Tim is Director of Fortuna Investments a gaming industry investor in.Asia Pacific. He was a co-founder of Australian listed casino operator Silver Heritage Group.
Asia’s glitzy IRs and casinos around the world are not attracting large numbers of Japanese tourists, despite their propensity to gamble in pachinko parlours at home, operators on a panel at the World Gaming Executive Summit in Barcelona said.
Elephants took to a football pitch in Thailand’s ancient capital of Ayutthaya this week in an effort to raise awareness among young people about illegal gambling. The Thai Chamber of Commerce estimates that $1.8 billion will be bet during the FIFA World Cup in Russia this year, almost half the amount bet in 2014 amidst […]
Silver Heritage said Richard Barker, a non-executive director, has resigned in the latest of a series of changes at the top of the Australia-listed operator.
Casino operator Silver Heritage Group has announced the grand opening for its Tiger Palace Resort will be taking place on March 16-17, 2018. The two-day long gala celebrations will include Bollywood and international artists. Guests will witness dance performances by famous Ukrainian troops and Thai Dancers along with performances by Bollywood dance sensations, Natasa Stankovic […]
The Year of the Dog is about to dawn in Asia, with most gaming markets in the region starting on a positive note after a strong 2017. The focus this year is likely to be on emerging markets, though regulatory change and disruptive technologies, such as the stellar growth of bitcoin are also expected to […]
Silver Heritage Group’s Tiger Palace Bhairahawa is set for a soft opening by month’s end, with final works on the Nepal resort to be completed over the next ten days. “Co-founders Mike Bolsover and Tim Shepherd, together with local partners, members of the development, operations and pre-opening teams, and contractors were officially the first guests […]
Silver Heritage’s co-founder and president of business development & marketing, Tim Shepherd, is stepping down after 14 years with the company. According to a filing to the Australian Stock Exchange, Shepherd is set to leave the company on September 30, 2017, but will remain as an independent external consultant commencing October 1, 2017 – giving […]
In 2017 I think we will continue to see the larger players in Macau flex their muscles internationally looking for ROIC no longer available in Macau. Seeking similar growth are the larger junket groups who will continue to diversify into bricks and mortar across Asia Pacific – they are saying “why give 50 percent of […]
Silver Heritage has assigned its revenue sharing agreements to manage electronic gaming machines at Dansavanh Nam Ngum Resort and Casino in Laos to Pan Asia Leaders. Under the accord, Silver Heritage provided electronic gaming machines and services to the resort under a revenue sharing agreement. Pan Asia Leaders agreed to take on those accords for […]
Vietnam’s hotly anticipated locals gaming program has got off to a slow start, with remote locations and red tape cited as key factors in deterring visitation.
After years of turning a blind eye to the booming online gambling markets in Cambodia and the Philippines, authorities in China have finally had enough, triggering a clampdown across the region.
Over the past 20 years, parts of Indochina have become a hotbed for casino gaming. Yet while this corner of Southeast Asia can be a challenging environment and not a guaranteed license to print money, certain casino operators have struck gold there. Arguably two of the region’s biggest winners are Crown International Club in Danang, Vietnam and NagaWorld in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
On first glance, the island of Phu Quoc, with a population of just 100,000, would appear to be an unusual destination for arguably Vietnam’s most significant casino development to date.
Vietnam’s steadily expanding gaming industry is seen as having among the best potential in Asia, with a pilot scheme allowing locals to gamble for the first time expected to spur further interest from international investors.
There’s never a dull moment when it comes to gaming in Asia and 2018 produced its fair share of surprises, many of them provided by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is keeping the gaming industry on its toes.
Myanmar looks set to be the next Asian jurisdiction to open its doors to IRs as the government seeks to attract much needed tourism dollars, with experts in the region predicting strong interest from potential investors.
Thailand would be a major draw for foreign investors were it to legalize its casino industry and would likely provide significant competition for other regional jurisdictions, according to panelists at the recent ASEAN Gaming Summit. The Southeast Asian country already has well-established tourist infrastructure pulling in more than 32 million visitors a year, though the real draw would be if locals were allowed to gamble.
Macau Legend has big plans for Laos after its $42 million purchase of Savan Vegas, but the Laos market remains volatile and somewhat hostile to foreign investment. Laos hit the headlines last year when the government put Savan Vegas out for bids having seized the resort from its foreign owners, Sanum Investments, over alleged tax liabilities. The sale generated interest from six buyers, including Macau junket promoter Iao Kun Group and casino operator Macau Legend.
Casinos across Asia must find a way to balance innovative new payment solutions with a labyrinth of multi-jurisdictional AML, compliance and responsible gaming requirements, according to a number of industry insiders. One supplier told AGB on condition of anonymity that innovation in the payments space "remains a thorny issue", adding that while operators don’t want to lose customers, the need to adhere to strict AML requirements tends to take precedence.
With signs Macau is well on the road to recovery; the Philippine market growing in double digits; and the prospect of casinos in Japan, 2017 is starting on a more promising note for Asia’s casino industry. We asked some of our contributors to give us their predictions for what will be the most notable events and trends of the year ahead.
To coin a popular phrase, 2016 really has been a year of two halves in the Asian gaming industry. To continue with the cliches, it’s also fair to say there have been a few curved balls along the route. Industry experts gave us their views of the year just passed, with the good, the bad and the ugly.
Proxy betting is booming in Asia’s grey markets, with live broadcasts of table games thought to be pulling in a chunk of Macau’s missing VIP billions, but this growth has led to concern over unclear regulations. Experts say that regulation will benefit the entire industry, though regulators should take care not to confuse the increasingly popular video-streaming services with online gambling.
Nepal’s casino industry is forecast to bounce back in 2016 after a devastating earthquake last year and an unofficial border blockade imposed by India. According to Union Gaming Analytics, an industry consultant, the Indian market could have the potential for US$4 billion in gaming revenue and Nepal casino insiders say operators are perfectly positioned to attract those players.The industry in Nepal has faced a tumultuous few years, with the government shuttering all casinos in 2014 after failure to comply with new regulations and pay outstanding license fees. The casinos began reopening in 2015, with many under new management, only to be hit by an earthquake in April, followed up by an unofficial border blockade by India.
iGaming Congress 2015 round up by Jorge Godinho* The English Premier League continues to dominate the booming Asia sports betting market, helped by the fact that games are shown widely across the region and played in Asian prime time, however the Spanish league is gaining in popularity, the iGaming Asia conference heard last week.The iGaming Asia Congress, organized by Beacon, is a regular feature of the busy conference scene in Macau and this year’s event took place on March 17-19 at Melco Crown Entertainment’s City of Dreams resort. The event attracted more than 350 executives from the online gambling sphere. Although there are no specific figures on sports betting in Asia, about 44 percent of global gross gambling revenue from sports betting is thought to come from the region, and about 70 percent of global in-play betting according to a panel that included Ladbrokes, SBOBET, SBTech and BetConstruct.However punters are wary of some non-European leagues, as they are seen as posing a corruption risk and do not attract much betting. There have been various scandals of match-fixing or even totally non-existing games, called ‘ghost matches’. Betting firm SBOBET was recently the victim of such a ghost match that allegedly took place in Belarus and on which they paid out, but it was later discovered that the match never took place.In terms of betting trends, the majority of bets are made in-play, that is, during the event, and most of the revenue now comes from mobile devices.However, the latest novelty includes so-called ‘cash-out’ bets, which provide the possibility of settling the bet before the event has finished. Another is ‘fast markets’ bets, such as betting on what will happen in the next minute or five minutes, which allows many bets and settlements during a single game.The conference heard from Michael Charlton, General Manager - China for Ladbrokes and Geaspar Byrne, Head of Strategic Planning, that Beijing’s recent crackdown on online gambling may be linked to its own footballing aspirations. Authorities may be making a concerted effort to regulate the market ahead of the introduction of a proposed new soccer lottery to raise funds to develop the sport in China.The country has ambitious goals to improve the quality of its teams and a new lottery is one way of potentially raising the necessary revenue. Beijing is ultimately eyeing a bid to organize the FIFA World Cup in 2026. The existing Sports Lottery in China is booming, with last year’s World Cup in Brazil helping to drive revenue and highlighting the popularity of the sport. The Sports Lottery’s sales gained almost 33 percent in 2014 to RMB176.41 billion ($28.5 billion), although this has decreased by about half in 2015 following announcements by several online lottery distributors that they were closing down their online operations.During the conference, there was also much discussion related to the legality of online betting in Asia, including the difficulties that raises for sports sponsorship and advertising. As many jurisdictions restrict the advertising of online gaming, companies need to be creative and, for example, have brand ambassadors such as snooker players or other celebrities. Once acquired, Asian customers may stay for a relatively long time and the longevity of a site effectively tells the customer that it can be trusted, although the critical issue from a player perspective is the speed of payments.Online gambling is not legal in many jurisdictions and there is a certain ebb and flow. Operators may be prosecuted and payment processors, always a critical part, may be targeted by the authorities. A case in point is Singapore, which recently passed tough legislation against online gaming. All online betting sites were blocked and local financial institutions cannot process the payments. According to the new Remote Gambling Act no company anywhere in the world may take bets from Singapore, under threat of criminal sanctions. Matt Pollins, associate at law firm Olswang, said that enforcement may include arrests of company executives at Changi airport and extradition requests to Singapore, although it is debatable whether this would actually happen. The new law does not apply to social gaming, which provided the focus of attention for the first day’s sessions. The social gaming market in Asia is booming due to the explosion in the use of smartphones and tablets. A growing number of people in Asia only connect to the internet via mobile phones, and in many sites the vast majority of the traffic comes from mobiles. In Hong Kong there are 2.4 phones per person on average, and the hours spent using them are much higher in Asia than in Europe or America. Very often the devices are used as a second screen, given the modern propensity to multitasking and to have short attention spans. A presentation by Oona Chan, Head of Broadcasting for the Hong Kong Jockey Club, provided an excellent example of how their app can greatly enhance traditional passive TV viewing and provide a wealth of additional information not available elsewhere. However, speakers agreed that it is still very early days for wearable devices such as smart watches to have a significant impact in the market.The prize Asian markets are currently Japan, Korea and China. Various speakers stressed the need to localize the applications, adapting them to the particular tastes and preferences of each country and sometimes region. This may mean for example the inclusion of auspicious objects or the need to have native speakers in the customer support lines.Social gaming business is conducted using models such as free to play (free with subsequent purchases) and pay to play (either an upfront payment or a monthly subscription). However, the vast majority of players never buy anything and just play the free parts. The main platforms are iOS and Android, which take 30 percent of the gross revenue. Game developers must also pay publishers. Integration with social networks, such as for login, is quite important to generate traffic, as in each country there may be a dominant one. Loyalty points or rewards, virtual or real-world, help retain business, as well as good customer support.A special session on India moderated by Tim Shepherd, COO of Silver Heritage Group, highlighted that it is the largest untapped gaming market in the world due to a basic prohibition arising from a law passed in 1867. Vidushpat Singhania of FICCI confirmed that there is horse racing, lotteries, casinos in Goa, Daman and Sikkim, and online gaming only in the latter state. Gaming is regulated at state level and not at federal level. There is an acceptance of games of skill such as Rummy, and of social gaming, but the situation in online gaming may not change unless there is serious lobbying and a huge shift in public opinion. In any case, a speaker stressed that the situation may evolve and therefore interested companies should position themselves. A panel of speakers including the founder of the Bitcoin Foundation, Jon Matonis, Jiten Melwani, CEO of BitGame Labs, and Daniel Schwartzkopff of BetVIP also discussed gaming operations that use Bitcoin, the decentralized digital currency that uses peer-to-peer technology. Bitcoin transactions provide immediacy, privacy and irreversibility and cover all jurisdictions worldwide, which does not happen with major credit cards. Bitcoin payments, which do not require a bank account and do not incur processing fees, are popular in grey market online gambling and in fact 40 percent of all Bitcoin transactions relate to gaming. However, licensed operators should not try to operate using normal currencies as well as Bitcoin, as customer due diligence checks mandated by anti-money laundering laws may be difficult or impossible to perform. Many regulators do not allow this and may require the use of registered wallets or otherwise cancel the license of operators who do not satisfactorily comply.Another panel was devoted to the European sports betting scene, which is rapidly changing under pressure from the financial crisis and the European Commission. A significant number of jurisdictions are expected to start licensing operators in 2015, including Portugal, Greece, Romania, Serbia, Hungary, Liechtenstein and the largest market, Germany. However, a system whereby a single license would allow to offer betting services in all 28 European Union jurisdictions is not going to materialize any time soon.The gradual expansion of poker in Asia was touched upon. David Jung of Hero Poker maintained that online poker does not cannibalize offline poker, and in fact the integration between both is probably the best way to operate. In China there has been acceptance of poker, with tournaments being held in Hainan Island. In Macau, poker started in 2007 at the Grand Waldo and PokerStars is now operating at the City of Dreams.-- * Jorge Godinho is a visiting professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Macau and an AGB Legal advisor.