Las Vegas is well positioned for growth in 2014 with openings of new properties and via the growth in baccarat revenue, “which is an offshoot of operators leveraging Asian marketing opportunities,” says HVS International Inc.
Las Vegas however will need to benefit from the increase in Chinese visitors to the United States “and should continue to tailor language, products and services to the Chinese market,” said HVS, a consulting and services company that focuses on the hospitality, gaming and leisure industries.
The number of Chinese tourists to the U.S. as a whole rose 23 percent to 1.81 million in 2013, according to data from the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office. Chinese visitors accounted for a 2.6 percent share of 2013 visitor volume.
The percentage of tourists to Las Vegas identifying themselves as Asian or Asian American has risen to 12 percent in 2013 from only two percent in 2009, according to the Las Vegas Visitor Profile Study 2013 published by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
HVS said gaming operators with operations in both Asia and in Las Vegas “are implementing cross-marketing, as these operators can benefit from lower tax rates in Las Vegas versus Asian markets”.
“It is likely that strong baccarat play disproportionately benefits the operators with established Asian sourcing channels, specifically MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts Ltd and Las Vegas Sands Corp,” HVS added.
The three companies have operations in Macau. Las Vegas Sands also owns the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Table games are the dominant form of casino gaming in Asia, with baccarat being the most popular game.
In the 2013 annual report, Las Vegas Sands wrote: “Consistent with our experience in Macau, baccarat is the preferred table game in both the VIP and mass gaming segments.”
Macau’s VIP baccarat accounted for 63.7 percent of gross gaming revenue (GGR) in the first quarter of 2014, down from 66 percent in 2013, show figures from the city’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.
The major properties located on the Las Vegas Strip, identified as properties with over US$72 million in annual gaming revenue, “clearly benefit from, and are impacted by, high-end baccarat play,” HVS said. The Nevada Gaming Control Board does not name these properties but there were 23 casinos in this segment as of 2013, according to the consulting firm.
“Over the last four years baccarat revenue has ranged from 43.5 percent of table games revenue in 2011 to 48.2 percent in 2013,” HVS highlighted, commenting on the 23 largest-grossing Las Vegas properties.
But any drop in high-end baccarat play will have an impact on revenue. Gaming revenue among major properties in the Las Vegas Strip was down 8.9 percent in the first four months of 2014 to US$990.8 million, show figures from the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
When table games revenue declined 14.2 percent year-on-year on the Las Vegas Strip in the first four months of this year, to US$428.7 million, the biggest component in that decline was baccarat, making up 70 percent of the shrinking segment.
One possible boost to Las Vegas says HVS is the prospect of an Asian operator such as Genting Bhd entering the market.
The company – the sole operator of a casino within its home market of Malaysia – is expecting final approval from Nevada gaming regulators to start building its US$4billion Resorts World Las Vegas (pictured in a rendering).
The experience and large client bases of Asian companies can give a boost to the U.S. gaming industry, Andrew Klebanow, partner at Global Market Advisors LLC (GMA), said in an interview with GGRAsia.
“Don’t underestimate the database that these Asian gaming companies have and what they can offer to their customers in different places. What Genting now has is an international database within all their properties,” Mr Klebanow told us.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China