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Hainan resorts are setting up baccarat tables

George Miller

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Hainan resorts are setting up baccarat tables
Photo credits: Accor
Reading Time: 4 minutes

They’re not quite casinos, but they’re pretty close – and they could be coming to China sooner than some expected.
On the tropical island of Hainan, at least five Chinese-owned resorts are laying the groundwork for so-called entertainment bars, where players put down real money on games but receive their winnings in the form of points that can be redeemed in local shops, restaurants and hotels, according to people with direct knowledge of the plans.
The resorts’ owners have contacted suppliers of baccarat tables, drawn up blueprints to convert ballrooms into gaming floors and held informal discussions with Hainan officials in recent months, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private information.

While China currently outlaws casinos outside Macau, the resorts are betting that Hainan will win an exemption for entertainment bars as part of a government push to turn the island known as “China’s Hawaii” about 2,700km south of Beijing into a major tourist destination.
If they’re right, it would mark another big shift in the country’s approach to gaming after officials unveiled landmark measures to promote horse racing and sports lotteries in Hainan two months ago.
It’s unclear whether provincial and national authorities would sign off on such projects – also known as “cashless casinos” – and they’ve given no public indication that a policy change is imminent.

But the recent flurry of activity follows a favourable court ruling on entertainment bars in December, which was interpreted by some observers as an official stamp of approval.
“From our conversations with people on the ground, they are positively excited about the changes that appear to be coming through soon,” said Ben Lee, a Macau-based managing partner at consultancy IGamiX, which has been working with developers in Hainan for a decade. Entertainment bars “would undoubtedly draw mainlanders who have never been overseas to try gaming,” he said.

Casual Punters
The games could provide a boost to Hainan’s tourism-related businesses, while at the same time allowing regulators to avoid many of the money-laundering and capital-outflow risks associated with traditional gambling operations.
Entertainment bars are unlikely to appeal to China’s high rollers, but they could lure casual punters who dislike the hassle of obtaining visas and foreign currencies for overseas trips.

A green light from authorities would probably unnerve investors in casino enclaves like Macau, the Philippines and Cambodia that rely heavily on Chinese customers. While the short-term competitive threat from Hainan would be manageable, that could change if entertainment bars pave the way for an eventual approval of full-blown casinos on the island.

“We may see more interesting developments in the next five to 10 years,” Lee said.
Government representatives in Hainan and Beijing didn’t respond to faxed requests for comment.
An index of Macau casino operators fell as much as 2.1 per cent on Tuesday to a seven-week low, led by SJM Holdings Ltd., Wynn Macau Ltd. and Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd.

Entertainment Bars
Entertainment bars have a checkered history in Hainan. They debuted on the island about five years ago, at the Sanya Bay Mangrove Resort Hotel, where guests could play games including baccarat and swap their winnings for things like hotel rooms, iPads and jewellery.
But that operation was shut down in 2014 as local prosecutors accused the resort of breaking the law. Several other Hainan resorts were also forced to put their plans for entertainment bars on hold.

It took several years for the Mangrove case to work its way through China’s legal system, but in December, a Hainan court ruled that the resort’s gaming operation didn’t break the law after all, according to a court filing posted on a government website.
In another sign of China’s evolving stance, an online version of the points-based gaming model is now being tested by a sports-betting platform in Hainan that’s backed by organisations affiliated with the provincial and central governments.

Called the Hainan International Tourism Island Sports and Gaming Entertainment Project, it will allow players to deposit funds from their AliPay or WePay accounts into a smartphone app and use the money to wager on soccer and basketball games. Winnings can only be spent at select locations, mainly in Hainan, according to Yan Zhi, the project’s founder.

Still, it’s unclear whether China’s leaders will ultimately sign off on entertainment bars, according to Margaret Huang, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence in Hong Kong.

“The government will face challenges to decide their attitude toward a gambling-themed model,” she said. “The balance between regulation and economic development is hard.”

Some observers say the time is ripe for a change. Entertainment bars would not only dovetail with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts to boost Hainan’s economy, they would also help the country develop more homegrown champions in the consumer services sector – another government priority.

While the bulk of gambling revenue in Macau still goes to foreign casino owners like Las Vegas Sands Corp. and MGM Resorts International, Chinese resorts have a dominant presence in Hainan.

To get a feel for the resorts’ optimism that entertainment bars will make a comeback, one only has to walk by the ballroom that housed the Mangrove’s gaming operations back in 2013. Instead of converting the giant space into something new, the resort simply covered it with a black curtain, which could presumably be quickly removed if policy makers give the go ahead. Representatives at the resort declined to comment.
“It’s now a consensus among companies and businessmen in Hainan,” said Liu Feng, director of the Hainan Normal University Free Trade Port Research Centre.
“The expectation is for looser policies and a more open business environment, to build Hainan into an international tourism and consumption destination.”

 

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George Miller started his career in content marketing and has started working as an Editor/Content Manager for our company in 2016. George has acquired many experiences when it comes to interviews and newsworthy content becoming Head of Content in 2017. He is responsible for the news being shared on multiple websites that are part of the European Gaming Media Network.

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Asia

China declares eSports as a profession

Niji Ng

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China declares eSports as a profession
Photo Source: esportsobserver.com
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China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (CMHRSS) has officially recognised esports as a profession. The new professions “esports operator” and “esports professional” are included in the 15 new professions approved by the government.
The other professions in the list include AI engineer, big data engineer and drone pilot.

CMHRSS defines “esports operators” as those who organise esports events or produce esports content, as well as those who increase the commercial value of esports through promotion and marketing.

“Esports professionals” are considered those who compete in tournaments, perform in events, or train with other professionals. It can also refer to those who analyse games or assist with training.

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Asia

MGM China Reports 2018 Annual Results

George Miller

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MGM China Reports 2018 Annual Results
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Group Revenue Grew 33% Year-on-Year MGM COTAI Opened and Ramping Up

 

MGM China Holdings Limited announced the selected financial data of the Company and its subsidiaries for the three months (the “Quarter”) and 12 months ended December 31, 2018 (the “Year”).

  • During the Year, MGM China recorded revenue of HK$19.2 billion (2017: HK$14.5 billion), growth of approximately 33% year on year. Adjusted EBITDA reached HK$4.8 billion, compared to HK$4.6 billion a year ago.
  • MGM China recorded a growth of approximately 34% year-on-year for mass table win, 59% growth for slot win; and 13% growth for VIP table game win.
  • For the Quarter, MGM China recorded sequential revenue growth of approximately 13% to HK$5.4 billion. Adjusted EBITDA grew by approximately 26% to HK$1.4 billion from the previous quarter.
  • Main floor gross table game win for the Quarter was up 13% sequentially, compared to market growth of approximately 9%. VIP gross table games win was up 19%, compared to market growth of approximately 4%.
  • Adjusted EBITDA margin for the Quarter improved to 26.3%, up by 280 basis points sequentially.
  • MGM Cotai continued to ramp since the property opened in February 2018. All gaming segments recorded impressive sequential growth in both volume and win. Fourth-quarter revenue was up approximately 67% to HK$2.2 billion while adjusted EBITDA grew more than triple to HK$462.9 million. Margin rose to 20.6% for the quarter compared to 9.6% in the previous quarter.
  • Targeting a broader market segment, MGM Cotai is equipped with expanded non-gaming offerings. The food and beverage outlets, especially Chinese dining, have been well received. Customers are also impressed by the one-of-the-kind experiences brought by MGM Cotai Theater. The Space had hosted various kinds of events and concerts with top artists including Sam Smith where both the audience and artists are fond of its design and quality. We have filled up the Theater’s entertainment calendar for 2019 in collaboration of effort with both the MGM Resorts International entertainment team and our Macau team. We hope to deliver multisensory theatre experiences unlike any others in Macau.

Grant Bowie, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of MGM China said: “We are building the momentum at MGM Cotai. We are also very excited about the launch of Mansion villas which aim to provide unique and exclusive experiences for our high-quality customers. Our focus is on getting all the elements at MGM Cotai fully open and continue to take market share. We believe MGM COTAI will drive greater product diversification and bring more advanced and innovative forms of entertainment to Macau as it grows as a global tourism destination.”

 

About MGM China Holdings Limited:

MGM China Holdings Limited (HKEx: 2282) is a leading developer, owner and operator of gaming and lodging resorts in the Greater China region. We are the holding company of MGM Grand Paradise, SA which holds one of the six gaming concessions/subconcessions to run casino games in Macau. MGM Grand Paradise, SA owns and operates MGM MACAU, the award-winning premium integrated resort located on the Macau Peninsula and MGM COTAI, a contemporary luxury integrated resort in Cotai, which opened in early 2018 and more than doubles our presence in Macau.

MGM China is majority owned by MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM) one of the world’s leading global hospitality companies, operating a portfolio of destination resort brands including Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and The Mirage. For more information about MGM Resorts International, visit the Company’s website at www.mgmresorts.com.

 

Source: MGM China

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Asia

India’s parliament seeks answer on fantasy sports legality

Niji Ng

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India's parliament seeks answer on fantasy sports legality
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The central government of India did not give a clear-cut response to the question on the legality of fantasy sports and proposal to regulate it. The question was raised in the Indian parliament by Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) MP AP Jithender Reddy.

Reddy, in an unstarred question dated 8 February 2019 asked whether the central government has any plans to regulate fantasy sports; the number of cases pending in consumer courts relating to fantasy sports and whether fantasy sports is a “game of skill” or gambling/betting as per Supreme Court’s decision.

Reddy also sought to know whether the activity falls within the ambit of “gambling and betting” under the state list (List II of the Seventh Schedule) of the Indian constitution and also if the central government intends to enact laws to govern financial transactions relating to the fantasy sports industry.

Union Minister of State for Finance, Pon Radhakrishnan, said betting and gambling comes under Entry 34 of List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Indian constitution and that the state governments are competent to enact laws on the issue.

The central government did not provide exact data on the cases pending in consumer courts relating to fantasy gaming. The finance ministry also did not state whether it intends to bring any law to regulate financial transactions relating to fantasy sports or gaming.

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