Issue #7
Wednesday, January 5, 2021
By Andrew Klebanow, Principal, Klebanow Consulting

As widespread production of Covid-19 vaccines ramps up in early 2021, and as governments implement protocols to assure that inbound travelers are vaccinated, international tourism should begin to recover in the latter half of 2021. Primary beneficiaries will be travel, leisure, and hospitality companies that rely on international visitation for the bulk of their revenue. Suncity Group is one company that is poised to benefit from a re-emergence of international travel, particularly among wealthy citizens from the Peoples Republic of China (PRC).

Suncity Group Holdings Limited is a diversified leisure and entertainment company whose portfolio includes a travel services company, an entertainment division that assembles and promotes concerts, a food & beverage division that operates a variety of restaurant brands, and a division that develops and operates integrated casino resorts. Suncity is also one of Asia’s largest junket promoters. It operates VIP gaming rooms in casinos across Asia including the Philippines, Vietnam, and Macau. It is this junket division that has historically brought the company much of its success, and it remains a linchpin in its business strategy.

Junket promoters are an integral part of the Asian casino industry.

By Ben Blaschke, Managing Editor, Inside Asian Gaming

A year is a long time in our usually fast-moving industry, but there is no doubt that 2020 felt much longer than most.

I was pondering this notion over the Christmas and New Year’s break, and found myself looking back to this same time last year. What was it shaping our hopes and dreams as 2019 came to an end? Needless to say, it wasn’t COVID-19!

It’s hard to believe that just 12 months ago it was all business as usual in the world’s major casino jurisdictions, with Macau particularly excited about the long-awaited launch of the Taipa light rail in December, which brought 60,000 passenger journeys on its first three days of operation.

The Asian News Revue
Commentary by Ben Blaschke, Managing Editor
Inside Asian Gaming
Inside Asian Gaming - 1 January 2021
The world’s leading casino hub saw its gross gaming revenues plummet 79.3% in 2020, impacted like everywhere else by the COVID-19 pandemic that briefly shuttered its casinos and saw tight restrictions placed on its key borders with mainland China. There does appear to be some light at the end of the tunnel, however. December’s 65.8% decline represented substantial improvement over previous months with the MOP$7.82 billion in GGR the most since January. There are also strong signs the upward trend will continue, with the return of the Individual Visit Scheme allowing greater numbers of Chinese to visit Macau under the hugely important visa scheme. With vaccines now on the way for Macau’s relatively small population of almost 700,000, the hope is it will be business as usual by the second half of 2021. (BB)
Inside Asian Gaming - 30 December 2020
Now for the bad news. While the COVID situation in Macau looks promising, the passing of a new criminal law in mainland China targeting anyone luring citizens across the borders represents another serious concern for junkets. There is still some debate over whether or not Macau qualifies as a cross-border destination, although at least two analysts covering the sector insist it does. Either way, there is bound to be some impact on such operations across Asia as a whole given that mainland China has made its feeling well known regarding the existence of casinos (and online gaming) in locations such as the Philippines, Cambodia and Australia. The path ahead looks to be rocky. (BB)
Inside Asian Gaming - 27 December 2020
After a year in which questions have been raised over Japan’s ability to follow through with its IR dream, the recent publication of the nation’s Basic Policy on IRs appears to have steadied the ship somewhat. Nagasaki, one of two regional IR candidates alongside Wakayama, has been quick to respond by fast-tracking its RFP with the aim of selecting an operator partner long before the national government starts accepting applications in October.
While both Wakayama and Osaka launched their RFPs in 2020, both began before the full impact of COVID-19 was felt, meaning Nagasaki is the first to get on with the job based on the revised national timeline. (BB)
Inside Asian Gaming - 4 January 2021
You’ve got to feel for South Korea’s major casino operators. Having survived a political showdown between the governments of Korea and mainland China in late 2016 that saw Chinese authorities essentially put an end to tourism to its close neighbour – a dispute that reportedly cost the South Korean economy around US$7.5 billion – COVID-19 has thrown another unwanted spanner in the works. In fact, few jurisdictions have been hit as hard as Korea.

Of the more than 20 casinos currently in South Korea, all but one are restricted to foreigners only, leaving them almost fully reliant on a thriving tourism industry. With that revenue source currently cut off, operators such as Paradise Co and Grand Korea Leisure have instead been surviving on local expats. However, a recent surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide has seen strict new measures put in place with little sign of improvement in the short term. For Korea, a COVID-19 vaccine can’t come soon enough.
Inside Asian Gaming - 16 December 2020
After a disastrous 2020 that saw its (very) dirty laundry aired publicly during an inquiry into its suitability to hold a NSW casino license, the state regulator ultimately decided that Crown’s plans to open in December were just a little too ambitious. Instead, with the results of the inquiry due by February, Crown’s long-awaited AU$2.2 billion (US$1.6 billion) Crown Sydney development opened its non-gaming elements on 28 December – a scaled-down sneak preview of what were once grand plans by Australia’s most famous casino brand. Whether cashed-up high rollers will soon be sitting at the Crown Sydney tables remains to be seen. (BB)
Inside Asian Gaming - 15 December 2020
Genting Singapore surprised everyone when it announced its 3Q20 results, which saw the company generate a profit of US$40 million in the face of COVID-19. That extremely positive news has prompted analysts to upgrade Genting Singapore to “Buy” – pointing to Singapore’s successful efforts to curb the virus and subsequent decision to allow the company’s Resorts World Sentosa integrated resort to increase capacity.

There has been talk of a travel bubble opening in early 2021 between Singapore, Malaysia and potentially Indonesia, which would only further bolster Genting Singapore’s recovery trajectory. That’s good news for a company that is gearing up to bid for an expensive integrated resort development in Yokohama, Japan. (BB)
This report is edited by Cory Roberts, Andrew Klebanow, and Inside Asian Gaming