Inside Asian Gaming

GAMING | March 2008 40 Briefs New Thai PM Covets Casinos Thailand’s newly-appointed prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, expressed a desire to follow in the footsteps of Macau and Malaysia by legalising casinos in his country, if he completes his four-year term. Addressing reporters in Bangkok, he suggested that tourist areas such as Pattaya, Phuket, Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai and Hat Yai present the best locations for the first phase of the country’s possible casino development. Proposals to legalise casinos in Thailand have arisen sporadically in the past, but no progress has ever been made towards realising those proposals, in large part because the country’s popular king vehemently opposes the idea. Sundaravej is hoping to give it one more go, however, given the huge potential economic benefits casinos could bring to the country. Currently, the only legal forms of gambling in Thailand are a lottery and two horse racing tracks. However, illegal gambling is rife, and the prime minister argues the only viable solution is to offer a regulated alternative. “This way, the illegal dens and private casinos will close down. If people want to gamble they can come here.” However, the results of a recent survey conducted by the Assumption University of Bangkok suggest the prime minister’s plans may go against the wishes of the Thai population. Less than a third of respondents supported the prime minister’s plan, while 56% said they did not want casinos to be allowed in Thailand. Tabcorp Gets Star City Boost Tabcorp Holdings Ltd announced it will spend more than the originally budgeted A$300 million for the expansion and refurbishment of its Star City casino in Sydney. Tabcorp CEO Elmer Funke Kupper hopes that following the investment, the casino might become the country’s top casino performer, but did not reveal how much the investment would amount to. Star City accounts for half of Tabcorp’s casino division business and represents a fifth of Tabcorp’s business overall.First half net profit rose 22% to $273.4 million. Tabcorps’ priorities for the coming 12 months will remain its core operations.“This will include the redevelopment of Star City Casino, the expansion of Keno inNewSouthWales and continued investment in our wagering retail network,” said Mr Funke Kupper. The brands managed by the company include Star City and Conrad Jupiters casinos, TAB, Tabaret, Keno and TAB Sportsbet. The company claims that its three major business units, known simple as Casinos, Wagering and Gaming, employ more than 11,000 people in all States of Australia. Tabcorp’s reported revenue for the second half of 2007 rose 1.8% to $2.03 billion. Earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) rose 1.6% to $138.7 million in the gaming division and 0.4% to $190 million in the casinos division, but fell 8.9% to $130.8 million in the its wagering division. LVS Awaits Cotai Approvals Las Vegas Sands Corp (LVS) revealed in its latest annual report that it had already commenced construction or pre-construction of its projects on parcels 5,6,7 and 8 on the Cotai Strip,even though it had yet to receive land concessions from the government for those parcels. Proceeding with construction ahead of finalising all land agreements is a common practice in Macau. For example, Melco PBL Entertainment (Macau) Ltd only received the necessary approvals for its City of Dreams resort along Cotai last month,even though it broke ground on the project in April 2006. The four parcels sit across road from the sprawling Venetian Macao resort, unveiled by LVS in August last year. LVS plans to build 12,550 hotel rooms at the sites,in addition to extensive gaming,retail and entertainment facilities. LVS is already building two Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, as well as a St Regis hotel, on parcel 5.It also plans to develop a Sheraton hotel on parcel 6, and Hilton, Conrad, Fairmont and Raffles hotels and serviced apartments on parcels 7 and 8. MGM Grand Macau hosted the gala show of the final episode of the first season of ‘China’s Next Top Model.’ The show has proven popular in the mainland since it first aired at the start of this year. MGM GRAND Macau Managing Director Pansy Ho, who is a guest judge of the final episode, considered the “artistic ambience and tasteful lifestyle everywhere within the hotel” an ideal match “with the superb style and charisma of the ‘China’s Next Top Model’ competition”.