Sunday, December 10, 2023
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Lionel Messi and Inter Miami make 2023 MLS season the most popular ever


Number of bets on MLS increase 33 percent compared to 2022; Lionel Messi increases global appeal of MLS to drive betting growth.

The arrival of global soccer superstar Lionel Messi to Major League Soccer (MLS) has had an unprecedented impact on the US soccer league’s popularity and betting engagement around the world, according to new data from leading sportsbook provider Kambi, with 2023 becoming the most bet on MLS season ever.

lionel-messi, inter-miami

Ahead of the 2023 MLS Cup this weekend, network data from Kambi’s global partner network reveals that the 2023 MLS season witnessed a 33 percent increase in bets compared to 2022, fuelled by Messi’s mid-season arrival in July at Inter Miami CF which became the most bet on MLS team of the year.

Inter Miami

The surge in popularity of Inter Miami, which is co-owned by former England captain David Beckham, saw them jump from the 15th most bet on team in 2022 to the most popular this season, one place above Los Angeles FC which play Columbus Crew in the MLS Cup on Saturday. The number of bets on Inter Miami were 44 percent higher than those of Los Angeles FC, while Inter Miami were involved in eight of the top 10 games this season.

The arrival of international soccer superstars such as Messi, has also given the MLS a global platform, particularly in Latin America where Kambi has seen strong betting growth in markets including Messi’s home country of Argentina which saw bets increase 135 percent compared to 2022.

Jonathon Hurst, Kambi’s Head of Soccer, said: “The arrival of Lionel Messi to the MLS has been a landmark moment for the league and it’s looking even more likely he will soon be joined at Inter Miami by former Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez. Messi’s global appeal and star power have captured the attention of fans worldwide, and this has translated into a significant increase in betting engagement on MLS matches.”

Messi is already the most bet on player in the MLS of the last four years, quickly catching up with Zlatan Ibrahimović and Carlos Vela as the most bet on player in the MLS of all time. The number of bets on Messi in 2023 are 140 percent higher than that of Los Angeles FC winger Denis Bouanga who is in second place.

Blaze Roulette chosen for Casino Barrière Montreux’s live online casino


Recently installed at the beginning of November, TCSJOHNHUXLEY is proud to have been chosen to supply a SaturnTM Roulette wheel, Ora Grande display and its unique Blaze Roulette for Casino Barrière Montreux’s first online live casino games. With stunning in-game animations as well as illuminating winning bets and pay-outs, Blaze technology gives players both in the land-based casino and online, the chance to experience the thrill of the live game.

tcsjOHNHUXLEY,Blaze Roulette

First launched at the beginning of 2022, Groupe Barrière’s GAMRFIRST online casino platform offers Swiss residents the chance to discover a fun, high-end, responsible gaming experience, along with excellent customer service and a live chat facility available 7 days a week, operated by multi-lingual advisors speaking the country’s 3 official languages.

Clément Govinda, Director of GAMRFIRST comments, “We are delighted to be featuring Blaze Roulette as our first step to bring online our land-based casino experience. The high impact animations add to the excitement of the game, along with the ease of players seeing winning bets and payouts illuminated, making the whole experience enjoyable and seamless.”

Nicci Smith, TCSJOHNHUXLEY Managing Director UK & Europe, added, “We are very proud to be part of this innovative experience and would like to thank the Barrière Groupe Head Office and Casino de Montreux for their trust in our table games products and our team. We wish this venture every success.”

RWS fined $1.68 million for failing to perform customer due diligence measures

Resorts World Sentosa, Genting Singapore

Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) has been fined a total of S$2,250,000 ($1.68 million) for ‘lapses in performing customer due diligence measures for certain transactions.’

The financial penalty reflects transactions that occurred between December 2016 and December 2019. An additional period, between April 2022 and March 2023, is also mentioned.

The announcement was issued on the Singapore Stock Exchange on Friday by Genting Singapore Limited, the parent entity of Resorts World at Sentosa Pte. Ltd.

According to the statement, the company emphasizes that ‘there was no evidence of criminal offenses nor money laundering, and hence, no police reports were made.’

‘We take our compliance obligations very seriously. Upon the discovery of lapses in 2020, RWS promptly reported to the Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA) and fully cooperated with the GRA investigations that followed.’

RWS has since taken remedial actions, including implementing technology enhancements to processes and intensifying employee training.

‘We are committed to upholding high regulatory compliance standards and continue to collaborate closely with the GRA to strengthen the effectiveness of our processes, controls, and training, ensuring that our businesses and operations are consistently conducted in compliance with relevant laws and regulations,’ it added.

‘The financial penalty imposed by the GRA will not have any material impact on the consolidated net tangible assets and earnings per share of the Group for the financial year ending December 31, 2023.’

According to the latest financial report, RWS recorded encouraging results, with adjusted EBITDA growing 31 percent to SG$350.4 million ($257 million) in 3Q23 from the previous quarter.

The company also announced the approval of a total investment of around SG$6.8 billion ($5 billion), aiming to transform its integrated resorts into ‘the most sought-after tourism destination in Asia.’

China collaborates with Cambodia against online gambling 

China, Cambodia, online gambling 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sok Chenda Sophea, emphasizing China’s readiness to collaborate with Cambodia and other nations to combat online gambling and transnational crimes.

Wang stated last Thursday that the cooperation aims to “thoroughly eradicate relevant criminal gangs and safeguard social stability in regional countries.”

The statement was issued on Thursday by central government-owned media, Xinhua, when the Cambodian top official visited China to attend the eighth Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.

Earlier this year, China, Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos joined forces to initiate a special operation aimed at combating rampant gambling-related fraud and associated crimes in the region.

The four nations plan to establish a cooperation center for the operation in Thailand’s Chiang Mai province. The goal of the operation is to intensify efforts against crimes such as human trafficking, kidnapping, and illegal detention, all of which stem from gambling and fraud activities prevalent in the region.

Sihanoukville in Cambodia had a thriving online gambling business from 2015 to 2019. However, the government suddenly imposed a ban in August 2019, causing many investors in the business to leave the country.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Cambodian authorities noted that more than 400,000 Chinese left the country in early 2020. The ban was followed by the pandemic, leading to the further outflow of Chinese investors.

NagaCorp, a Cambodian gaming operator, runs the operations of the Hotel & Casino NagaWorld in the capital city of Phnom Penh.

NagaCorp, Cambodia

AGTech becomes a constituent of the MSCI World Micro Cap Index

AGTech-Holdings buy Macau Pass

Lottery and integrated technology and services company AGTech Holdings Limited has been selected as a constituent of the MSCI World Micro Cap Index, effective from the market close on November 30, 2023.

AGTech shared this news through a voluntary announcement on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange last Friday.

The MSCI World Micro Cap Index is compiled by Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) to track the performance of micro-cap stocks across global markets. It covers a host of companies with solid operational results and potential.

The index is widely recognized as a benchmark by international institutional investors.

The firm returned to profitability in the first three quarters of this year, recording gains of no less than HK$20 million ($2.6 million), in contrast to a loss of HK$124.6 million ($15.9 million) in the same period last year.

Daily Asia Gaming eBrief: State of Play in Asian gaming: Michael Zhu

Macau, Cotai Strip

Good Morning. Asian gaming has returned to normality, with Macau grabbing its crown again and the Philippines expected to see continued growth. Expert Michael Zhu points out what’s new and exciting regionally in this week’s Face to Face interview. Meanwhile, in Singapore, Fitch is projecting a 10 percent rise in GGR for next year. And looking at the Macau market, MGM China’s Pansy Ho reaffirms that its diversification goals will not hamper casino revenue increases.

What you need to know

On the radar

AGB Intelligence


State of play of Asian gaming with Michael Zhu

State of play of Asian gaming with Michael Zhu

Macau continues to hold its gaming crown, the Philippines will see continued growth, Thailand could see a casino even before Japan, and up to half of the Emirates could be seeking casino licenses. Expert and independent consultant Michael Zhu breaks down the state of play in Asian and regional gaming in this week’s Face to Face.

Corporate Spotlight

1xBet – The Leading Bookmaker With Worldwide Reputation

1xBet, Barcelona_Partnership

Since 2007, 1xBet has grown from a small startup to a giant in the sports betting industry. Today, the company successfully operates worldwide, and the bookmaker’s website and app are visited by millions of players monthly. 

Industry Updates


American Gaming Association elects Everi’s Michael Rumbolz as its new chairman

American Gaming Association

The American Gaming Association (AGA) has elected Michael Rumbolz as the association’s new chairman.

American Gaming Association elects Everi’s Michael Rumbolz as its new chairman

Rumbolz, Executive Chair of the Board of Everi Holdings, succeeds Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen, who has served as AGA chairman since January of 2022.

Rumbolz’ new two-year term starts on January 2024.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to help shape gaming’s future as the AGA’s next chair,” said Rumbolz.

“From stopping illegal gambling to evolving responsible gambling, the AGA is tackling transformational issues and I am eager to build on the progress made during Jim’s tenure,” noted the executive.

Rumbolz has also previously served as president and CEO of Everi, Member and Chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, and Chief Deputy Attorney General of Nevada.

SkyCity lowers estimates for FY24, as EGM revenue dropped and Adelaide contributions weakened

Skycity Entertainment Group, New Zealand

New Zealand and Australian gaming operator SkyCity Entertainment Group has announced that it’s expecting its normalized EBITDA for the fiscal 2024 year to be effectively flat, reaching between NZ$290 million ($178.65 million) and NZ$310 million ($190.97 million).

The figure is in line with the NZ$310 million in normalized EBITDA for its fiscal 2023 but reverses previous guidance from the group that it could see ‘a modest year-on-year increase’ in fiscal 2024.

The group notes that its update financial estimates do ‘not reflect the impact of any potential temporary suspension’ of the group’s casino operator license in New Zealand.

The group notes the possible suspension ‘is currently being considered by the Gambling Commission following an application made by the Department of Internal Affairs’.

The suspension would apply for a period of 10 days and relates to alleged breaches of gambling harm minimization rules.

SkyCity Adelaide
SkyCity Adelaide

SkyCity is also facing probes over its suitability to hold a gaming license in Adelaide, Australia. Within New Zealand the group operates casinos in Auckland, Hamilton and Queenstown.

Regarding the reasons behind its lowered earnings estimates, the group notes there has been a drop in EGM revenue across its New Zealand sites, ‘weaker than expected performance in the Adelaide property’ due to ‘continued legal and compliance cost pressure’, as well as the recently mentioned delay in the settlement over its Auckland Car Park Concession, as well as ‘accelerated investment in the Group’s New Zealand online gaming operations ahead of the potential regulation of the online gaming market in New Zealand’.

State of play of Asian gaming with Michael Zhu

Macau continues to hold its gaming crown, the Philippines will see continued growth, while Thailand could see a casino even before Japan, and up to half of the Emirates could be seeking casino licenses. Expert and independent consultant Michael Zhu breaks down the state of play in Asian and regional gaming in this week’s Face to Face.

We’re joined today by Michael Zhu, an independent industry consultant who has decades of experience within the gaming industry. We’ve seen a huge resurgence in Asian gaming within this year, but who do you think has seen the most extensive growth?

Thank you, Kelsey, for this opportunity.

I think that question, I would like to rephrase as who have seen the most robust growth or the greatest growth this year in the region, and I think my category one would include Macau, Singapore and the Philippines. Especially in Macau, I think after all these challenging COVID years, eventually we started seeing a light at the end of the tunnel earlier this year. And since then the growth has been really amazing. The rapid recovery, fueled by additional visitations and a wider reach of customers.

Very true. And I mean, we’ve got a lot happening for the individual companies. So I want to look at those companies themselves and and see: is there any particular Asian gaming operator that has managed outstanding growth and development within this year?

I think in Macau I would give credit to all the six gaming concessionaires, out of which in particular Galaxy Entertainment Group, Sands China, and MGM China would be truly the leaders among the competition, who have seen outstanding growth, an outstanding recovering process, fueled by sustainable and continuous growth in the years to come.

Thailand has a very good chance to see its first integrated resort before the one in Osaka”.

Michael Zhu
They’re very different in terms of their actual makeup. I mean, Galaxy is targeting its particular market, Sands is a bit more mass and MGM saw spectacular growth, I mean, also given the fact that they got that new table allocation, which definitely helped them. But branching out from Macau, let’s look a little bit at the new emerging growth markets because there’s so much excitement going around what could happen. Macau is kind of an old story, Singapore is a little bit of the same type of thing. The Philippines is very exciting, but then you’ve got things like Thailand and Japan. So what timelines do you think are in place for those two markets? We’ve got kind of the contrast between who is going to come first.

So we’ve seen the reports, we’ve seen the the timeline published, or announced, by the Tokyo government. It looks like Japan would likely see its first integrated resort in Osaka by the end of 2030, which is about six years out.

Thailand, on the other hand, has more recently become the focus of being the shoe-in. I think the government is working very hard to expedite the process. Just as recent as last week, I think the national parliaments just set up a specific committee to study the market potential, the community impact, economic benefits, all those things along the line. To your question, Kelsey, I would personally believe Thailand has a very good chance to see its first integrated resort before the one in Osaka.

It does kind of feel that way. It seems like there’s a little bit more of a fire happening within Thailand. And it seems like there’s less opposition from the public in particular, in regards to having casino legislation and even setting up local casinos. So looking at the the kind of division between larger scale IRS and smaller casinos, which they’re looking both at within Thailand, which do you think would come first? Do you think they would move forward with a larger multi-billion dollar scale IR or try and set up some of those local smaller casinos before moving on to the bigger projects?

I think the question is not necessarily, you know, which one they want to go first, the multi-billion dollar destination resort or sort of the more regional in smaller tourist cities. I think it’s likely that we see both types of both categories go on simultaneously. I think from the government’s perspective, the larger scale will be of more importance and the higher priority in just the sheer scale itself.

And the community impact economic benefits that goes with it would definitely have a quicker return and a better impact on the local community. However, on the other hand, that requires a more thorough study and planning process, and a large investment scale for the developers. So I don’t think there would be any preference for which one to go first, I think the market will give its answer. And we’ll see how things unfold naturally.

Zooming out from those emerging markets, we want to look at one which has been doing very, very well, and which the head of PAGCOR, in the Philippines, has expected to surpass the levels that they saw within 2019. That’s a big thing to do, meaning they’ll break even their previous records. So what do you think have been the major factors that have contributed to the success of the Philippines within the growth this year?

That’s definitely one of the greatest markets in the Asia Pacific region. I think a couple of things here. From the demand side we have been talking so much and putting so much focus on the local market segments, including the domestic Filipino patrons, as well as a expat population living in Metro Manila, in particular. I think these local segments not only have helped the gaming industry in the Philippines go through those challenging pandemic years, but they have also provided opportunity for further sustainable and long-term growth.

I mean, looking at the local demographics with rising income age wise, I think relatively they are younger than many other gaming jurisdictions in the region. So, we are looking at sustainable growth in the next 2/3/4 decades or even longer. The rising average income level has been going up, especially after the pandemic, the country is facing many exciting opportunities, so the demand I think is going to get strong.

Then switching to the supply side, we’ve seen exciting developments in Metro Manila, for example, Bloomberry, they are going to complete the construction of the Resort North in Quezon City, which is also in Metro Manila Area. The focus for that property is to capitalize on the strong domestic demand.

A little bit out, further north, in Clark Freeport Zone, the Hann Resort, we have seen them bring in a large number of international hotel brands, they have a strong management team, together with the natural beauty, the amazing golf courses, as well as other attractions. I think that whole region is becoming more than just a regional gaming market, it is increasingly becoming a destination market.

A little bit further south actually looking at the city of Cebu, for example, we’ve seen the opening of NUSTAR, the ongoing development efforts by Emerald Bay, in Mactan Island, and Cebu International Airport is itself also planning the next stage of renovations/expansions. So that will not only increase the capacity and really help the air lift capacity, but also become a much better, more convenient, infrastructure wise, more convenient and travel pattern.

“…all of these will help make Cebu a more interesting, more attractive destination market”.

Michael Zhu
It’s very interesting, because all of these main properties, to see the expansion of NAIA airport, the expansion of the Clark airport, and then also the expansion of the Cebu airport. It’s interesting to see how these go hand-in-hand with the possibilities for investors who are looking to set up and expand the casino opportunities within the Philippines.
You had previously mentioned that you think that the Philippines could almost double its GGR within the next decade and reach $10 billion. You had said that earlier this year. I’m wondering, are there any new factors that could contribute to or change that estimate?

No, I think I will still hold that estimate. You know, if we break it down, the math tells us as long as you can achieve, 7.2/7.3 percent and year-over-year increases or for consecutive years, then you would be able to double the current level in 10 years. 7.2 or 7.3 percent is not too much of a challenging target. Again, on the supply side, we’re looking at a large number of new properties coming to the market, with better connectivity, improved infrastructure and a more tourist-friendly environment.

Then on the demand side, the local market remains strong. The demographic’s still young, and they are seeing rising income year over year. In addition to that, you know, with COVID related restrictions easing or lifted completely, I think the international tourism is poised to rebound in a faster pace in the in the next couple of years.

Well, that’s definitely true. We’ve already seen that already within this year the tourists are coming back. One thing that has been a little bit slower to return has been the Chinese visitation. Now that does come down to multiple factors. But is that they’re suffering the impact of a slowdown within the Chinese economy.
And without looking at Macau – because it’s kind of its own little paradigm, do you think that companies within the Philippines and then within the broader Asia region have had to kind of retool to compensate for the fact that their clients are not working with as much cash as they had before?

I actually would not be too concerned about that, in that if we look at China, mainland China as a whole, the propensity and the frequency of gaming, of going to visit integrated resort is still so low. I mean, we’re looking at, you know, 1.4 billion population out of which just the top 5 percent or 2 percent of the population – we’re talking about 10s of millions of affluent population of wealthy, middle class, solid middle class population, who would still want to go abroad and visit someplace, have a unique experience.

As you mentioned, Macau is sort of unique. But then when it comes to the Philippines or other Asian markets, I think every place has its own unique attractions, either natural beauty or the local cuisines or the history, the culture, they’re still points that attract the middle class people from China. And we’re not expecting them to have three visits or four visits a year, I think as long as you can get one visit out of the millions of population, the frequency and the propensity was still be able to support solid performance in the near future.

Macau, despite the new 10 year concessions, is kind of a boring story. It’s still the same six operators, there’s not been too many new changes despite the death of VIP, the push away from junkets. But I want to look at another market, which could be even more stagnant or have plateaued within a sense: Singapore. Is there anything else that we can expect out of Singapore? Is this going to be exciting within the next five years?

I think Singapore will remain in its position for at least the next five years.

I think land availability is something we need to keep in mind. However, with the ongoing renovation effort at Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa, I think they are going to have better products and a richer mix of hospitality offerings.

There are more emerging markets that we haven’t talked about yet. The UAE has come rapidly onto the scene. We’ve seen with Wynn Al Marjan, what’s happening within that property. And now there was recently a report that maybe even the UAE might grant a casino license to each one of its Emirates. What is the speculation that you’re hearing about that?

To my knowledge, there are at least different three Emirates that are discussing the potential development plan for the Integrated resorts. Now, we’ve seen the report that the central government will approve one license to each of the seven emirates over there.

I don’t believe each emirate will have a casino within the next two to three years. But I think at least more than half of them are thinking about the plan. And once they have the right development partners or they have the right operators, we will likely see casinos up and running in those Emirates in the near future. Let’s see.

Do you think that this is going to be a record year for Asian gaming operators? Or do you think that 2024 could surpass what we’re seeing in 2023?

I think we will get really close by the end of this year, and 2024 is likely to be the year where we exceed the previous 2019 record.

Well, I know that everybody is hoping for the same. We’ve delved into a lot of territory here. We’ve covered a lot of jurisdictions, but all of them seem to be growing. So it’s good news for the Asian gaming industry. Just want to thank you again, Michael Zhu, independent industry consultant. We look forward to speaking with you again soon, hopefully at the ASEAN Gaming Summit.

Thank you, Kelsey.

Thanks for your time. We appreciate it.

Four Suncity-linked detainees denied release from prison as court rejects bid for Habeas Corpus

Suncity Group

Four of the accused in the Suncity junket trial have had their requests for Habeas Corpus denied by the Court of Final Instance.

According to TDM Canal Macau, Celestino Ali, Si Tou Chi Hou, Cheung Yat Ping and Chan Che Hee attempted to use the legal avenue to be released from pre-trial detention.

Celestino is facing some 15 years in prison, while the other three face 10 year sentences.

But, despite some legal representatives telling the broadcaster that there was hope their clients could be released on Thursday, the Court of Final Instance denied the appeals.

One such lawyer, Pedro Leal, noted that the accusations make use of a gang law from the 1990s, with the defendants aiming to prove that their detention is illegal as the law only allows for detention of accused for up to 24 months.

Many of those detainees have been held since November of 2021.

Leal notes that the original law means authorities should either have released the accused 24 months after their detention, or have a definitive court decision – one which has not yet been made. This has not taken place, due to the appeals presented by the four regarding the allegation of organized crime.

The lawyer further tells TDM Canal Macau that the law does allow for detention for up to three years if the crimes involved violence, something Leal states has not been expressed by the authorities.