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UNODC: Casinos and Cryptocurrency Fueling Underground Banking and Crime in Asia

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A new report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has found that casinos, junkets and cryptocurrency have emerged as a critical piece of the underground banking and money laundering infrastructure in East and Southeast Asia, fuelling transnational organised crime in the region.

Titled “Casinos, Money Laundering, Underground Banking, and Transnational Organized Crime in East and Southeast Asia: A Hidden, Accelerating Threat”, the study highlights the nexus between illegal online casinos, e-junkets and cryptocurrency exchanges that have proliferated in recent years alongside surging cross-border criminality throughout the region.

“Casinos and related high-cash-volume businesses have been vehicles for underground banking and money laundering for years, but the explosion of underregulated online gambling platforms and crypto exchanges has changed the game. Expansion of the illicit economy has required a technology-driven revolution in underground banking to allow for faster anonymized transactions, commingling of funds, and new business opportunities for organized crime. The development of scalable, digitized casino- and crypto-based solutions has supercharged the criminal business environment across Southeast Asia, and particularly in the Mekong,” said Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

As outlined in the report, countless recent cases demonstrate that online casinos and related businesses have been used by major organised crime groups to move and launder massive volumes of state-backed fiat as well as cryptocurrencies, effectively creating channels for integrating billions in criminal proceeds into the financial system. At the same time, the creation and success of these underground banking mechanisms has helped expand the region’s broader illicit economy, in turn attracting new networks, innovators and service providers to the criminal ecosystem.

Cases examined also highlight how illegal online casino operators have diversified business lines to include cyberfraud and cryptocurrency laundering, with extensive evidence of organised crime influence within casino compounds, special economic zones and border areas, including those controlled by armed groups in Myanmar to conceal illicit activities.

“Organized crime groups have converged where they see vulnerabilities, and casinos and crypto have proven the point of least resistance. That said, operations against syndicates in countries including Cambodia and the Philippines have caused a partial displacement, and we have seen criminals moving infrastructure into other places where they see opportunity — basically where they expect they will be able to take advantage and not be held to account, to remote and border areas of the Mekong, and recently elsewhere,” Douglas added.

UNODC analysis estimates there were more than 340 licensed and unlicensed land-based casinos operating in Southeast Asia as of early 2022, with most having shifted online to offer live-dealer streaming and various proxy betting services. According to latest available industry data, the formal online gambling market is projected to grow to more than US $205 billion by 2030, with the Asia Pacific region representing the largest share of market growth between 2022 to 2026 at a projected 37%. The study describes several policy developments and enforcement measures implemented by governments in the region to address illegal casino-based capital outflows, corruption, and money laundering that have in part driven these trends.

The technical policy brief describes the mechanics, intricacies and drivers of underground banking in the region, and has been developed through extensive examination and analysis of criminal indictments, case records, court filings, related public disclosure and other data collected in consultation with authorities and partners over more than a year. Its development has included an extensive mapping and analysis of thousands of so-called “grey and black business” online groups, including clear web and dark web forums and marketplaces, used for illicit activities. The study also provides a list of recommendations geared towards strengthening knowledge and awareness, legislation and policy, and enforcement and regulatory responses in the region, intended to assist governments to address the situation.

“It’s clear that the gap between organized crime and enforcement authorities is widening quickly. If the region fails to address this criminal landscape the consequences will be seen in Southeast Asia and beyond as criminals look to reinvest profits and innovate operations. We trust the report will prove as a useful reference for deeper engagement between countries in Southeast Asia, UNODC, and international partners. At this point, we are just scratching the surface,” said Benedikt Hofmann, UNODC Deputy Regional Representative.

Asia

Melco Announces Unaudited Fourth Quarter 2023 Earnings

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Melco Announces Unaudited Fourth Quarter 2023 Earnings
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Melco Resorts & Entertainment Limited, a developer, owner, and operator of integrated resort facilities in Asia and Europe, today reported its unaudited financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2023.

Total operating revenues for the fourth quarter of 2023 were US$1.09 billion, representing an increase of approximately 224% from US$337.1 million for the comparable period in 2022. The increase in total operating revenues was primarily attributable to the improved performance in all gaming segments and non-gaming operations following the relaxation of COVID-19 related restrictions in Macau in January 2023 and the opening of Studio City Phase 2.

Operating loss for the fourth quarter of 2023 was US$94.4 million, compared with operating loss of US$199.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Melco generated Adjusted Property EBITDA(1) of US$303.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with negative Adjusted Property EBITDA of US$6.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Net loss attributable to Melco Resorts & Entertainment Limited for the fourth quarter of 2023 was US$156.6 million, or US$0.36 per ADS, compared with US$251.9 million, or US$0.57 per ADS, in the fourth quarter of 2022. Net loss attributable to noncontrolling interests was US$20.8 million and US$42.1 million during the fourth quarters of 2023 and 2022, respectively, all of which were related to Studio City, City of Dreams Manila, and City of Dreams Mediterranean and Other.

Mr. Lawrence Ho, our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, commented, “Macau continues to demonstrate its extraordinary growth potential and has shown resilience despite China’s uncertain macro-economic outlook. Visitations to Macau during this month’s Chinese New Year holiday period were close to 2019 levels and the number of visitors from China exceeded 2019.

“2023 was a year of post-pandemic recovery and the debut of our new developments, including City of Dreams Mediterranean and Studio City Phase 2. 2024 is set to be another exciting year for us as we continue to develop new ideas and strategies to bring market leading leisure and entertainment offerings to our customers.

“As part of our initiatives to ensure Melco is leading the market in all areas of our business, we are making changes to management in Macau and bolstering the leadership team. We expect these changes will strengthen us as a team to secure a stronger and more competitive future.

“City of Dreams Manila in the Philippines has continued to show solid growth with significant market share gains in mass table games and slots. City of Dreams Mediterranean in Cyprus continues to be impacted by the conflicts in the region but is starting to show some signs of recovery so far this year.”

City of Dreams Fourth Quarter Results

For the quarter ended December 31, 2023, total operating revenues at City of Dreams were US$559.8 million, compared with US$139.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. City of Dreams generated Adjusted EBITDA of US$166.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with negative Adjusted EBITDA of US$7.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The year-over-year increase in Adjusted EBITDA was primarily a result of better performance in all gaming segments and non-gaming operations.

Rolling chip volume was US$5.19 billion for the fourth quarter of 2023 versus US$850.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The rolling chip win rate was 2.55% in the fourth quarter of 2023 versus 4.47% in the fourth quarter of 2022. The expected rolling chip win rate range is 2.85%-3.15%.

Mass market table games drop increased to US$1.44 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with US$292.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The mass market table games hold percentage was 31.6% in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with 29.2% in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Gaming machine handle for the fourth quarter of 2023 was US$957.4 million, compared with US$194.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The gaming machine win rate was 3.1% in the fourth quarter of 2023 versus 4.5% in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Total non-gaming revenue at City of Dreams in the fourth quarter of 2023 was US$80.1 million, compared with US$30.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Altira Macau Fourth Quarter Results

For the quarter ended December 31, 2023, total operating revenues at Altira Macau were US$33.6 million, compared with US$9.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. Altira Macau generated Adjusted EBITDA of US$0.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with negative Adjusted EBITDA of US$9.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The year-over-year change in Adjusted EBITDA was primarily a result of better performance in the mass market segment and non-gaming operations.

In the mass market table games segment, drop was US$149.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2023 versus US$31.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The mass market table games hold percentage was 23.8% in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with 20.6% in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Gaming machine handle for the fourth quarter of 2023 was US$87.8 million, compared with US$40.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The gaming machine win rate was 3.2% in the fourth quarter of 2023 versus 3.0% in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Total non-gaming revenue at Altira Macau in the fourth quarter of 2023 was US$5.3 million, compared with US$2.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Mocha and Other Fourth Quarter Results

Total operating revenues from Mocha and Other were US$28.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with US$19.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. Mocha and Other generated Adjusted EBITDA of US$6.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with Adjusted EBITDA of US$1.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Mass market table games drop was US$49.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2023 versus US$21.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The mass market table games hold percentage was 14.8% in the fourth quarter of 2023 versus 19.7% in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Gaming machine handle for the fourth quarter of 2023 was US$493.0 million, compared with US$372.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The gaming machine win rate was 4.6% in the fourth quarter of 2023 versus 4.2% in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Studio City Fourth Quarter Results

For the quarter ended December 31, 2023, total operating revenues at Studio City were US$302.5 million, compared with US$43.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. Studio City generated Adjusted EBITDA of US$77.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with negative Adjusted EBITDA of US$25.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The year-over-year increase in Adjusted EBITDA was primarily a result of better performance in the mass market segment and non-gaming operations.

Studio City’s rolling chip volume was US$566.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2023 versus US$251.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The rolling chip win rate was 1.86% in the fourth quarter of 2023 versus 2.70% in the fourth quarter of 2022. The expected rolling chip win rate range is 2.85%-3.15%.

Mass market table games drop increased to US$864.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with US$113.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The mass market table games hold percentage was 30.0% in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with 27.1% in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Gaming machine handle for the fourth quarter of 2023 was US$778.3 million, compared with US$124.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The gaming machine win rate was 3.2% in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with 2.7% in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Total non-gaming revenue at Studio City in the fourth quarter of 2023 was US$65.3 million, compared with US$9.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2022.

City of Dreams Manila Fourth Quarter Results

For the quarter ended December 31, 2023, total operating revenues at City of Dreams Manila were US$120.5 million, compared with US$95.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. City of Dreams Manila generated Adjusted EBITDA of US$48.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with Adjusted EBITDA of US$23.6 million in the comparable period of 2022. The year-over-year increase in Adjusted EBITDA was primarily a result of better performance in the mass market segment and non-gaming operations.

City of Dreams Manila’s rolling chip volume was US$416.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2023 versus US$940.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The rolling chip win rate was 3.97% in the fourth quarter of 2023 versus 1.84% in the fourth quarter of 2022. The expected rolling chip win rate range is 2.85%-3.15%.

Mass market table games drop increased to US$198.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with US$148.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The mass market table games hold percentage was 29.1% in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with 31.9% in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Gaming machine handle for the fourth quarter of 2023 was US$1.08 billion, compared with US$1.02 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022. The gaming machine win rate was 5.3% in the fourth quarter of 2023 versus 4.7% in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Total non-gaming revenue at City of Dreams Manila in the fourth quarter of 2023 was US$30.3 million, compared with US$24.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2022.

City of Dreams Mediterranean and Other Fourth Quarter Results

The Company operates three satellite casinos in Cyprus in conjunction with City of Dreams Mediterranean.

Total operating revenues at City of Dreams Mediterranean and Other for the quarter ended December 31, 2023 were US$47.3 million, compared with US$28.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. City of Dreams Mediterranean and Other generated Adjusted EBITDA of US$4.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with Adjusted EBITDA of US$10.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Rolling chip volume was US$6.4 million for the fourth quarter of 2023 versus US$1.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The rolling chip win rate was negative 8.85% in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with 16.43% in the fourth quarter of 2022. The expected rolling chip win rate range is 2.85% – 3.15%.

Mass market table games drop was US$87.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with US$38.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The mass market table games hold percentage was 22.1% in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with 24.9% in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Gaming machine handle for the fourth quarter of 2023 was US$492.8 million, compared with US$392.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The gaming machine win rate was 5.0% in both the fourth quarters of 2023 and 2022.

Total non-gaming revenue at City of Dreams Mediterranean and Other in the fourth quarter of 2023 was US$13.0 million, compared with US$0.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2022.

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Asia

INTRALOT signs a new seven-year agreement with Magnum Corporation in Malaysia

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INTRALOT signs a new seven-year agreement with Magnum Corporation in Malaysia
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INTRALOT is pleased to announce the signing of a new agreement with Magnum Corporation Sdn Bhd, a leading gaming company in Malaysia. This agreement follows the successful outcome of an international call for tenders issued by Magnum Corporation in 2022. The term of the new agreement is for seven (7) years, with an option for two extensions of five (5) years each, thereby providing the opportunity for another seventeen (17) years of strategic and productive collaboration with Magnum Corporation.

INTRALOT will help enhance Magnum Corporation’s current retail offering through a seamless transition to its modern LotosX Omni ecosystem. Comprising of LotosX Central Gaming System, PlayerX Player Account Management System, RetailerX Retailer Management System, DMS Device Management System, PhotonX Gaming Terminals, Canvas Content Management System, and Orchestrator, LotosX Omni will enable Magnum Corporation to implement a comprehensive omnichannel strategy to seamlessly engage their customers across both traditional and digital channels, promising to enhance customer experience and improve productivity.

The CEO of Magnum Corporation Sdn Bhd, Dato’ Lawrence Lim Swee Lin, commented: “Magnum Corporation is proud to continue this partnership with INTRALOT, a steadfast ally in helping us grow our business, and to innovate the gaming experience for our customers. With our industry expertise and INTRALOT’s cutting-edge technology, we are crafting a future of innovation together, creating a more immersive gaming experience with enhanced levels of personalization and security, both in our retail and digital spaces.”

Mr. Marios Mitromaras, CEO of INTRALOT Australia, stated: “We are very pleased to keep working with Magnum Corporation. Our continued collaboration is a partnership built on trust, understanding and a shared commitment in elevating gaming excellence for their customers. INTRALOT has an established presence in the country since 2006, helping Magnum Corporation grow its business and create value for the local community. We look forward to deploying our cutting-edge technology and high-quality operating services as Magnum Corporation continues to push boundaries and take steps to modernize their player experience.”

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Asia

Resorts World Genting Shuts Two of its Three Casinos for Upgrades

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Genting Bhd’s Resorts World Genting has temporarily closed two of its three casinos.

The announcement was posted on the company’s website that Genting Casino 1 (Circus Palace) and Genting Casino 2 (Hollywood) are now closed, effective from February 28, 2024 until further notice for upgrades.

“In our ongoing effort to improve our operational efficiency and enhance the gaming and entertainment experience for our guests, we continuously upgrade our facilities. This will involve temporarily closing certain sections of our casino to facilitate the improvements,” reads the message on its website.

“Our gaming operations continue to operate as usual.”

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