Singapore exercising care with junkets

Junket businesses and their access to high-end gamblers are just what Singapore casino operations need.

I’m being somewhat facetious.

It’s not like the island-nation’s two casinos are hurting for customers.

Last year, the Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa combined for $5.42 billion in gaming revenues. To put that figure in perspective, 55 Las Vegas Strip-area casinos produced $6.068 billion in gaming revenues in 2011.

Several analysts believe the 2-year-old Singapore casino market — which is capped at just two resorts at least until 2017 — will eventually surpass the Strip, maybe even this year.

So why would Singapore put everything at risk by climbing into partnership with junket operators?

The businesses, which are synonymous with Macau’s $33.5 billion gaming market, are under a spotlight. An investigative website alleges Macau’s junket business is heavily influenced by Chinese organized crime triads.

Junket operators have the ability to increase business volumes. They also reduce credit risk and bad debt because they have a closer understanding of a gambler’s financial background and can collect on markers.

In late March, the Casino Regulatory Authority of Singapore licensed two junket companies to bring high-end customers to Resorts World Sentosa, which is operated by the Malaysia-based Genting Group.

The junkets can now lure players to Resorts World in exchange for a commission on the wagers.

One difference is they are no longer referred to as junket operators in Singapore.

“We have decided to use the term, International Market Agents, to more accurately describe what these agents do,” Authority Chief Executive Lau Peet Meng told Singapore media. “They will focus on bringing in foreign high rollers to our casinos, and they will not target our locals.”

The marketing agents are based in Malaysia, not China or Macau. Also, Singapore officials granted the businesses licenses for just one year. At the hearing, 14 junket operators applied, but only two were approved.

JP Morgan gaming analyst Joe Greff said Singapore “remains focused on allowing the market to continue to grow and evolve, while also adhering to strict local laws and regulations.”

Union Gaming Group principal Grant Govertsen, who is based in Macau, said he doesn’t believe the junket business will have much impact on Singapore’s casino market. The operators are only licensed for Resorts World and can’t bring business to the Marina Bay Sands, which is owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp.

“The (Authority’s) language is quite forceful, suggesting licensees will be continually subjected to suitability tests upon pain of revocation,” Govertsen said. “Given a very onerous licensing process, as well as the government’s traditionally cautious approach, we do not expect a flood of junket approvals in the near term.”

Las Vegas Sands has not tipped its hand if it will have junket operators do business with the Marina Bay Sands, which accounted for almost $3 billion in gaming revenues last year.

During the JP Morgan investment conference in Las Vegas in March — before the two junkets were licensed — Las Vegas Sands President of Global Gaming Operations Rob Goldstein said the company would participate if Singapore approves junkets.

He said junket operations in Singapore, however, would operate in “a very, very restrictive environment.”

Goldstein said Las Vegas Sands handles its Singapore gaming the old-fashioned way; “very focused on a sales team that can go direct to the customer.”

Singapore, which legalized gaming as a way of increasing tourism, was restrictive with its casinos from the start. Gaming was mandated to be an amenity at the two operations. Marina Bay Sands has more than 1 million square feet of retail and 1.2 million square feet of convention space. Resorts World operates a Universal Studios theme park. Singapore residents also pay $100 per day to enter the casinos.

The moves didn’t slow gaming, obviously.

Although analysts have wondered how Singapore might emulate Macau, it won’t happen in the junket business. Macau has 219 licensed junket operators. Ultimately, you might be able to count Singapore’s total on one hand.

The International Union of Operating Engineers in Washington, D.C., is sponsoring Casinoleaks-Macau.com, which has posted hundreds of documents alleging ties between the triads and junket-operated VIP rooms inside Macau’s casinos, including those operated by Nevada based companies.

Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts Ltd. have remained silent on the matter. MGM Resorts International, however, called the website’s charges “baseless.” The company cited its self-policing policies and suitability procedures that keep its junket operators in line.

Singapore, it seems, is taking steps so there is no confusion between its International Market Agents and Macau’s tainted junket businesses.

Howard Stutz’s Inside Gaming column appears Sundays. He can be reached at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. He blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/stutz.
Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

Business
Dig This opens new location In Las Vegas
Remember when you were a kid and played with construction toys in the sand box? Dig This Las Vegas has the same idea, except instead of toy bulldozers, you get to play with the real thing. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Town Square developer Jim Stuart building again in Las Vegas
Las Vegas’ real estate bubble took developers on a wild ride, something Jim Stuart knows all too well. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Salon opens at Veterans Village
T.H.E. Salon, owned by Nicole Christie, celebrated their opening at the Veterans Village with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Southwest Airlines considering Las Vegas-Hawaii flights
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly says the airline is "very focused" on Hawaii. Hawaiians have a strong presence in Las Vegas.The city’s unofficial status is “Hawaii’s ninth island.” In 2018, at least 2,958 people from Hawaii moved to Nevada. Of those, 88.7 percent moved into Clark County, according to driver license surrender data. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, 310,249 people came to Las Vegas from Hawaii in 2018.
Fewer Nevadans are celebrating Valentine's Day
Fewer Nevadans are celebrating Valentine's Day. About 1.2 million Nevadans are expected to celebrate this year, a 5 percent drop from 2018. A growing number of people consider Valentine’s Day over-commercialized. Others weren’t interested in the holiday or had nobody to celebrate with. But spending is expected to rise. Those who do celebrate are buying for more people. The average American is expected to spend about $162 this year for Valentine’s Day, a 57 percent jump from a decade prior. Katherine Cullen, director of industry and consumer insights at NRF
Foreclosures of mansions in Las Vegas
Las Vegas was ground zero for America's foreclosure crisis after the housing bubble burst. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rick Helfenbein talks about the impact of tariffs on the clothing industry
MAGIC fashion convention showcases men's clothing trends
The MAGIC fashion convention has come to Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase some of the hottest clothing trends for men. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Allegiant Air flight attendants learn how to handle a water landing
Field instructor Ashleigh Markel talks about training prospective flight attendants for Allegiant Air getting live training with a raft for a water landing at the Heritage Park Aquatic Complex in Henderson on Monday. (John Hornberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks about the new Smith & Wollensky restaurant coming to the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian in Las Vegas.
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks about the new Smith & Wollensky restaurant coming to the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian in Las Vegas.
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery talks about Las Vegas return
Michael Feighery, CEO of Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, discusses the restaurant's upcoming return to the Las Vegas Strip.
Apartments to Come to Hughes Center
Developer Eric Cohen discusses his current building project at the Hughes Center office park in Las Vegas, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Stratosphere to rebrand to The STRAT
The Stratosphere, a 1,150-foot-tall property in Las Vegas will be renamed The STRAT Hotel, Casino and Skypod.
Local designers’ picks for the Las Vegas Market
The trends that local interior designers are noticing at the Las Vegas Market this year. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trends in bath products at Las Vegas Market
Camille Herd, the showroom manager for European Bath Kitchen Tile & Stone, talks about the popularity of free-standing bath tubs. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Kitchen trends at Las Vegas Winter Market
Las Vegas Winter Market displayed kitchen trends that mirror common dining accessories at Strip eateries. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Emerging trends in gifts at Las Vegas Market
Julie Smith Vincenti, curator for the First Look showroom tour on gifts and lifestyle, talks about the emerging trends in those categories for this season. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Las Vegas house prices are rising
Southern Nevada home prices were up 12 percent year-over-year in November.
Caesars Republic Scottsdale
Caesars Entertainment Corp. is building its first non-gaming hotel in the United States in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Caesars Entertainment Corp.)
Interior designer Mikel Welch talks about trends for Las Vegas Market
Interior designer Mikel Welch, who also is the on-camera designer for TLC’s Trading Spaces, discusses the trends he sees for the 2019 Las Vegas Winter Market. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
SHOT Show 2019: MEGGITT Virtual Training
MEGGIT showcases its virtual training system at SHOT Show 2019 in Las Vegas.
MGM delivers 700 meals to TSA workers at McCarran
Chefs at Garde Manger at Mandalay Bay provided 700 meals to federal employees who are affected by the government shutdown. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
SHOT Show 2019: A "nonsemi-automatic” weapon
Brandon Dunham of Nevada-based Franklin Armory show off the company’s new rifle prototype it calls a “nonsemi-automatic” weapon. The gun does not use a gas system to fire.
Las Vegas-based concrete repair company knows how to beat the heat
ART Concrete Solutions, a Las Vegas concrete-repair firm, addresses the challenges of construction in the extreme heat and sun of Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas based company brings color to concrete in the desert heat
Semco Modern Seamless Surface, a Las Vegas surface engineering company, knows how to put color in concrete construction in the Vegas heat. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Fun photo booth at World of Concrete
World of Concrete show at the Las Vegas Convention Center sponsored by DeWalt gives conventioneers a chance for photos with giant tools. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
SHOT Show 2019: Laserstar Technologies
Laerstar Technologies showed off their laser engraving machines, that can be used to personalize anything from guns and knives, to medical tools and household items. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
World of Concrete Show has big equipment on display
World of Concrete Show has big equipment on display at the Las Vegas Convention Center including an impact crusher, concrete pump and a self-erecting portable concrete batch plant. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Shot Show 2019: Kalashnikov USA shows off new products
Jonathan Mossberg of Kalashnikov USA talks about new products on display at Shot Show 2019 in Las Vegas.
ad-high_impact_4
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing