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Experts at G2E Asia peer into Asian gaming’s crystal ball

The emergence of new gaming destinations, regionally and further afield, and the future of non-gaming tourism in Macao, come up for discussion.

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The emergence of new gaming destinations, regionally and further afield, and the future of non-gaming tourism in Macao, come up for discussion.

ARTICLE BY

PUBLISHED

READING TIME

Less than 1 minute Minutes

The second day of Global Gaming Expo Asia (G2E Asia) 2023 took place at The Venetian Macao yesterday, with talks focusing on gaming in a post-pandemic “new world,” including a glimpse into the Asian gaming landscape a decade from now and a look the evolution of Macao’s non-gaming tourism sector.

Last held in 2019, G2E Asia is being staged in conjunction with the Asian IR Expo, which has convened stakeholders from the wider integrated resort sector, such as destination marketing organisations and travel companies.

Yesterday’s sessions included two-panel discussions moderated by gaming analyst and the managing director of 2NT8, Alidad Tash. The first looked at how key Asian gaming jurisdictions – from major players like Macao, Singapore and the Philippines to smaller centres such as  Malaysia and Cambodia – might be impacted by the potential development of gaming in Thailand, Japan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The panellists were Credit Suisse’s regional head of gaming research Kenneth Fong, Innovation Group partner and senior vice president Michael Zhu and gaming executive-turned-consultant Andy Choy.

“I think Thailand has a pretty big potential. Just Bangkok alone has seven times the number of Macao hotel rooms. The infrastructure is very service-oriented. I think it’s already quite comfortable for the mainland Chinese to go there,” said Fong.

He added that, since 30 percent of visitors to Thailand come from mainland China, Macao would be affected “a little bit” along with Singapore, “to a certain extent.” While agreeing some impact Thailand might have on Singapore, Zhu thought Cambodia and Vietnam would be the first victims if Thailand legalised casino gambling.

[See more: Speakers at G2E Asia explore a new era for Macao’s integrated resorts]

Macao gaming operators Galaxy and MGM were reported by Bangkok Post last month to be “studying the potential of opening casino resorts in the country”.

Thailand’s gross domestic product is 25 percent higher than the Philippines and the number of visitors visiting the country in 2019 was four to five times the Philippines, according to Choy, who said he was “very bullish” on Thailand.

“There’s obviously a lot of Chinese players going there [the Philippines] today,” he said, but he added that the country would be affected if Thailand emerged as a gaming hub in the region.

Fong meanwhile thought South Korea would be most impacted by the emergence of gaming in Japan, while Zhu was certain that the Philippines would be the one bearing the brunt. “The Koreans will go to Japan instead of the Philippines,” said Zhu. 

G2E Asia 2023
Michael Zhu (from left to right), Alidad Tash, Kenneth Fong and Andy Choy posed for a photo after their panel discussion during the G2E Asia 2023 at The Venetian Macao yesterday

South Korea has 18 casinos that welcome foreign citizens, while its own citizens are prohibited from entering all but one government-owned casino, Kangwon Land.

The UAE, on the other hand, is not expected to make much impact on the rest of Asian gaming jurisdictions. Instead, it would probably have an impact on gaming jurisdictions in the Middle East and Europe, including  Lebanon, Croatia, Montenegro and the United Kingdom, according to Choy.

“The UAE is going to suck up a lot of that business. There’s a lot of wealth in that region [UAE] and not a lot of gaming,” he said. “There’s already a lot of infrastructure in the UAE.”

Zhu agreed, “Think about the airlines and the location of the UAE. That’s really the crossroad for three continents. The air transportation industry is the best indicator of how strong the market will be in terms of visitation from three continents.”

[See more: Mass market gaming revenues could match pre-pandemic levels in three months]

Still the question remains: How big is Macao going to get in 10 years? Zhu said, “I wouldn’t be surprised Macao would have a much larger customer base,” with many of them being repeat customers.

Choy looked further ahead, to the expiration of Macao’s special status within China. “The most exciting year is the year 2049,” he said. “It’s just going to be amazing for Macao, as all the borders go away and Macao will become just another city of China and the GBA [Greater Bay Area] will really come alive.” 

The second-panel discussion highlighted Macao’s transition to non-gaming tourism and the local government’s efforts to develop the health, finance, and technology sectors, as well as a large-scale convention and events industry, as part of its economic diversification strategy.  

The panellists in this session were Davis Fong, director of Institute for the Study of Commercial Gaming and a tourism professor at the University of Macau; José Carlos Matias, director of Macau Business; and gaming consultant Niall Murray.

Among the issues raised in this discussion were labour, work permits and infrastructure, including the number of hotel rooms and the shortage of taxis in Macao.

Fong said specialist workers were urgently needed “I think the [local] government can help [Macao gaming] operators to introduce imported workers – for example to create a high-tech show, we don’t have any experts like that.”

The panellists agreed that the city’s existing work permit system needed to become more flexible if economic diversification was to be achieved.

G2E Asia 2023 will conclude today.

 

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