IAG December 2015 - page 11

December2015
inside
asiangaming
11
his reputation and loyal following developed in Macau than to the
Philippines, favorable tax rates and commission rebates and the
leisure facilities themselves,”DeanMacomber says.
Jimei’s ownership of its eponymous Macau casino came about
in 2009 when Mandarin Oriental International sold its 50% stake
in what’s now the Grand Lapa Hotel, next to Sands Macao, to its
partners, Stanley Ho’s STDM and Shun Tak Holdings. They chose
Jimei to operate the gaming area, previously Oriental Casino, under
SJM’s license as a satellite facility. Jimei renovated the casino, which
Cover Story
hasaboutadozen tablesand60slotsmachines, to feel likeanelegant
sitting room, fitting the hotel’s grande dame ambiance. There’s
casino access from the hotel and the street. With both Fontana and
Jimei Casino, the junket promoter became an owner in established
gamingdestinationswhere it had extensive experience.
DISTANTBEACHHEAD
For its foray into casino ownership, Hengsheng Group focused
on a new gaming jurisdiction. Investors affiliated with Hengsheng
acquiredHong Kong listed First Natural Foods for HK$400million
(US$52million) in November 2013 and renamed it Imperial Pacific
International. Around the same time, associates of the junket group
began efforts to get casino gaming legalized in Saipan, the largest
island in theCommonwealthofNorthernMarianas Islands. CNMI is
a self-governingUS territoryof 57,000 in thePacific, about fivehours
by air charter from Shanghai, expected towelcome 500,000 visitors
this year to its idyllicbeaches, withmainlandChina, Korea and Japan
the largest sourcemarkets.
Smaller CNMI islands Tinian and Rota had previously legalized
gaming with limited success: Tinian’s long struggling casino got
raided by US Treasury officials last year, resulting in record fines for
money launderingviolations;andRota’scasinoclosedwithinweeksof
IAG: Do you think people in
China are getting bored with
Macau?
AC:
I’m not worried about that,
since there is a huge market in
China. Also the range of products
in theMacaumarket of the future
will bring in different kinds of
tourists in addition togamblers.
IAG: Does consolidation of the
junket businesshelpSuncity?
AC:
It’s an advantage in the short
run, but in the long run, it will
cause damage when investors,
gamblers, visitors or [the gaming]
industry lose confidence in the
junket business.
IAG: Suncity is a partner in the Hoi An South integrated resort
project in Vietnam [with Chow Tai Fook Enterprises and
VinaCapital].Whatwill Suncity’s rolebe?
AC:
Right nowwe arenot in aposition to talk about specific projects
in Vietnam. However, we are seeking some other businessmodels.
Our aim is to develop our VIP business worldwide and extend the
existing VIP business in gaming jurisdictions such as Vietnam,
Seoul, Russia, the Philippines or even in Macau. We will gradually
extendourbusiness to thecasinohotel segmentwhile, of course, still
runningour VIPbusiness.
IAG: Is that part of a strategy to change from being a junket
promoter tohavingownership incasinoprojects?
AC:
Yes, our future development aim is to move our investments
from junket operations to owning casinos. We don’t want to be
limited to being only a junket promoter. We want to further develop
our assets.
IAG: Doyou seeanydisadvantagesof beingacasinoowner?
AC:
No.
IAG:Obviously,Suncity is interested inother jurisdictionsbeyond
Vietnam. Are there any particular markets you are looking at?
Would you be interested in operating a casino inMacau if that
opportunityarose?
AC:
We want to develop our VIP business worldwide, and if we
operate casinos in the future, we are looking to do something like
boutique type casino hotels but we don’t have specific destinations.
We hope to establish a chain of small-scale casinos mainly in the
Asian region.
IAG: If the junket business in Macau wasn’t currently so
depressed,wouldSuncity still beconsideringcasinoownership?
AC:
Actually there isnoconnectionwith thedownturnof thebusiness
here inMacau. Due to the economic conditions in China, Macau’s
business is in bad shape, and relatively speaking business overseas
is also affected. The reason why we invest in overseas markets is
not because of the bad business conditions inMacau. VIP business
globalization is a strategy and a casino hotel chain business is part
of that strategy.
“CNMI isa self-governingUS territoryof
57,000 in thePacific, aboutfivehoursby
air charter fromShanghai, expected to
welcome500,000visitors thisyear to its
idyllicbeaches,withmainlandChina,Korea
andJapan the largest sourcemarkets.”
AlvinChau
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