Macau’s casino operations may be flatlining on coronoavirus fears but at least one observer believes Asia’s online gambling market could come out a winner.
On Tuesday, Spring Owl Asset Management managing partner Jason Ader went on CNBC to declare that the coronavirus was a “wake-up call” for Asian governments who have consistently refused to consider legalizing online gambling in their home territories.
Ader, whose investments in the online gambling sector have included significant stakes in Playtech and a pre-GVC Bwin.party, told CNBC that “daily online gambling is up 90% over the Chinese New Year holiday compared to last year.” Ader called that an “an unbelievable number” and suggested land-based casino operators get with “the growing trend” of “converging around the world with online operators.”
Ader noted that the traditional land-based casino giants have so far been left out of Asia’s online gambling boom, while European gaming operators have staked out “leading positions.” Asian governments’ staunchly prohibitionist stances are resulting in “lost business and tax revenue” and Ader urged China to “legalize it, tax it [and] allow the Macau licensees to participate.”
Ader isn’t the only analyst suggesting the coronavirus would give a boost to long-distance, germ-free gaming, regardless of whether it’s legal. David Green told Macau’s Portuguese-language Lusa news agency that he foresaw “an increase in phone betting in casinos,” even though proxy betting was officially declared off-limits in Macau casino VIP rooms nearly four years ago.
Meanwhile, Chinese media reported that authorities have begun even stricter enforcement of anti-gambling laws, not focusing on major players but on small mom-and-pop operations, in order to reduce opportunities for the virus to spread. Authorities are urging anyone who knows of individuals getting together to gamble to call a fink hotline.
Chinese social media has even featured testimonials from weary millennials who have endured endless games of mahjong with their parents and grandparents in order to discourage them from venturing out to friends’ apartments to gamble. Yes, if only there was a legally acceptable online alternative…