IAG December 2014 - page 10

China’s political end game
can make or break casino
developments acrossAsia.
Plans for casino resorts on Taiwan’s offshore islands located
tantalizingly close to theChinesemainland—Kinmen, for example, is
amerefivekilometers from themainlandat the closest point—never
made itpast thedrawingboardbecauseof fearsBeijingwouldban its
citizens from visiting them.
Meanwhile, Chinese visitors are buoying revenues at casinos
fromSouthKorea andVietnam toNorthKorea and LasVegas.
Though Chinese playersmake up around 40% of revenue at Sri
Lanka’s existing modest-sized casinos (with Indians contributing
roughly another 40%), if growth inChinese tourist arrivals continues
ramping up at current rates, and once the glitzy new casino resorts
around Beira Lake open up to cater to Macau-style VIP players,
it’s conceivable the Chinese could constitute the vast majority of
Still, Dhammika Perera knows the market better than anyone,
and he contends the share between Chinese and Indian players will
probably remain equal. That’s either a purely data-based prediction,
or he may even intend to pursue active measures to maintain an
equal balance between Chinese and Indian clientele, keeping his
revenue sources diversified. It’s wise not to put all your eggs in one
basket, especiallywhenpolitics are at play.
EvenMacau—technically part of China and cognizant the central
government values its prosperity—has learned the hard way that
Beijing can have political imperatives that take precedence over its
economy, with China’s ongoing anti-corruption drive having taken a
bigbiteout ofMacau’sVIPbusiness. Thedropwouldhavebeen less
pronounced if Macau’s casinos drew players from a broader range
of countries.
the Rajapaksa government got legislation passed to formally
recognize the industry by registering the casinos with the Inland
RevenueDepartment for tax purposes.Mr Perera owns three of the
fourgamingestablishments thusofficiallysanctioned.MrWijeratne
owns the other. All are located in Colombo, and the biggest, Mr
Perera’s Bally’s, has 80 table games (his Bellagio has 40 and his
MGMColombo another 40). Though small in size compared to the
super-resorts ofMacau and Las Vegas, all are pleasantly decorated
and well-maintained and offer service on a par with international
room Crown Colombo spearheaded by Australian gaming tycoon
James Packer and his local casino partner, Ravi Wijeratne. Plans for
the lake area also include an $850 million resort with a casino by
the country’s largest publicly traded company, JohnKeellsHoldings,
The handful of small casinos currently catering to the
Colombo tourist trade operated for years as “recreation clubs,”
though, as Mr Perera points out, these complied with rules
in force since the British colonial era that permitted such
clubs to legally operate gaming. After the end of the civil war,
, spearheadedby
local casinooperator
will be locatedacrossBeiraLake from
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