Lack of hotel capacity at weekends at Russian Far East casino resort Tigre de Cristal (pictured) continues to be a constraint on its operations before an extension to the property is partly completed in 2019, indicate several brokerages, citing guidance from the venue’s promoter.
One of the brokerages also mentioned headwinds for VIP gambling still existing despite an ostensibly simplified Russian visa application process for customers from key target markets including mainland China and Japan.
Set against those constraints, Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd and Daiwa Securities Group Inc mention enforcement action reportedly taken by the Russian authorities against “illicit” gaming venues said to be operating in the Vladivostok area, and the recent introduction of new junket partners from South Korea and mainland China at Tigre de Cristal.
Tigre de Cristal’s main promoter, Summit Ascent Holdings Ltd – a company controlled by gaming entrepreneur Lawrence Ho Yau Lung – on Thursday reported total net revenue at the resort up 20 percent year-on-year, to HKD204.6 million (US$26.1 million).
“The hotel remains capacity constrained on the weekends, while midweek isn’t fully utilised, “ said a Friday note from Grant Govertsen of Union Gaming, adding that new capacity at neighbouring hotels without gaming might help with Tigre de Cristal’s weekend trade.
Daiwa said in a Thursday note from analysts Jamie Soo and Adrian Chan: “While hotel room bottlenecks during peak periods have been a concern for management, they expect about 180 hotel rooms to come online within a 10- to 20- minute drive from Tigre de Cristal from third-party hotels in 2018, which should help alleviate room supply constraints, allowing management to better allocate its own property’s rooms to higher-quality players.”
Tigre de Cristal’s US$500-million phase two will have an aggregate of 500 extra rooms in two hotels, duty free shopping, a food court and extra gaming space.
In July, a Summit Ascent spokesman told GGRAsia that the firm was currently projecting that what it termed “Phase 2a”, of Tigre de Cristal, including a first tranche of 300 hotel rooms, and some new gaming space, would open in the second half of 2019.
There had been a “recent uptick in both mass and slots volumes… which management attributed to a similarly recent initiation of enforcement actions against a few of the many illegal gaming parlours in Vladivostok. This in turn has led to a direct increase in patronage at Tigre de Cristal,” wrote Union Gaming’s Mr Govertsen.
Daiwa noted that while a simplified visa regime for overseas visitors to Tigre de Cristal – the first casino resort in a special investment zone near Vladivostok promoted by the Primorksy Krai government – had had an apparent positive effect on visitor arrival numbers, “management did highlight the reluctance and scepticism from junkets on using this simplified visa application due to the amount of administrative work the junket would need to go through”.
Daiwa also cited junkets having confidentiality concerns if they had to apply for visas – on the basis their customers were gamblers rather than general tourists.
“Junkets still prefer the ease of using a travel agency in the case of larger groups going to Vladivostok on chartered flights,” noted Mr Soo and Mr Chan.
Nonetheless, “two new junkets were recently added (Chinese and Korean), which are expected to contribute more patrons during the seasonally slower winter months,” noted Union Gaming’s Mr Govertsen, a fact also mentioned by Daiwa.
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"The demographics of Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka (possible Japanese urban gaming resort locations) warrant larger gaming floors [than 15,000 square metres]"
Analyst at investment research firm Morningstar