Suncity Group – best known for its involvement in Macau’s casino junket sector – is interested in bidding for a casino gaming concession in Macau. So said one of its senior representatives, Andrew Lo Kai Bong.
“If there is a chance, Suncity Group would love to try to get into the bidding for a concession,” Mr Lo said in an interview with Portuguese news agency Lusa.
He noted however that the Macau government had yet to make any formal announcement on the future casino gaming rights tender process. “Up to now, there are some rumours, but we have not yet seen any official news about this,” Mr Lo said.
The Suncity brand had been previously linked by industry commentators with a possible play for a Macau casino licence in its own right after the current six expire in 2022.
Earlier this month, Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lionel Leong Vai Tac, said the local government was currently doing preparatory work that would enable a fresh public tender process for gaming rights in the city, prior to the 2022 expiry of the present concessions for the city’s six casino operators. The official hinted at the time that a tender for fresh gaming rights would in likelihood have conditions attached, such as that applicants must pledge to increase non-gaming elements in the gaming market.
Investment analysts covering the gaming industry have mentioned the possibility of the Macau government introducing a seventh concessionaire to the market. The government has yet to confirm such information.
The Suncity brand is best known for supplying high-value Chinese casino gamblers to the Macau market via the privately-held Macau junket business Suncity Group. The latter is described by many investment analysts as the predominant junket brand in the city when measured by estimated VIP rolling chip volume and contribution to VIP gross gaming revenue.
Suncity: brand of many parts
Sister company Suncity Group Holdings Ltd – listed in Hong Kong and controlled by the Suncity brand’s founder Alvin Chau Cheok Wa – has been increasing its gaming investments into markets beyond Greater China. That is both in terms of new-build resorts such as Hoiana in Vietnam, due to open later this year, or Tigre de Cristal in Russia, with a second phase currently under planning; and in terms of deals to manage third-party-controlled properties in other markets, such as Cambodia.
Suncity Group Holdings does not include any profit streams from Macau gambling junkets in its filed accounts.
The Suncity brand as a whole has been in recent years also keen to emphasise the diversified nature of its business interests, including mainland property, and travel, entertainment and food and beverage businesses in Macau.
It was unclear from Lusa’s interview with Mr Lo what business vehicle of the Suncity brand might be used to vie for a Macau casino licence. Mr Lo is the chief investment officer of privately-held Suncity Group; he is also an executive director of Hong Kong-listed Suncity Group Holdings.
“If we really can get a concession, and with our experience to design, to build and to operate, I think we can be competitive in the market,” Mr Lo told Lusa.
He added that, were the Suncity brand able to get a casino concession in its own right, that would not necessarily hurt its partnerships with Macau’s current casino concessionaires for the provision of junket services.
“We have a good partnership with all the six licensees,” he said. “As long as we can reach their requirements, which is the minimum rolling per table set by each licensee, I think we still can be in a good shape as a partner.”
Suncity Group’s investment in the multibillion-U.S.-dollar integrated casino resort project Hoiana in Vietnam could put it in a “better position” to win a Macau gaming licence in the event the Macau government was minded to allow a seventh operator in its market, brokerage Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd wrote in a February 2018 note.
Macau-based gaming lawyer Bruno Beato Ascenção told GGRAsia in commentary on the concessions question in June last year: “When you take into consideration the importance of a junket such as Suncity [Group], you can easily predict that they will do everything they can to obtain a gaming licence,” in the Macau market.
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Spending on purchase of goods, commissions paid and customer rebates in Macau's gaming industry in 2018