In its latest report on Hainan gaming, Union Gaming (UG) indicated that the Hong Kong-listed concessionaires in Macau saw a collective loss of US$4.3 billion in market cap. The loss represents a 3.7% decline, and is a product of news that five hotels in Hainan could soon begin offering small, very low-stakes rooms for games such as baccarat. While the games are real-money games, the payouts are provided through resort amenities and other prizes.
The move comes following a recent verdict in a four-year-old court case involving the Sanya Bay Mangrove Resort. The Mangrove had been operating a similar game before it was shut down by police. This past December, a court in Hainan ruled that the operations didn’t break any laws.
UG analyst Grant Govertsen said of the new gaming options, “This is similar to the way pachinko operates in Japan—and we would take this one step further to say that the government of China will be paying close attention and will react quickly (and negatively for the hotel operators) should they begin to press their luck and do anything beyond low-stakes prize-oriented games; anything else would be in contravention of China’s constitution.”
Govertsen said that there is no comparison between the Hainan gaming options and the casinos in Macau. “Having visited one of these entertainment facilities in Sanya in the past we feel very comfortable that they in no way represent a risk to Macau other than in the abstract,” he explained.
“While small stakes ‘wagering’ on a small number of tables might be tolerated for a period of time in order to keep some of the resorts in the black, any small step the Hainan operators take to offer legitimate gambling will be met with an immediate and harsh reaction from the authorities,” Govertsen said. “As we noted in April, even if true casino gambling was legalized in Hainan the risk to Macau’s Big 6 is negligible. This is because there would likely be no measurable impact to mass market GGR as mass is convenience based and Hainan is simply not convenient for virtually all of Macau’s mass customers.”
The analyst closed by pointing out that the risk is greater with the VIP segment, but even this is “limited to a few hundred basis points of VIP GGR.” He added that the gaming expansion would more than likely be limited to only one or two casinos, as opposed to the 40 casinos in Macau.