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Daily Asia Gaming eBrief: Casino Filipino operators likely to get first crack at purchase

PAGCOR, Casino Filipino

Good Morning. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The same policy could apply towards the privatization process of Casino Filipino, as PAGCOR’s Chairman hints that it would be smoother to offer current operators the option to buy out the regulator’s stake and keep the venues running. Meanwhile, in Malaysia, the COO of Genting says that casino operations are not going to be halted, despite speculation, as Resorts World continues strong. And on the supplier side, Aristocrat Gaming highlights its latest market winners, including its iconic Dragon Link.

What you need to know

  • PAGCOR’s Chairman hints that granting the right of ‘first refusal’ would greatly simplify its privatization process.
  • Genting Malaysia COO assures casino operations continue amid strong RWG growth, dispelling closure concerns.
  • Aristocrat Gaming gives an overview of its latest offerings that are taking the APAC market by storm: check out the video.

On the radar


AGB Intelligence

PHILIPPINES

Right of first refusal seems fair for Casino Filipino privatization

The Chairman of PAGCOR hints that the current joint venture partners in its Casino Filipino properties would be the ideal future operators, given their knowledge and history, leading to an easier transition. Outside investment is still welcomed, if it materializes, as the properties are located in key cities with large populations, meaning that any operator would be remiss to close its casino even for a day, notes the official.


Corporate Spotlight

Know Your Enemy: An Interactive Guide to Online Gaming Fraud

Sumsub, Online Gaming Fraud, verification platform

Online gaming fraud is on the rise in the iGaming industry. In Q1 2022, there was an 85% increase in fake account registrations compared to Q4 2021. While players are undoubtedly affected by gaming fraud, iGaming platforms also suffer due to damaged reputations, huge financial losses, and legal consequences.

How 1xBet dominates the Asian market: conditions and approach

1xBet, Asian Market

1xBet operates in several dozen countries in Asia, and the number of partners in this region is growing steadily, which indicates the effectiveness of the 1xPartners affiliate program. The brand offers favorable conditions and a modern set of tools for making money on the Internet.


Industry Updates


MEMBERSHIP | INTELLIGENCE | ASEAN | CAREERS

Macau’s new outdoor concert venue next to Grand Lisboa Palace 

Macau’s new outdoor concert venue next to Grand Lisboa Palace 

The Macau government has selected a site for an outdoor concert venue with a capacity to accommodate 50,000 attendees. This venue is located on a plot next to the Grand Lisboa Palace in the Cotai area.

According to local media outlet TDM, the land has recently been cleared and is being prepared for large-scale events.

As reported by AGB earlier in April, Macau authorities hope to hold the first concerts at the venue in the first quarter of 2025.

Information reveals that the outdoor concert venue might be temporary. This initiative follows a controversial concert held in January this year. The concert by the Korean boy band Seventeen, held at the Taipa Olympic Sports Centre, generated numerous complaints from residents due to its proximity to housing.

At that time, the Macau government pledged to explore the possibility of organizing concerts in locations that are not close to residential areas.

Aristocrat highlights its latest offerings at G2E Asia

Genius Sports and IBIA establish global sports integrity partnership

Genius Sports and the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA) have agreed a global sports betting integrity information sharing and wider anti-match-fixing partnership.

The agreement establishes a powerful alliance that brings together one of the world’s largest sports technology companies in Genius Sports and IBIA which is the largest customer account sports betting integrity monitoring body in the world.

Under the deal, Genius Sports and IBIA will share information relating to suspicious betting activity from their respective monitoring and intelligence platforms within agreed parameters. Access to certain technological resources and integrity reports will be also included in the arrangement, with the potential for collaboration on wider anti-match-fixing activities globally. Genius Sports will also become an Associate member of IBIA.

Simon Martyn, Director of Integrity and Rights Enforcement at Genius Sports, said: “Cooperation and the sharing of information are vital pillars to safeguarding the global sports industry from the threats of match-fixing and betting-related corruption. Our partnership with IBIA will provide us and our partners with greater transparency over global betting patterns, helping to identify, manage and prevent any integrity threats.”

PopOK Gaming’s new partnership with SYNOT Interactive

PopOK Gaming, SYNOT Interactive

PopOK Gaming is happy to unveil an exciting new partnership between PopOK Gaming and SYNOT Interactive, two powerhouses in the dynamic iGaming realm!

Bringing over two decades of expertise to the table, SYNOT Interactive stands out as a seasoned software provider renowned for its modular and API-driven product suites. Their wealth of services spans from casino content aggregation to platform integration, offering tailored solutions to cater to diverse casino needs.

Meanwhile, PopOK Gaming emerges as a modern iGaming content developer, celebrated for its delivery of top-tier games, boasting captivating designs, dynamic animations, and robust gamification tools. Their in-house developed games promise an immersive gaming experience for players globally.

With a shared vision for innovation and excellence, PopOK Gaming and SYNOT Interactive are set to revolutionize the iGaming landscape. Together, they aim to introduce fresh content and foster enriching experiences for players across the globe.

Giving first right of refusal would simplify PAGCOR privatization: Chairman

Alejandro. H Tengco, Chairman and CEO, PAGCOR

There has been rampant speculation that the Philippine gaming operator (PAGCOR) would grant the right of ‘first refusal’ to the current operators of its Casino Filipino properties, which it aims to sell as soon as possible to resume its purely regulatory status.

While not confirming the news, the head of PAGCOR noted that it would be logical to allow the companies to continue to operate.

Speaking to AGB, Alejandro H. Tengco noted that continuity would be assured if the current operators were allowed to remain in their role.

“I don’t think one will even think of closing down a casino even for one minute,” he told AGB. “You have the comfort of being known inside that property. You are treated as a VIP client,” he notes of clientele.

“You try to close a property for two weeks – in your mind that’s already closed. This is just a natural consequence,” he told AGB.

Casino Filipino

PAGCOR, Casino Filipino

On the record, Tengco noted the work will be intense in the lead-up to such a disposal.

“To prevent that ‘headache’, I think that you go for right of first refusal, because they know, they’re operating, they know what the frameworks are, they have followed it, I don’t see them not following because now they own it 100 percent.

“For me, that will solve one aspect of so many issues.

“Number two, will others who are not our partners participate? Definitely. And especially in key locations. Mark my words today, there will be a lot of proposals for the key cities: Cebu, Davao, Pampanga, Angeles, Bacolod, Iloilo – these are key cities.

“When you just go through the numbers, you take out contributions to government and nation building, they’re making money,” notes the official.

Foreign investors and future growth

Foreign investors in casino projects need to face down a 60 percent local ownership mandate, which there are ways to circumvent, but getting a Filipino partner could be the key way in, notes Tengco.

But the current growth is tenuous. Tengco, fully aware of how far the upward spike can go, notes that “we’re trying to really concentrate making sure that we get the most out of this explosion – most especially in the eGame sector and I believe that there’s still room for growth. I believe that maybe in the next one or two years we will see this growth to be continuing.”

The official revealed to AGB that “Sometimes I ask myself: when will this stop? On the other hand it inspires me to work doubly harder so that we can sustain all this momentum. And I believe that if your intentions are pure, we’ll get everything going.”

PAGCOR Chairman: possibility to lower tax rates depending on FY25 results

Alejandro H Tengco, Chairman and CEO of PAGCOR

The Chairman of the Philippine gaming regulator (PAGCOR) says that there is still a possibility for taxation rates to be lowered, potentially for both the online and land-based sectors, depending on how they perform.

Alejandro. H Tengco, Chairman and CEO, PAGCOR

Speaking to AGB, Alejandro H. Tengco noted that the current rates for the online sector would be reduced to 30 percent by January 1st of 2025.

He noted that, assuming we were at that date, “If I see that we have stabilized and that the acceptance of these rates have already proven that that should be the rate, then I will not touch it anymore. However, if I see that I can still propel it to further growth and to numbers not seen before, I will not stop myself from making that decision to even bring it down further.”

Current rates for land-based operators are at 25 percent, if they also are conducting online operations, but there’s a possibility for further reductions if the cards are right.

“I’m not favoring the integrated resort operators. I’m giving them a tax break to incentivize them to spend for infrastructure so that the customer can have a better online gaming experience. And that is their commitment and that is what they’re doing.”

Looking towards the online gaming operators, the head of the regulator notes that: “whether I will still continue to bring down the rates from 30 percent, let’s look at 2025.

Macau casinos stopping free snacks could reduce traffic, minimal GGR impact: MS 

Macau, Cotai Strip

Morgan Stanley notes that Macau casinos ceasing to offer free snacks could reduce foot traffic. However, this measure is expected to have only a small impact on gross gaming revenue (GGR), as it mainly discourages visitors who come to casinos for free snacks but never gamble. Gamblers will still have easy access to free snacks.

According to an investment memo released on Wednesday, the same day Macau casinos reportedly stopped offering free snacks in casino areas, analysts Praveen K. Choudhary and Gareth Leung indicated that Macau gaming stocks fell by 3-7 percent on Wednesday.

“We believe this decline is related to casinos ceasing to offer free snacks to non-gamblers/non-members,” they noted.

Morgan Stanley mentions that local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) may have complained to the local gaming regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ), about the impact of free snacks in casinos on their businesses.

The research team, citing gaming operators, reveals that most casinos continue to provide free beverages as they did before COVID-19. However, they now require membership cards with at least one point (indicating some gambling activity) to receive free snacks.

Macau’s GGR recovery has been driven by high-end gamblers since the pandemic, reflected in mass GGR per Chinese visitor being 34 percent higher in the first quarter of 2024 compared to 2019.

In a previous report by AGB, industry experts also noted that free offerings do not align with a strategy focused on premium mass clientele.

Initially, different gaming operators in Macau joined this price war-like battle due to the intensifying competition in the market. The competition reinforces the market view about intense competition—everyone has to spend to attract foot traffic so that they might earn higher GGR.

Casino closure “off the table” as RWG business surges, says Genting COO

Genting Malaysia

Genting Malaysia Berhad’s President and Chief Operating Officer (COO), Tan Kong Han, assured shareholders that Genting casinos would remain operational due to several key factors.

Casino closure “off the table” as RWG business surges, says Genting COO
Tan Kong Han, Genting Malaysia COO

According to a report from the Malaysian Chinese-language news outlet Sin Chew, Tan made this statement during the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) on Wednesday.

Tan expressed confidence that the government would not seek to close the casinos, citing the continued growth of Genting Highlands’ business.

Genting Highlands, also known as Resorts World Genting (RWG), is operated by Genting Malaysia, the country’s sole gaming operator.

The group’s COO emphasized: “The company has consistently adhered to the highest governance standards and conducted its gaming business responsibly. Over the years, we have operated in full compliance with government regulations, with Resorts World Genting being a significant contributor to the country’s tax revenues.”

Addressing broader industry trends, Tan noted that over the past decade, several countries initially opposed to the gaming sector have now embraced the establishment of integrated resorts.

“Similar to Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore a decade ago, the expansion of the gaming industry in Macau, China, and the Middle East, as well as recent developments in Japan and Thailand, demonstrates growing government interest in leveraging integrated resorts to stimulate economies, create employment opportunities, and generate tax revenue for communities,” he added.

Concerns about casino closures at Resorts World Genting (RWG) arose when it announced the closure of sections in two out of its three casinos starting from February 28th this year.

Despite emphasizing that the closures were temporary, this clarification contradicted media reports indicating that the closure would be permanent.

Genting clarified that only portions of Genting Casino 1 (Circus Palace) and Genting Casino 2 (Hollywood) would undergo temporary closure for renovation purposes. SkyCasino will remain operational as the sole functioning casino during this period.

At that time, the temporary closure was reportedly attributed to dwindling patronage.

Malaysia, kuala Lumpur, Visa-free

Visa-Free policy as a booster

From the same source citing Genting’s shareholders, Genting Malaysia’s management has praised the mutual visa exemption between Malaysia, India, and China, noting that the policy has beneficial effects on the group’s business.

“In the first quarter of 2024, revenue from Genting’s local leisure and hotel business increased by 25 percent year-on-year, and Resorts World Genting’s business volume increased significantly, with the main tourists coming from Singapore, Indonesia, China, and India.”

According to the group’s financial update for 1Q24, its net profit reached RM36.7 million ($7.8 million), reversing a loss of RM45.4 million ($9.65 million) recorded in the same quarter last year.

Total gaming revenue for the group hit RM1.99 billion ($423.1 million), while non-gaming revenue totaled RM715.5 million ($152.1 million).

China and Malaysia entered into a visa-free agreement in December last year, which has been extended until the end of 2025. The duration of each stay has also been extended from 15 days to 30 days.

Genting Highlands, Hard Rock Hotel

Online gaming 

The Genting brand has been a victim of illegal online gaming operations. In response to shareholders’ queries, a spokesman highlighted that online gambling is illegal in Malaysia, although numerous unauthorized online platforms exist, some of which misuse the Genting Group brand.

Genting Malaysia affirmed its commitment to reporting such issues to the authorities and pursuing legal action against those who misuse its brand without authorization.

Additionally, Genting Malaysia stated its readiness to assist relevant authorities and law enforcement agencies upon formal complaints to address the issue of illegal online gambling in Malaysia.

The company also noted it has implemented various measures to combat unauthorized entities misusing Genting’s information. These measures include issuing alerts and warnings on its websites and notifying bodies such as the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

Evolution games used in SE illegal online casinos: Report

Evolution Gaming

A Swedish Radio News investigation has uncovered that games from Swedish company Evolution have been found on a number of sites for illegal online casinos in Southeast Asia.

The investigation reveals that some of these online casinos have ties to other suspected criminal activities such as money laundering and fraud. Experts consulted by the outlet warn that game suppliers like Evolution risk assisting the criminal organizations behind these illicit operations by allowing their products to be featured on these sites.

Among these sites were some 50 based in Cambodia, with Evolution games also featured on a casino site in the Philippines.

One instance highlighted is a press conference in Thailand, where police displayed cash amounting to the equivalent of $3.2 million. The money is suspected to have been obtained through a criminal network’s cryptocurrency scams targeting elderly Thai citizens.

“From our investigation into websites offering illegal gambling, we found that Evolution is one of the products featured,” Sarayu Klinhorm, Deputy Superintendent at the Thai police’s Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau said in the press conference, according to the report.

Evolution is a Sweden-based B2B solution provider for casino operators that offers live casino, games, and slots.

The company’s games, including roulette, baccarat and blackjack, are widely available on online casinos around the world. The company has seen significant growth, particularly in the lucrative Asian market.

However, there have been persistent warnings about online casinos in the region being used for money laundering and other illicit activities by organized crime groups.

A recent report by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) highlighted the alarming rise of industrial-scale gambling operations in Southeast Asia, identifying them as a significant driver of transnational crime

Experts consulted by Swedish Radio News argued that while Evolution may not be directly involved in criminal activities, the company bears responsibility for the potential misuse of its products.

Evolution declined to comment on the report but stated that none of the sites mentioned are their customers or their customers’ customers, adding that it vets its customers, but acknowledges that its supply chain can be complex.