Casino results fresh evidence of gaming world’s eastward tilt

TAGs: Atlantic City, Macau, Nevada, Singapore, Wynn Resorts

America’s two biggest land-based gaming jurisdictions delivered their latest report cards on Thursday. In Nevada, casino winnings were $10.4b in 2010, an underwhelming 0.1% growth over 2009’s tally. In Atlantic City, gambling revenue dropped another 13% in Janurary to $255.4m. That’s four straight years of declines, which makes AC something like the Cleveland Cavaliers of casino gaming. AC’s malaise must be catching; since December, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has twice approved casino requests to remove a total of 284 unprofitable slot machines from their gaming floors. Yup, good times.

gaming-world-eastward-tiltWynn Resorts Ltd. released its specific financials on Thursday. Net income in Wynn’s Q4 was $114.2m, a substantial turnaround from the previous year’s Q4 loss of $5.22m. For this, CEO Steve Wynn credits the April opening of Encore Macau, the company’s second casino property in the Asian gambling hotbed. Overall, Wynn’s Macau revenue jumped 79% year on year. Small wonder Steve can’t wait for his company to break ground on its third Macau property in March.

Singapore is also booming. Spurred by the opening of its own two integrated resorts in April, the city-state’s tourism rate hit a record high in 2010. Visitors from abroad rose 20% last year, while the money they spent during their stay rose 49%. While 11.6m visitors spending US $14.7b would be cause for a ticker tape parade in Atlantic City, Singapore expects to see 17m visitors spending $30b by 2015. And it all came about because Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong felt Singapore had an “unexciting” reputation. Consider us excited.

Despite the fact that locals have to pay a stiff cover charge to enter Singapore’s casinos, for many, it’s a price worth paying. In a conversation with PBS, former Ambassador to the United Nations and current Ambassador-At-Large Tommy Koh described the four priorities for Singaporeans as: family, food, money and gambling. Wow… Sex isn’t even on that list. (Or maybe that’s why you need the money.) It’s universally accepted in the West that Asians have a strong gambling culture. Or perhaps it’s the same gambling culture as ours, minus the self-righteous moralizing and demonization.

Whatever the culture, the gaming market (land-based or online) is tilting east. The US will remain a top market but it will never (not in our lifetimes, anyway) experience the kind of growth spurt that Asia is currently undergoing. Especially since US casinos can no longer depend on Asian ‘whales’ flying into town, dropping a seven- or eight-figure sum at their gaming tables, then flying (or swimming) back across the Pacific. With Macau and Singapore as options, these whales only have to beach themselves and they can play baccarat for millions right there at the waterline. Nowadays, a big name gambling in Las Vegas is Floyd Mayweather Jr. No disrespect, but whatever weight class Floyd fits into nowadays, he’s certainly no heavyweight.


views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of