NagaCorp — led by the NagaWorld casino in Phnom Penh, Cambodia — is projected to see 30 percent growth in VIP gaming during 2019, analysts CGS-CIMB reported in a recent note. That compares to Macau, the Chinese gambling hub, which is likely to see a drop in the mid-teens for the VIP segment.
NagaWorld uses what is described as a “defensive” approach to VIP gamblers, GGRAsia reported, quoting CGS-CIMB analyst Michael Ting. “NagaCorp’s VIP revenue base is more defensive and diversified, with only circa 50 percent of volume from Greater China,” Ting said.
Also, Cambodia has “increased business-related travel from China” and “reduced scrutiny on capital control measures versus Macau,” Ting adds. NagaCorp offers “higher junket commissions” compared to Macau, too, the note said.
The commissions are higher because Cambodian operations are not paying a direct tax on gross gaming revenue (GGR), GGRAsia explained. On the other hand, Macau imposes a 39-percent effective tax on GGR — which GGRAsia said is the largest in the Asia-Pacific region.
Macau VIP Gambling Falls in July
In contrast to Cambodia VIP play, VIP gambling in Macau dropped more than 20 percent in July.
“VIP demand deteriorated sharply toward the latter half of July with no obvious reason, in turn suggesting it could be a short-term blip amid heightened media attention on Hong Kong, given escalated protests and junkets,” JPMorgan analyst D.S. Kim said in early August. The analyst further admitted July was disappointing, but not “thesis-changing” in the long run.
Like with other areas of the Chinese economy, new tariffs imposed by the US on China may also have impacted gambling revenue in Macau.
Another possible influence on VIP gaming relates to Macau junket operator Suncity. It operates VIP gambling rooms around Asia that have raised billions of dollars from online gaming and proxy betting, Reuters said.
Suncity enabled Chinese players to bet through online casinos in the Philippines and Cambodia, and utilized underground banks to move capital out of the country, according to Economic Information Daily.
Nomura Holdings doesn’t believe the Suncity controversy kept VIPs away. “Many premium customers took the last 10 days [of July] to spend time with families. They always return though, so we view the slowdown as temporary,” the firm said.
But Bernstein released a note in late August that said the ongoing controversy related to Suncity has been an issue in Macau.
The negativity surrounding Suncity continues to pressure junket VIPs, as some agents withdraw some funds and some VIP players delay visiting Macau,” Bernstein analysts said last month. “Overall, negativity surrounding the geopolitical and macro situation continues to have impact on GGR.”
In mid-July, Alvin Chau, the CEO of Suncity Group, apologized to China for running online gambling operations from the Philippines and Cambodia that targeted Chinese citizens. Suncity has denied many allegations.
Macau GGR was disappointing in August, as casino win stumbled 8.6 percent to $3.01 billion. Through eight months of 2019, the Macau gaming industry was down two percent, with revenue at $24.5 billion.
Macau Less Dependent on VIPs
Overall market share in Macau is now less dependent on VIPs and more reliant on mass market play. In Deutsche Bank’s recent analysis, the industry share percentages highlight the reduced importance of the high roller.
Galaxy still controls the largest share of VIP casino revenue at 25.2 percent, but Sands is fourth at 16.2 percent. Wynn Macau (19.9 percent) and Melco Resorts (17.4 percent) both command more high rollers than the largest overall Macau market shareholder. CASINO.ORG