China will remain a key market for Asian gaming jurisdictions in the years to come, including those still emerging, an industry conference panel (pictured) heard on Tuesday, on the first day of the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Asia 2023 Special Edition: Singapore.
“The Chinese market is so huge that you can’t afford to ignore it,” said Walt Power, chief executive of Ho Tram Project Co Ltd, the promoter of The Grand Ho Tram Strip casino resort in Vietnam.
The Chinese market “is not there yet” after nearly three years marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, “but it should be significant in the future,” stated Mr Power.
Hakan Dagtas, chief operating officer of the Newport World Resorts gaming and leisure complex in the Philippine capital Manila, said Chinese patrons would continue to be a “critical part” of existing gaming markets in Asia, and be vital for “emerging markets like Thailand and Japan in coming years”.
He added regarding China: “With a population of almost 1.5 billion people, if 10 percent of their population can have some discretionary spending [for gaming], I’m sure all the operators will look at that revenue stream.”
In 2019, the Philippines received about 6 million tourists, with circa 47 percent from China, according to the Newport World Resorts COO. “We haven’t reached those numbers yet,” he added, but getting back to those levels would be “extremely important”.
Even with the normalisation of travel across Asia, casino properties will have to adjust their offerings by creating additional non-gaming amenities and focusing on a “more lucrative” mass-market, the panellists respectively observed.
Gaming analyst Vitaly Umansky said almost every large-scale casino resort would need to “optimise” its property, to cater for a growing mass market, especially the so-called premium-mass segment.
“The question is how quickly will the [Chinese] customer be able to come back and if there are future impediments from a regulatory perspective within China that may limit those types of customer,” stated Mr Umansky. “But I think for every operator in Asia, it’s a critically-important customer base.”
Daniel Cheng, a gaming analyst and consultant, also mentioned the need to create more non-gaming amenities within casino properties. “I think it’s extremely important if these casino resorts are to be seen more as a recreational product,” he told the audience.
Even in that scenario, the Chinese customers would continue to be important. “They are very, very good spenders,” he stated.
“I think non-gaming plays a big part in mitigating the gambling element. That will then expand the customer base from a gambling base to more casual recreational players, which could be a very stable part of the mass-market segment,” added Mr Cheng.
The mass market had also gained prominence due to the retreat of casino-junket business in Asia, conference delegates were told.
“From a demand perspective, especially Chinese customer demand, working with junkets to facilitate business travel overseas; that I think is very difficult to do,” stated Mr Umansky.
There “will still be [a] place” for junket-type operations, “as long as the jurisdiction allows it,” but the “old-school model, with multiple [junket] rooms, operating in multiple jurisdictions; that’s going to be a lot more difficult to do,” he added.
The three-day G2E Asia event – marking this year the second edition in Singapore – is a conference and trade show on the regional casino industry. The gathering, staged at the Marina Bay Sands casino resort, is organised by Reed Exhibitions and the American Gaming Association.
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”The Philippines has been the primary growth driver, but really the broader Asian gaming industry is something that’s really important to us”
Chief executive of casino equipment provider Light & Wonder