SunCity opening four more VIP rooms in Manila, where proxy betting is all the rage

phililppines-suncity-proxy-bettingMacau casino junket operator SunCity Group will open four more VIP rooms in Manila casinos by mid-year, according to a note issued on Monday by Morgan Stanley Research Asia Pacific.

SunCity, whose share of Macau’s VIP market has been estimated at between 25% and 30%, already had a presence at Bloomberry Resorts’ Solaire Resort & Casino. SunCity will be bolstering its Solaire presence as well as expanding to Melco Crown Entertainment’s recently launched City of Dreams Manila property.

With no end in sight to Macau’s gaming revenue slump, SunCity and other junket operators are increasingly looking to other Asian gaming jurisdictions, where Beijing’s scrutiny is (presumably) less intense and VIPs can let their high-rolling impulses run wild.

The junket business suffered a liquidity crisis following last year’s $1.3b heist of junket investor funds. SunCity recently issued 200 shares of SunCity Group Manila to give investors a chance at owning a piece of the company’s growing subsidiary. The junket operator subscribed for half of these shares while the other 100 shares will be available to the public for the low low price of HKD 5m (US $645k) apiece. The offer closes March 31.

Telephone or ‘proxy’ betting is becoming all the rage in Manila casinos. Morgan Stanley says the activity – in which a trusted representative at the casino relays real-time card info to a high-roller located off-premise – could represent “as much as 50% of VIP revenue in Manila, versus 5% to 10% in Macau.” Morgan Stanley said local regulator PAGCOR supported proxy betting.

In February, Daiwa Securities reported that “at least one” of the two Macau casino operators that curtailed proxy betting in their VIP rooms last year had quietly resumed the practice. Sands China was confirmed as one of those operators while the other was believed to be Wynn Macau. The Morgan Stanley report claimed Wynn Macau had indeed decided to resume proxy betting “to cushion the decline” in Macau’s VIP revenue.

With Beijing’s top man in Macau recently warning public officials that they were being watched, proxy betting is increasingly seen as a preferred option to having to physically identify oneself at a VIP room, be it in Macau or Manila.