with more gaming vendors to enhance their offering. We’re hoping to install our first SG X-Stadium this year . Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? We see some growth for Asia Pacific countries, such as New Zealand and Australia. With two new properties coming online in the next few years, in Sydney and Brisbane, and current properties ramping up and upgrading their existing casinos. We are hoping to expand our reach into this market more with all our products over the next few years.


SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT 53 Interblock Gaming

Privacy and individualism in focus

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? We are further penetrating our traditional markets such as Macau, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia and, in parallel, we are entering emerging markets like Nepal, Laos and Sri Lanka and cruise lines are also being explored. The coronavirus hit Macau and Korea the most in Q1 and Q2. The rest of the region might be affected in Q3, whilst Macau recovered from the virus, so overall not being affected as much as the industry expected. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? Vietnam has been the market with significant potential. For 2019 alone, we did 12 major installs and expansion in Vietnam is only contributing to our rapid growth in Asia. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? Individualism and privacy have been highlighted and become the trend in the industry, which have sharpened the ETG sector gradually. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? Interblock’s latest product, the Universal Cabinets range, has created an individual platform where all ETG games are available as a single game. The patented technology behind the Universal Cabinet allows players to play table games at the same rate you would find on a slot machine. This combined with a higher average bet found on ETGs vs what you would see within the slot segment, creates an ability to drive a new level of profit for the casinos. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? Interblock’s stadium featured the latest multi-game and multi-play functionalities with traditional games, such as dealer-assisted tables for baccarat, blackjack, roulette and sicbo; also electronic-mechanic generators for baccarat, blackjack, roulette and sicbo; additionally the video desk for all kinds of virtual games; furthermore, we are expanding our game library with the Moneywheel (BigSix with bonus feature) and dealer assisted Craps table etc.

IGT

New link themes for Asia

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? This year we are poised to build on the significant momentum we gained in the Asia mass slot market. We launched a significant number of new standalone games and links last year, which has given us a solid foothold in many countries from where we intend to expand with even more games this year. Our Ying Cai Shen link has broken records for us across the region, and we will be building on this momentum with more games this year. We’re also launching more jackpot options for our link products too, extending the flexibility of our solutions for all sizes of casino and player types. In Gaming Management Systems, we are launching new functionality, so that will see us build upon our existing customer base. However, the COVID19 virus is changing everyone’s plans for the region - from operators to suppliers. And without the benefit of a crystal ball, we expect to see its effects felt into the second half of the year. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? Macau and the Philippines are the most significant growth regions for us, as well as Singapore with the expansion of their slot operations in 2020, following the 2019 license changes. It’s not just in slot machines though, our systems bonusing solutions will grow further as our customers step up their drive to increase player loyalty with extra reward solutions and extra entertainment options in their properties, especially on mobile phones. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? In terms of client preferences – new technologies have been the trend with strong adoption of our IGT Advantage Intelligent Bonusing products, which enable casinos to deliver targeted bonuses floor-wide or for specific player types – all set by the operators to drive greater patronage and player allegiance to their venue. From a loyalty and bonusing perspective, operators want to offer bonuses to players during a play session, and market directly to the player’s mobile phone while on the casino floor. Plus, venues want to be able to

identify hot, and new, players in real-time so they can proactively enrol un-carded players – all features of IGT’s Mobile Host solution. From the players’ perspective, they’re seeking greater recognition and reward for their play, and are expecting greater ease and convenience when it comes to engaging with loyalty programs and transferring funds between the gaming machines and paying for entertainment in the property. A notable trend in Asia markets is that consumers are accustomed to using their mobile phones for both loyalty and currency transactions. They’re comfortable using digital for cashless payments, and opting-in to mobile marketing messages for more seamless engagement with their favourite companies. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? IGT will continue its Asia test bank program with operators to gather meaningful data and feedback on player-preferences which enables us to keep on improving and delivering better products designed for local players. Also IGT will be targeting older IGT cabinets with strong trade out deals enabling them to upgrade their floors at a lower cost. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? In 2020, we plan to release a suite of new link themes across Asia. This follows on the back of the success of Ying Cai Shen (which recently received Best Electronic Gaming Solution honours at G2E Philippines), and is still growing in popularity across the region. We will launch additional titles for Ying Cai Shen to continue to build on this successful brand. We are also excited to bring specific titles building on existing successful products such as Fortune Coin Boost which evolved from our successful Fortune Coin Multi 4-Level Progressive Jackpots to become a 5-Level Progressive link with players having the ability to multiply their credit wins and eliminate low-level jackpots to give players an opportunity to win higher amounts during the Fortune Coin Feature.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT 54 jumbo

Fishing games reel in players

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? The coronavirus did impact us a bit due to travel restrictions. Despite this impact, our sales and RD are able to spend more time working closely together on our upcoming products. This year, we are launching new slot games for our Bao Ni Fa Link and a new progressive link. We are also excited about unveiling our new generation of electronic table games and 6-seater multiplayer fishing game Fortune Cruise. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? We are seeing most potential growth and expansion in the Philippines. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? In some regions in Asia, we have noticed a

growth in slot machines with 43-inch screens. And more players are starting to explore and play standalone progressive slot games and standalone electronic table games. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? Definitely our upcoming 6-seater multiplayer fishing game Fortune Cruise. Our fishing games are performing very well in Cambodia and have attracted a new segment of players. This genre of games is already widespread around the world, so we are excited about introducing this product to casinos and regulators in Asia. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? The Philippines is a growing market for Jumbo, so we will be investing more time in the region to support our products and market presence. And we also have plans to bring our products to Australia.

Play ‘n Go

Games for all preferences

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the Coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? Asia continues to be an important market for us and our plans are to grow our presence there along with our other regions across the globe. The Coronavirus is a major concern in Asia and other parts of the world right now, so we’ll just have to continue taking every precaution and making sure our people are kept safe from any harm. In which Asian countries do you see the most growth or potential for expansion? We see good performance in all areas where we have a presence, but a few areas like Korea and Thailand are really taking off as the industry continues to develop there. It’s also exciting to see the progress made by emerging markets such as Malaysia, India and Indonesia. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or adoption of new technologies? Each region has its own preferences, as there are so many different cultures.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020

Different games perform differently from country to country. For instance, Thailand and Vietnam love table games and places like Japan trend towards themed titles, so there is no prevalent preference to speak of. Looking at new technologies, it seems BI and data-driven initiatives have become more common, and from what we see happening in terms of marketing/promo it seems that it is being used to drive those areas. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? We can’t give too much away; you never know who might be listening! We have 52 games set for release this year and, with the variety of titles we have as part of that project, there are titles that are going to suit every player across the region. Whether it be traditional gameplay, innovative features or a specific type of theme, we believe everything we have planned will have an impact. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? We have big plans for this year for all of our territories, but you’ll just have to wait and see!

Pinnacle

Building on growth

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? Our main plan for Asia this year is just to build on our already consistent growth across the region. We want to enhance the experience suppliers can give to their clients by providing them with a unique B2B service. We can continue to take the established Pinnacle brand even further into the world of B2B. It’s not just about taking on more clients for us, we want to ensure we maintain our strong relationships with all of our existing clients and continue to do whatever we can to help them to be a success. While we appreciate the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, it is yet to have any major impact on our projects. As with any other business, the safety of our employees is obviously our main priority and we will continue to assess the situation and make any necessary adjustments. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? Our growth over the past year truly has been global. We have seen consistent growth across all of our Asian territories but South East Asia has certainly jumped out as one particular area of extension growth over the past 12 months. When it comes to potential growth, the signs are very promising for the Indian market. Obviously this is still a relatively new market compared to other, more established, territories but there is a lot of excitement about the potential in India and it’s one that Pinnacle Solution is eager to explore. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? We are known for our risk management expertise and this will always be one of the main client preferences we see within the industry. However, one area of focus for suppliers that is led by their customers is improving the users’ experience. This is why Pinnacle Solution has worked hard to develop a new UI with added features, like hot events, to ensure our clients can cater to their customers’ needs. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? Esports has proven very incredibly successful for Pinnacle Solution since we launched and we are excited for this to continue. We have worked on enhancing our esports product in terms of the number of titles and markets we can offer.


SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT 55 Quanta

Digital lotteries gain pace

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? Quanta will continue to expand across Asia after making strategic inroads into Africa with new Zambia operations and a Kenya HQ, that follows last year’s push into Nigeria with the full gambit of gaming options. COVID-19 has had some impact on Quanta since this will delay our timing on expansion here in Asia. Our corporate HQ will remain in Hong Kong and we will watch the developments carefully and invoke business continuity and mobility plans if needed. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? Gaming revenue is typically the largest in China, Japan and South Korea. Market penetration of these markets will provide a customer base to ensure viability, however, margins are shrinking given the number of competitors competing in this same space. From a growth potential perspective, the smaller Asia markets have the best opportunities. Countries like Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam have the most potential but the developing markets are small so a slice of gaming revenue

from these markets may be insignificant and insufficient to support operating costs. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? For sure, customers are adapting to newer technologies after successful launch of mobilerelated devices or gizmos and much faster connectivity. With a majority of customers taking full advantage of their mobile phones for shopping, banking, travelling and dining, the trend will only continue with more customer demands expected. Lottery has traditionally been paper-based but the trend towards digital lotteries is starting to grow as more and more customers entrust their platforms with the technologies to eliminate fraud or theft of their cash/winnings and with quality of users’ experience growing. Blockchain technologies will enhance transparency and customer’s trust so Quanta is well positioned as it is developing lottery and gaming using blockchain technologies.

contribute to the improvement of gambling services, which makes this activity even more attractive and accessible to users. Our white label lottery platform is built on the private Ethereum chain, with our provably fair Random Number Generation, KYC/AML, and E-Wallet all powered by blockchain technology. Players who own cryptocurrency can participate in paperless Quanta Lottery from anywhere at any time using our Quanta Pay wallet. These innovative gaming experiences and expanded utility of the new Quanta Pay wallet will only increase the enjoyment and confidence of all users. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? At this moment, our push is into Africa given our footprint plans. After Covid-19, we will however revisit our plans in Asia and will most certainly share any major developments in due course.

Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? The Asian market is establishing itself as a leading region in the gambling sphere, producing a substantial amount of the world’s gambling revenue. Modern technologies

rgb

Expanding gaming concession

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? Our plan this year is to continue working closely with our renowned partners (i.e. Aristocrat, Scientific Games etc.) in capitalizing the strong performance of new and existing products in our operating regions, through the sales to our customers and also to increase the number of concession machines in the existing and new concessions venues in the Technical Support Management (TSM) division. To date, the impact of COVID-19 has been minimal, though we expect some disruption in the supply chain in delivering the machines. Preventive actions have also been implemented in all our TSM outlets and offices to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.

In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? At present, it will be the Philippines where we continue to see a rapid growth in the gambling industry. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? We are excited for the two new products, which are SG’s TwinStar J43 Cabinet with

new link games, such as Jinse Dao and Aristocrat’s MarsX Cabinet with new links such as Fu Dai Lian Lian and Fu Fu Fu. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? We plan to expand our gaming concession business by leasing out approximate 1,000 units of electronic gaming machines in 2020, mainly in the Philippines and Indochina.

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SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT 56 SegaSammy

Standalone ETGs in strong demand

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? We plan to expand in Macau and Southeast Asian markets with our successful standalone ETGs. We would also start installing link progressive slot games in the existing markets, and some of the new markets. This is a difficult time for everyone in the gaming industry, but we continue to support our customers and people in the industry and we believe that we can get past this. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? Macau leads the ETG market, especially standalone ETGs that are fast growing as a new category of EGM that is expected to expand its footprint in the market in coming years. The Philippines is another fast-growing market where various slot games are available, and it is attracting players. Vietnam and Cambodia are also very attractive markets, which are expanding with new casinos are opening up. We plan to

expand our footprint in Macau, The Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? Standalone ETGs are in high demand across Asian markets now. The video standalone ETG was not a major product in the past, but now it performs well in Macau. Standalone ETGs are also very effective in terms of floor space efficiency, since they does not come with huge master Units, so it can be easily installed in any casinos or clubs. It is a very practical product for every venue from small clubs to large casinos in the Asian market. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? “Roulette Maximum Fortune” is our most exciting product in Asia. Baccarat Maximum Fortune has been a very successful product. And the main success driver is the concept/feature allowing players to skip games and create their own trends without betting.

Players can simply press the Action Button to skip games while creating game history, then wait until his/her favorite timing to bet and play wagered games. SSC adopted this proven concept into the Roulette game, which is one of the most popular table games in Asia, and will release the “Roulette Maximum Fortune” in the coming months in various Asian markets. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? Our product line up will be strengthened with more market oriented products. We understand the importance of the customer feedback and we will focus on what customers really need and what players really want to develop our future products.

Scientific Games

James Bond launch planned for Asia

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? As always, Scientific Games continues to develop world-leading technology solutions for all aspects of the gaming industry and the launch of new product innovations in the Asian market that our customers and their players love. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? Over the last two years the Philippines’ market has significantly strengthened, however Scientific Games focuses on all legal Asian markets with staff located in Macau, the Philippines and Singapore. Supporting our customer partners, including our distributors, is paramount to Scientific Games. The Philippines is a strong Slots and Tables market. Our shuffler products are gaining traction in Cambodia as casinos there align their operations more closely with markets like Singapore. Our Casino Management Systems are growing traction in the Philippines where confidence has built with our diverse system

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020

Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? Our customers look for a product point of difference. One example being exclusive games like Casino War and 3 Card Poker being added to our Electronic Table Games (ETG’s). In the table game space operators are opting for more face-up baccarat (even in Macau) resulting in more hands per hour. The request for more technology adoption in traditional table games, where our casino management systems become more emerged in the efficiency, monitoring and operations, bringing enhanced player experience and casino efficiencies.

allows for better visuals and a user-friendly player interface on a large square screen. This is proving popular in Korea and other Asian markets will see expansion using this terminal. Our table game side bets and premium table games library is second-to-none and our casino management system innovation sees a new Table View version. In our slot machine products, we will launch Scientific Games high-performing TwinStarJ43 gaming cabinet with the Asian themed game series Jinse Dao. This year will also mark the Asian launch of one of SG Gaming’s biggest licensed brands, James Bond 007 game series with the Diamonds are Forever slot game on the DualosX gaming cabinet incorporating Asian designed mathematics.

Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? As Scientific Games has a very diverse range of products across all aspects of the casino, it’s hard to focus on any particular one. Our approach is to bring technology to all aspects of the casino by way of enhanced product offerings. However, to name a few, the new Quartz ETG terminal

Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? The first shuffler to not only shuffle but also sort 10 decks is an exciting product on the way. “Why 10 decks?” one might ask. More decks mean less shoe changes and therefore more hands dealt increasing productivity which goes straight to an operator’s bottom line.

operating modules covering the many needs to operate a top performing casino.


SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT 57 SA Gaming/Simple Play

Changing scenes, different reel patterns

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? We are launching a couple of Asian-themed slot games to cater for our clients in Asia. As an online platform, the coronavirus does not create too much impact on our projects. With more people staying indoors, there has been more users playing at our platform. SimplePlay hopes to stand with the society. We are adding some hygiene tips in our social media to remind users to stay healthy and safe during the situation. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? Asia is always a continent with huge potential.

Every country is an opportunity. Apart from the countries in which we have already established our presence, SimplePlay is always looking for every possible market to which we can offer our exciting games. Based on the wide range of game themes our portfolio offers, we hope to establish a continent-wide market in Asia.

response to this, SimplePlay’s recent games are all mobile-friendly. They all support both portrait and landscape orientation in full screen. This involves reengineering our game design, game interface and layout. We also displayed mega vertical touchscreens, simulating a mobile interface during ICE London last month.

Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? SimplePlay expects the game market in the future to be mobile-oriented. The mobile market is growing fast. Clients are also placing greater emphasis on mobile products and interface. In

Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? Some of our slot games have unexpectedly great potential in Asia. “Three Star God 2”, for example, features the three star gods – Prosperity, Status and Longevity. They are widely worshipped in Asia. It features an extended extra wild feature, allowing increased ways to play. “Sparta’s Honor” is also performing well. During free spins, the top payout symbols can become Wild Symbols. The Asian market has responded positively to these games. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? To cater for the Asia market, we are launching some Asian-themed games in the coming quarters. A major project involving a slot game with different scenes, each with different reel patterns and ways can be expected by the end of Q2. Please expect us!

Synergy Blue

Fun you can bet on

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? Our plan is to introduce more gamblers (and gamers) to ‘fun you can bet on!’ We’d like to get more familiar with the local regions and plan on working closely with Jade Entertainment to continue expanding our presence in Asia. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? We’re very excited about the growth and reception that we’ve had in places like Macau and Manila, where we’ve been very warmly received the past two years at G2E Asia. Additionally, our partnership with Jade Entertainment provides the exciting opportunity to be involved with a company which knows the Asia-Pacific region very well and can be a tremendous resource as we continue to expand our presence in this

area of the world. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? People are seeking out new experiences. They want something different, engaging and fun. For that reason, most operators are very excited about incorporating new technologies and new types of experiences at their properties. And skill-influenced games are great for this. They increase engagement and play time, they add new marketing elements to slot floors and tend to attract new demographics. All of our games are also built on our HAWG (Hybrid Arcade Wager-based Gaming) platform, which is very versatile. HAWG is able to fit various regional regulations and offers the ability to choose math variants to fit the preferences of unique clientele, so operators can do a lot with one platform.

Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? We believe that our version of ‘Fun you can bet on”will thrill Asian gamblers. There is already a lot of enthusiasm for our games and adding more skill-influenced options will provide casino-goers with a new experience - whether it is our version of Mahjong or an arcade style driving game. We have and will continue to work with Jade Entertainment to approach each market individually and ensure that we’re bringing games that make sense to specific markets. 2020 should be a very exciting year for Synergy Blue in Asia.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT 58 TransacT

Loyalty helps drive growth

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? Our plans for Asia are to continue to expand from where we left in 2019, which was a dominant position in the region. We finished the year off strong and there are some very exciting prospects for 2020. Thankfully, at this point we haven’t been directly affected by the coronavirus and it’s too early to tell what ramifications it may have on the industry, but we are keeping a close eye on things as they develop. Fortunately, TransAct has a production and support strategy that includes multiple locations so that our supply chain will not be completely disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. We will continue to be able to provide our full level of customer service and to fulfill customer orders as required. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? Macau and the Philippines should keep us quite busy this year, as well as some opportunities in Australia. We are building

on a broad installation base of our products in each case with very satisfied customers, and we’ll continue to deliver great value as a technology partner around Asia. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? Player loyalty continues to be a key focus for operators, and they are looking into the technologies encompassing this. Fortunately for TransAct, we have the perfect tool in Epicentral which can increase player loyalty and as a result, deliver positive results for operators. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? Our state-of-the-art Epic Edge TITO printer with its latest technology together with Epicentral 4.0, brings a powerhouse of hardware and software technology to the casino floor. As operators in Asia search for more intuitive ways to market to their players, Epicentral brings a fully customizable and automated promotional software suite to the table.

Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? We are expecting 2020 to be a good year for us with a number of opportunities in the mix. We can’t go into specifics at this stage but are hopeful to have something very positive to report very soon.

TVbet

Players prefer fast-paced games and promos

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? Our team has a great ambition to provide sports betting and casino operators with the technologically advanced solutions, which will allow them to achieve exponential GGR growth. So, TVBET enters the market through leading gaming platforms, while negotiating directly with

key land-based operators as well. The coronavirus has no impact on our market expansion because we have our local representatives there. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth or potential for expansion? For our company, as the B2B provider, it is essential to work with companies operating in fast-growing markets. Such countries as Macau, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia already have many gaming representatives, which, in turn, presents many opportunities for TVBET. Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? Every year, the audience of players becomes more demanding in terms of their expectations. And it means that a variety of betting options comes to the first plan. After comparing several products, eventually, they give preference to games at a fast pace that include different promo functionality, like jackpots, free bets, etc. In addition, the credibility of the games is paramount. So this

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020

is where we step into the future and leapfrog ahead because it’s all about TVBET. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? Overall, TVBET’s Top 3 games worldwide are the following: PokerBet, 7Bet, and Keno. Regarding the Asian region, it is also important to highlight our recently featured Backgammon. This widely beloved game was exclusively reinvented for the live-streaming era. And we are confident that players in Asia and the Middle East will be excited about it. Moreover, our team is in the process of developing Baccarat in live format for Asia. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? According to our global expansion strategy, we have great hopes for our presence in this region. Our ambitions here are driven by the goal of providing players with the full spectrum of well-known games. We want to integrate our product to 300 betting and casino operators in Asia.


SUPPLIER SPECIAL REPORT 59 Ultraplay

Excitement in eSports

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? UltraPlay has a solid positioning on the Asian market and has built a strong business network of iGaming partners in the region. We would like to express our deepest hopes for a fast recovery from the coronavirus both in Asia

and globally. We hope that a working solution for this global health crisis will be found shortly. As an iGaming supplier, we deliver our products and services to our partners in the region and we have several ongoing projects related to our iGaming platform and eSports odds feed ODDS.GG. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? Asia is a vital market for the gambling industry and a leading global player in general. In terms of our products’ and services’ performance, we keep on seeing increased results in many jurisdictions on the continent. Markets with great potential are Taiwan, the Philippines, Cambodia, as well as Japan where further developments in both land-based and online sectors will be established in the following years. Those markets have years of tradition in gambling as well as gaming itself. In Asia, eSports is deeply connected in

peoples’ lifestyle and they spend a lot of their time playing games. That’s one of the reasons why we see a great interest towards UltraPlay’s multi awarded eSports betting solution – ODDS. GG. This is a trend that we expect to be kept in the following year. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? UltraPlay is giving everyone a chance to join the fastest growing market in the industry – eSports, by offering the widest coverage of games, best pre-match and live odds. Our solution ODDS.GG comes with a hybrid live betting model embracing AI and human trading interaction, automated match scheduling and stats compilation. UltraPlay has once again confirmed an increased interest towards the eSports betting offering at ICE London 2020, with operators from various jurisdictions looking to integrate this vertical on their websites.

zitro

Strong expansion eyed for 2020

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hat are your plans for Asia this year and has the coronavirus had a major impact on your projects? Our main goal is to further expand our broad presence in the Philippines, where we already have an important presence in the Video Bingo Market and where we will soon be starting to deploy our Video Slots in the casinos. After the Philippines, we plan on targeting new markets in the area as well. In regards to the Coronavirus, we may experience an impact in terms of material supply, as some of the components we use are delivered from China, however, as for today, thanks to our solid and proactive supply chain, we have not yet experienced any delays in orders due to the virus and its collateral effects on the industry. In which Asian countries are you seeing the most growth, or potential for expansion? For us in particular, as mentioned, the Philippines is our main goal as it is the market in the region where we already have a solid base and an experienced local team, and where growing potential, for both our Video Bingo machines and our Video Slots, is still enormous. In addition to the Philippines, we will be targeting other markets such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia during 2020.

Have you noticed any trends in terms of client preferences, or in adoption of new technologies? There is huge demand for multilevel progressive concepts that have a strong selfidentity. This translates into products that have highly sophisticated multimedia elements such as graphics and animations, as well as music and sounds, creating highly attractive and integrated bank presentations. Which of your products are you most excited about in terms of Asia potential? There are many games that, we are sure, will fit the Asian market perfectly, however, I am particularly excited about our brand new 88 Link games. There are two different themes, one is called 88 Link Wild Duels which is based on Chinese legends, and the second one is called 88 Link Lucky Charms, which is inspired by the Japanese talisman. Both products are a tribute to the very diverse Asian culture. Also, both games have super exciting game features and combine for the first time a 243 multiway game with a supercharged Link Bonus. Presented on our new Allure cabinet, it combines state-ofthe-art hardware technology, including 3 Full HD 27 Inch LCD’s, our digital button panel ‘SmartDeck’ as well as our `Syncroscreens’; a multimedia system that combines the upper

screens giving it the look and feel of a high class overhead signage. Are there any further Asia-related plans you would like to share? Asia is and has always been a key market for Zitro, thus we have had an operational base in the Philippines for some time now. With our increasing Video Slots offering, today we have a library full of proven games that adapt very well to the Asian market in terms of functionalities and play mechanics, but also with a strong Asian flavour such as the 88 Link games, Bashiba Link, and many more, making us ready for a strong expansion in 2020.

Asia Gaming Briefings | March 2020


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LAST WORD 62

Virus exposes China risks Sharon Singleton

Managing Editor, AGB

The Covid-19 outbreak has highlighted once again how one of the biggest draws for casino investors in Asia can become the largest liability.

O

perators and tourism authorities across the former Portuguese colony. The over reliance on China and on gambling is region have become increasingly reliant on the big spending Chinese outbound a conundrum for policymakers responsible for the traveller. Some 170 million people travelled wellbeing of the local economy and community. But outside the country last year, swelling the coffers of for the operators, after every storm there has been a rainbow which does indeed have a pot of gold waiting. IRs across Asia. Outside of Macau, there’s also likely to be significant Therefore, the impact of the lockdown of several Chinese provinces and the travel bans imposed by pain, especially in those jurisdictions where locals are authorities around the globe is not going to make for banned from gambling, such as South Korea, Cambodia pretty reading once operators begin releasing their and Vietnam. Their visitor base may be more diverse than Macau, but in most cases the big money comes financial reports. We already know that Macau, which shutdown its from China and the lack of visitors as a result of travel casinos for 15 days, saw an almost 88 percent plunge bans will significantly hurt revenue. Here, there is more that could be done to reduce in gross gambling revenue in February. Wynn Resorts the China-dependency risk if told investors it was losing $2.5 governments were willing to review million a day as a result of the their policies on local support. closures while MGM China put Both Vietnam and South Korea the figure at about $1.5 million. Macau, which would be seen as highly desirable Even though the properties markets. have now been allowed to reopen, shutdown its Vietnam is trialling a pilot albeit with restrictions, there is a casinos for 15 program, but it’s extremely limited major question mark over where and not expected to be expanded the guests are going to come from. days, saw an in the near future. For the others, Out of 39.5 million travellers almost 88 percent it’s just a pipedream. in 2019, 70 percent came from plunge in gross ThenumbersfromthePhilippines Mainland China, that rises to 90 will be interesting reading. Over percent if you include visitors from gambling revenue the past few years, the split in neighbouring Hong Kong. in February. gaming revenue between locals and The government has paid lip tourists has been evolving as the service over the years to expanding glitzy new resorts in Entertainment its visitor base and attempting to City have opened. drum up business from countries The IRs have drawn in the VIP gamers, helping to elsewhere in Asia. But at the end of the day, speak to any analyst and it’s the forecast for Chinese outbound make the Philippines one of the best-performing markets travel that really drives projections for growth for in Asia. However, the properties there still enjoy good years out into the future. The penetration of the giant support in the mass market from a large local population. Chinese market is still low, with most visitors to Macau The country has more than 100 million people with an economy that expanded at a 5.9 percent clip in 2019. still arriving from the bordering provinces. Before President Rodrigo Duterte mended ties As transport links into the Chinese hinterland improve, a whole new wave of Mainland visitors is with Beijing after his election in 2016, the country had tipped to make Macau their first destination for a a rocky relationship with China and therefore has not traditionally been reliant on Mainland travellers. South foreign vacation. Yes, there is some research showing Macau’s Koreans made up the biggest share of its more than 8 popularity may have slipped amongst more experienced million arrivals last year, with China in second place, and younger travellers, but given the sheer numbers followed by the U.S. and Japan. It won’t have escaped the coronavirus rout, though involved when talking about China’s population and wealth creation, that still leaves a lot of visitors for the its model is likely to prove more resilient than most.

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