CEO AND DIRECTOR
CHAIRMAN AND DIRECTOR
Suncity Group Holdings
CHAIRMAN AND NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Summit Ascent Holdings
POWER SCORE: 1,572
POSITION LAST YEAR: 6
CLAIMS TO FAME
- Expanding Suncity from junket promoter to casino owner and operator via Hong Kong listed arm
- Top Macau native in city’s leading industry
A lot has been made of the challenges facing Macau’s once dominant VIP gaming sector, and with good reason.
For an industry that is built on ferrying high rollers from one destination to another, the closure of international borders for the best part of two years due to COVID-19 has proved a brutal blow, with VIP GGR falling more than 80% in key markets like Macau and the Philippines.
While the pandemic will pass, of more long-term concern are recent moves by China to crack down on cross-border gambling, specifically the flow of funds from China to facilitate gambling purposes. An announcement by China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism in August 2020 that it had established a “blacklist” of overseas tourist destinations said to be targeting mainland Chinese customers has been officially reiterated twice since, while the Ministry of Public Security, State Administration of Foreign Exchange, Cyberspace Administration of China and even the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) have issued statements this year pledging actions against cross-border gambling and those who promote it.
Yet even in an industry that once accounted for well north of 80% of Macau’s gaming revenues, Suncity Group CEO Alvin Chau has long seen the writing on the wall.
Under its Hong Kong-listed entity Suncity Group Holdings (1383), Suncity has been pursuing a strategy of diversification in recent years with a particular focus on casino operations.
Its flagship asset in this regard is Hoiana, a US$4 billion integrated resort development in Vietnam opened last year in partnership with hospitality investor VMS Investment Group and Vietnamese investment firm VinaCapital.
While COVID-19 has made for slow going so far, the property itself is a clear indicator of Suncity’s grand ambitions – covering 945 hectares of land on 3km of beach frontage. Phase 1 includes a casino, four hotel brands operated by Hong Kong’s Rosewood Hotel Group, authentic Asian restaurants and a championship golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones II, however the full glory of the development will be realized across seven phases over 13 years. With a target completion date of 2030, it will add a multitude of hotels and residences, another 18-hole golf course, MICE facilities, commercial space, and high-end and outdoor retail among various other leisure and hospitality attractions.
In 2018, Suncity acquired a 3.29% stake in Summit Ascent Holdings – the majority owner of Russian IR Tigre de Cristal – before upping its stake to almost 70% by mid-2020. Upgrade works on the property were completed this year, adding a new Suncity VIP Room, hotpot restaurant and high-end club, while plans are being finalized for Tigre de Cristal’s Phase II expansion. When complete, Phase II will see the property’s gaming space doubled and hotel rooms tripled.
And in Manila, Suncity is also developing a US$1 billion hotel and casino in Entertainment City, currently expected to open in 2023 with 450 rooms, 400 gaming tables and 1,200 slot machines.
Add to that two non-gaming resort developments in Japan and the February 2021 sale of Suncity’s property leasing business in China, and there is little doubt that Chau sees his future as being in casino, rather than junket, operations. Only time will tell how those cards fall.
For the full list of 2021 Asian Gaming Power 50 winners, click here.