Asian Conversations - an online magazine to explore Asia's future

Asia’s casino gamble

More than six years ago, the golden child of Asia’s gambling world surpassed Las Vegas revenues. In 2011, Macau raked in US$33.5 billion – a 42 percent increase over 2010 and roughly six times more than its saucy sister in the west. Lately, a string of countries have made moves to milk the cash cow. "Definitely, the success of Macau has set off a chain reaction in what is happening in the region," Francis Lui, vice chairman of Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group, told The Associated Press.

Following suit, Singapore jump-started a lucrative gaming industry in 2010, presenting an alternative to Macau and generating revenues of US$6 billion in 2011. As The Washington Post reports, the city state’s gaming industry is also on track to surpass Las Vegas this year. Now throwing more chips in the pot is The Philippines. Manila will soon see a US$4-billion super casino – adding to the Resorts World muscle – in Manila Bay. Likewise, in South Korea, a cluster of offshore casino resorts are expected to begin construction in 2013.

Farther afield, Japan has reconsidered its position on gambling in the face of post-tsunami woes. In Cambodia, Phnom Penh’s sole casino operator, Nagacorp, plans to launch a US$369 million expansion, and Vietnam will get its first casino-resort next year, a five-star MGM-branded beachfront complex. According to a report by University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton school, the Taiwanese island of Matsu also passed a referendum to issue gaming permits in July.

The real gamble? "You're entirely dependent on the good graces of Beijing to be successful," Grant Govertsen, managing partner of Union Gaming Research Macau tells AP. "And I don't like those odds." Even so, PricewaterCoopers expects Asia’s casino revenues to reach US$79.3 billion by 2015. – Kate Springer