Inside Asian Gaming

IAG FEB 2020年2月 亞博匯 34 COVER STORY Pressing their bets 千金一擲 L ast April, Singapore and its integrated resort operators announced an expansion plan with each IR to invest SG$4.5 billion (US$3.3 billion) – more than half of their initial investments. The duopoly has been extended to 2030 with casino taxes rising and gaming expansion an apparent afterthought. Genting Singapore’s Resorts World Sentosa will increase its floor area by some 50%, expanding attractions Universal Studios and S.E.A. Aquarium – to become Singapore Oceanarium – as well as revamping its theater into the Adventure Dining Playhouse, overhauling its shoreline as part of Singapore’s broader Greater Southern Waterfront Strategy and adding two new hotels with up to 1,100 rooms. Work is expected to begin later this year. Las Vegas Sands will add a 15,000 seat indoor arena to Marina Bay Sands, along with new convention areas and around 1,000 hotel suites in a new tower with its own rooftop pool. The new tower will rise from a 33,000 square meter (355,000 square foot) plot that LVS has long coveted, across the street from the current three towers. “We faced some constraints here in existing Marina Bay Sands because of the success that we had,” MBS President and CEO George Tanasijevich says. The new arena, an alternative to 30-year-old Singapore Indoor Stadium, will make the city a more attractive destination for touring acts, Tanasijevich adds, as well as “feature opportunities for corporate hospitality, which are largely absent” from the market. On the casino side, MBS can add 2,000 square meters of gaming area and up to 1,000 gaming machines – at present, each IR is allowed 15,000 square meters of gaming area and 2,500 machines. RWS can add up to 500 square meters of gaming area and 800 machines. According to the government, the IRs say any added gaming facilities will aim at “higher tier, non-mass market players, who are mainly tourists.” Authorities also emphasize that if the operators add all their permitted gaming floor space, the IRs’ percentage of gaming area will fall from 3% to 2.3%. Expansion comes at a price beyond capital investment. In addition to entry taxes for residents rising 50% within 24 hours of the expansion announcement, gaming tax rates will increase on 1 March 2022 by three percentage points to 8% for VIP revenue and 18% for mass revenue, cutting into margins now among the industry’s highest. Category tax rates will increase an additional four percentage points for a casino where VIP revenue exceeds SG$2.4 billion or mass GGR exceeding SG$3.1 billion, well above the IRs’ current figures. Stock analysts gave the expansion scheme mixed reviews, but consultant Andrew Klebanow sees a bigger picture. “What RWS and LVS get in return for their new round of capital investment is another 12 years of