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China to crackdown on gamblers' travel

Feb 9, 2015 7:15 PM

China to crackdown on gamblers' travelChina’s President Xi Jinping didn’t like what was going on in Macau so he ordered a crackdown on corruption and the “conspicuous” spending of China’s millionaires. That caused Macau, which had become the world’s hottest gaming community, to see its numbers fall for eight consecutive months.

But, it didn’t stop the gamblers.

Rather than spend their bucks in Macau they moved on to other Asian gaming sites such as South Korea, the Philippines and Australia.

And that isn’t sitting well with Chinese officials either.

They are claiming this has exacerbated the problem of “illegal gambling” and promise a crackdown, as well.

“Some foreign countries see our nation as an enormous market, and we have investigated a series of cases (of illegal gambling),” said Hua Jingfeng, a deputy business chief at China’s Ministry of Public Security.

“A fair number of neighboring countries have casinos, and they have set up offices in China to attract and drum up interest from Chinese citizens to go abroad and gamble. This will also be an area that we well crack down on,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Hua added that the government was seeking to crack down on a “small number” of police and government officials who are guilty of collusion in covering up gambling and providing an umbrella of protection for it.

In Macau, says gambling tycoon Sheldon Adelson, the casino operators have to consider cutting back on gaming tables and increasing their non-gaming development.

Speaking with the Macau Gambling Times, in an exclusive interview last week, Adelson claimed he was in the forefront of developing non-gaming facilities.

“We originated non-gaming development. We built a meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) industry here. We built a 15,000-seat arena when no one else would. We put Macau on the map as a shopping destination,” he said.

His attitude was consistent with the requests of China’s Xi who in a visit to Macau last December advised the community to diversify away from casino gambling.

While government officials announce a review of the gambling concessions based on their contribution to the diversification of the economy, Adelson focuses on his company’s leadership in diversification.

“When I came out to Cotai,” where each of Macau’s gambling concession operators are involved in building new gambling/entertainment complexes, “I thought I was being exiled,” Adelson said.

“But, then I had a vision to build the equivalent of the Las Vegas Strip. I did things that everyone else has followed.”

Despite a Macau gambling slowdown, Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS) reported an 11 percent growth in EBITDA during the fourth fiscal quarter.

“There is nothing more predictable, and cyclical, than the tourist business. Development happens, then you get competition, then things start to change. But it always comes back.

“That is what is happening now…I can’t see anything wrong with the outlook for Macau over the remainder of the concession period, despite what is going on now, and we are very well-placed to capitalize on that with our diverse spread of offerings,” he said.

Ray Poirier is the longtime executive editor at GamingToday.

Contact Ray at [email protected].

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