The current business head of the Malaysian Chinese dynasty that founded gaming and agricultural conglomerate Genting Bhd, has commented on the group’s prospects of winning a casino licence in Japan.
Lim Kok Thay – writing in his capacity as executive chairman of the group’s unit Genting Singapore Plc, the operator of the Resorts World Sentosa casino venue in Singapore – gave some thoughts on its chances in the race for a Japan casino licence.
Japan took the first steps to creating a casino industry following the legalisation in December of such business.
“We are encouraged by the passing of the IR [Integrated Resorts] Promotion Bill in Japan and will be positioning the group as a strong candidate for the bidding process,” wrote Mr Lim in Genting Singapore’s 2016 annual report, filed with the Singapore Exchange on Monday.
“If we are successful in bidding… this project will create significant value to the growth of the group,” he added.
Brokerage CLSA Ltd has estimated a Japanese casino industry could be worth US$10 billion annually even if only two resorts were permitted.
A number of Japanese politicians and academics have referred to the possibility of Japan adopting a “Singapore-style” form of regulation for a home-grown industry, including the possibility of an entry levy.
As long ago as 2014, Genting Singapore – which has had experience since 2010 of operating Singapore’s casino entry levy imposed on locals, and the city-state’s extensive system of measures to mitigate the risk to locals of problem gambling in casinos – set up a raft of subsidiaries in Japan.
A September report from banking group UBS AG said Genting Singapore had “kept its cash balance high with the hope that it could secure a gaming licence in Japan”.
Some of its likely rivals for one or more Japan casino licence have already mentioned the possibility of needing to spend US$10 billion per permit to win such rights. Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, chairman of Asian casino developer and operator Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd, mentioned – at a recent investor conference in Tokyo – spending “whatever we need” to secure such rights.
The Genting group – via a range of units – has one of the most geographically diverse portfolios of casino rights of any participant in the industry. It has developed and operates casinos in, respectively: its home base of Malaysia; neighbouring Singapore; the Philippines; the United States; the Bahamas and the United Kingdom. The group also runs – via its Genting Hong Kong Ltd unit – what are effectively ‘stateless’ casinos via cruise ships, making use of international maritime law to conduct gaming business only when on the high seas.
In other comments in Genting Singapore’s annual report, Mr Lim noted that Genting Hotel Jurong – additional hotel capacity opened in April 2015 for Resorts World Sentosa – would be likely to gain new customers via “the development of the upcoming Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail terminus that will be located within the neighbourhood of the hotel”.
Mr Lim also said Resorts World Sentosa’s Universal Studios Singapore theme park “remained the number one amusement park in Asia”. He added that the resort’s Maritime Experiential Museum would reopen at the end of 2017 following the completion of a refurbishment programme.
In a separate press statement on Monday, Resorts World Sentosa said its S.E.A. Aquarium attraction had welcomed its 10 millionth visitor, five years on from its launch.
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”Resorts World Sentosa is now looking at broadening its customer base to those who engage in casual play for entertainment"
Tan Hee Teck
Genting Singapore’s president and chief operating officer