At least five Chinese-owned resorts in Hainan have been laying down plans to convert their ballrooms into pseudo gaming floors, Bloomberg reports.
According to people with direct knowledge of the plans, the gaming floors will allow players play with real money, but receive their winnings in the form of points which can be redeemed at shops, restaurants and hotels.
This is not the first time the so-called “Entertainment Bar” concept has been brought to Hainan.
In 2013, the Sanya Bay Mangrove Resort Hotel opened up the island’s first cashless casino, where guests could play games such as Baccarat and exchange their winnings for hotel rooms, electronics, and jewelry.
The operation was however shut down in 2014 as as local prosecutors accused the resort of breaking the law.
Only in December last year did a Hainan Court rule that the gaming operation wasn’t in breach of the law after all.
According to the unnamed sources, the resorts’ owners have already contacted suppliers of baccarat tables, and have drawn up blueprints converting their ballrooms into gaming floors. They have also held informal discussions with Hainan officials in recent months.
However, it is currently unclear whether the regional and state authorities would allow such entertainment bars, or “cashless casinos” to exist.
“The government will face challenges to decide their attitude toward a gambling-themed model,” said Margaret Huang of Bloomberg.
“The balance between regulation and economic development is hard.”
“From our conversations with people on the ground, they are positively excited about the changes that appear to be coming through soon,” said Ben Lee, managing partner at consultancy IGamiX in a statement to Bloomberg.
Entertainment bars “would undoubtedly draw mainlanders who have never been overseas to try gaming,” he said. “We may see more interesting developments in the next five to ten years.”