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Archive for April, 2014

Las Vegas Sands Aims to tackle the Japanese market

Japan is, without question, one of the largest untapped gambling market still left in the world. When you know this fact that it will come as no surprise that the Las Vegas Sands Corporation recently said that, as far as what it’s willing to spend in order to set up a casino project in Japan, they will do “whatever it takes”.

Should Japan decide to open its country to the casino gambling market, the Sands is considered a strong candidate to win a license there due to the fact that they have had so much success at their resort in Singapore, a resort that Japanese lawmakers have used as a model.

Of course there is more than one major global operator looking to open in Japan, and thus competition is guaranteed to be fierce with online companies springing up everywhere such as M88 and bodog and several other bricks and mortar gambling houses wanting a piece of the action.

The MGM Resorts International, as well as Melco Crown Entertainment (a casino operator in Macau) and also Genting of Malaysia are all rivals for the same Japanese licenses and all pushing hard to be the first to operate in the country.

“Would I put in $10 billion? Yes. Would I rather do it at 7? Yes,” said Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands CEO, in a recent interview widely quoted by the Tokyo media.

When they failed to win specific concessions from the government of Spain in 2013, the Nevada-based resort behemoth decided to abandon their plans to build a gambling and leisure resort to be named EuroVegas in Madrid, a project that already had $30 billion set aside to complete.

If two large, integrated resorts are set up in Japan in the cities of Tokyo and Okinawa, analysts predict that the country could generate more than $40 billion in gambling revenue every year. They would also need 10 smaller sites in cities located throughout the country to meet these numbers.

If it happened it would make Japan the second-largest gambling market in all of Asia, after Macau, where revenues from gambling are set to exceed $51 billion this year alone.

Although he would not rule out the prospect, Adelson said that if he had to take on Japanese companies as equity partners he “wouldn’t be happy.

Adelson was quick to say that, with an industry-leading market capitalization of $66 billion, the Las Vegas Sands what easily be able to handle the capitalization of any Japanese project on its own. “I’m not ruling it out,” he said, “I’m keeping my mind open to see whether or not a fair and reasonable partnership deal can be worked out.”

Last December there was a promotional bill submitted to Parliament by a group of Japanese lawmakers to legalize gambling in their country, and the expectations are that early summer 2014 will be the date when it is debated. If it passes, their proposal would then change into a more detailed bill with specific regulations, something that proponents hope will be passed as early as 2016.

The hope is that things go smoothly and that, by the time the Tokyo summer Olympics begin in 2020, the first casino resort would be open. And you can bet that The Sands, and Sheldon Adelson, will be there when it does.

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The Rise of Online Gambling in Asia

It is estimated that 14-23 million people gamble online worldwide. Of these, nearly half are from the Asia-Pacific region (49%) – and this despite the fact that online gambling has been severely restricted or even banned in certain Asian countries, such as Korea, China and Japan.

The irony is that gambling in Asia is nothing new and can be traced back to around 3000 BC with a game known as “wei-qi” and it’s also generally acknowledged that baccarat (or “baak ga lok” in Cantonese) originated in China. In fact, the fascination with gambling in Asia could arguably be said to stem from the Chinese, which is why it is peculiar that gambling in modern-day China is banned – with a few key exceptions such as Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macau.

Everyone is predicting a rise in online gambling in Asia. This is due to a number of factors, including increased accessibility to the internet, the illegality of land-based gambling in Asian countries, which makes online gambling the only alternative; the historical popularity of gambling in Asian culture, and the huge influx of investment (particularly in China) in online gaming and the growth of companies such as M88 Vietnam and Sbobet.. However, if the Singapore government’s actions are anything to go by (it wants to restrict online gambling by blocking offshore gambling websites, blocking payments to and from gambling operators as well as banning any gambling related advertisements), then opening up this huge market is far from a done deal. That said, being forced underground has done little to dampen the appetite for gambling in Asia, and several unauthorised sites have sprung up, as well as clever operators who fudge the illegal practice by circumnavigating red tape.

Interestingly, Japan, who have long banned any form of gambling either land-based or online, have entered talks with casino operators – presumably to review their current position on gambling. There are massive pressures for governments in Asia to concede to public demand for online gambling, and it does seem inevitable that in time, this will happen.

What hurdles have yet to be overcome? Well, for a start, because of the illegal nature of gambling in many countries – advertising will be challenging, if not completely impossible. There is also the issue with federal restrictions on monetary transactions in and out of certain countries, which will pose a serious problem. But if the rise of Macau as a gambling destination is any indication of the future of the Asian market – public demand for online gambling is likely to win this particular battle.