In this new regular feature in IAG to celebrate 16 years covering the Asian gaming and leisure industry, we look back at our cover story from exactly 10 years ago, “Join the Club”, to rediscover what was making the news in October 2011!
Asia’s integrated resort landscape has grown exponentially over the past decade, with Macau firmly cementing its status as the gaming capital of the world, the Philippines emerging as a clear No.2 in Asia, and the likes of Vietnam, South Korea and Cambodia pushing their way onto the regional radar.
But 10 years ago there weren’t a whole lot of options, with only Macau and Singapore – the latter having launched its two IRs just 12 months earlier – making a significant splash.
In the October 2011 issue of IAG, we took a look at how the industry was shaping up across Asia and which jurisdictions were most likely to emerge as serious gaming destinations in the future. Looking back, it certainly makes for interesting reading.
A little over a year after the opening of its first IR – Resorts World Manila – the Philippines was seen as an unknown quantity at the time. As IAG noted, analysts recognized significant opportunity in the market but there were also concerns over attracting investment given the volatile political landscape and infrastructure concerns. Those concerns have proved largely unfounded, with the past 10 years seeing the Entertainment City precinct emerge with its three IRs, soon to be four, pushing industry GGR to US$4.3 billion in 2019 (pre-COVID).
South Korea and Vietnam have been the other big movers when it comes to IR development – each has opened three – but their impact has certainly not been on the same scale as the Philippines. Notably, both markets are strictly foreigner-only when it comes to casino gambling, with one exception each (Kangwon land in Korea and Corona Resort in Vietnam), and have therefore been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Perhaps the most interesting of those we looked at in 2011 were Japan and Taiwan. (Yes, Taiwan!)
Speculation at the time was that Japan was readying to push through a new casino bill as a means to fund recovery from the recent tsunami and nuclear disasters. In fact it took six years for the first of two bills to eventually pass, and after much excitement over the past few years the future of Japan IRs looks as shaky as ever with serious doubts over whether the government will issue three licenses next year as planned.
As for Taiwan, we noted estimates of an industry worth around US$2 billion per year, likely comprising two integrated resorts located on outlying islands and targeting the mainland China market. But we also noted the many political hurdles this would need to overcome were it to ever become reality. There have been the occasional murmurings of interest since then: a Tourism Casino Administration Act was enacted in 2013 (although a second piece of legislation is yet to follow), while two counties, Penghu and Kinmen, have voted no in casino referendums.