Casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) performance in casino resorts at Entertainment City, a development zone in the Philippines capital Manila, is likely to have been supported in the second quarter by the availability of telephone betting, said a note on Monday from brokerage Maybank ATR Kim Eng Securities Inc.
“We think their strength emanated from the availability of phone betting to foreign players, unlike in Macau,” said the note from analyst Rommel Rodrigo.
“Philippine gaming GGR has bucked the trend of its peers in Macau and Singapore for the past five quarters,” added the analyst, referring to industry data from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), the local regulator.
The analyst said Pagcor data show nationwide GGR in the second quarter increasing at a rate “faster than full-year 2015’s increase”. “This was supported by a 38.0 percent increase at Entertainment City,” noted Mr Rodrigo.
The Maybank group analyst defined the Manila casino resorts under discussion as the following private sector projects: Solaire Resort and Casino, operated by Bloomberry Resorts Corp; City of Dreams Manila, operated by a local unit of Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd; and Resorts World Manila, a venture between local conglomerate Alliance Global Group Inc and Genting Hong Kong Ltd.
Resorts World Manila is physically separate from Entertainment City, being located in a development zone called Newport City, close to Manila International Airport. The property is one of Manila’s new generation of private-sector casino resorts, and commonly gets lumped into discussions about Entertainment City.
Maybank ATR Kim Eng’s Monday note – suggesting the Manila market’s strength in telephone betting during the second quarter – is in contrast to the fortunes of VIP gambling in Macau. There, the segment registered a 16-percent contraction in the second quarter. That contributed to an overall shrinkage of 9.2 percent in Macau GGR in the three months to June 30.
In May this year, Macau’s gaming regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, issued an instruction to the Macau gaming sector saying that use of a telephone at a gaming table would no longer be permitted. That was interpreted by the casino operators and the junket firms as effectively a ban in Macau on telephone or “proxy” betting.
In Asian casinos, such a gaming product has been typically offered to VIP gamblers that wish to wager on table games while not themselves physically present in a casino. Under such an arrangement, a junket agent – working on behalf of a high-stakes player – will typically provide a representative or “proxy”. That person will sit at the casino table on behalf of the absent player; taking instructions by telephone from the player or the player’s representative, regarding when and how to place a bet.
Lawyers specialising in gaming and gaming law have told GGRAsia that such an arrangement runs the risk of breaching an important anti-money laundering protocol for casino operators; namely ‘know your customer’. Macau’s gaming bureau did not in its May instruction specify the reasons for the ban on tableside use of telephones.
Several investment analysts have recently mentioned that an expected fourth-quarter audit – by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force – regarding Macau’s anti-money laundering procedures, has the potential further to cool Chinese players’ appetite for VIP gambling in Macau.
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”The Macau government is not aiming to trivialise or drive out the junket sector, but to regulate the sector so that it would not hurt Macau’s reputation”
Alvin Chau Cheok Wa
Chief executive of privately-held VIP junket business Suncity Group