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China – Hainan hotels pushing for prize-oriented table games

By - 20 June 2018

At least five Chinese-owned hotels on the Chinese holiday island Hainan are pushing to offer prize-oriented table games in their converted ballrooms.

Known as Entertainment Bars, players would spend real money plating baccarat but would be rewarded with points which can be redeemed at shops and restaurants within the hotel.

Ben Lee, Managing Partner at consultancy IGamiX said in a statement to Bloomberg, said: “From our conversations with people on the ground, they are positively excited about the changes that appear to be coming through soon. Entertainment bars would undoubtedly draw mainlanders who have never been overseas to try gaming. We may see more interesting developments in the next five to ten years.”

The latest push follows a court ruling back in December that stated a gaming operation set up in this way in the Sanya Bay Mangrove Resort Hotel wasn’t in breach of legislation. It was closed down in 2014 after a year of operation.

Union Gaming’s Head of Equity Asia Research, Grant Govertsen, said: “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.

“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.”

“Having visited the entertainment facility at Mangrove when it previously operated we can definitively say that its potential reopening (and the potential opening of a few other rooms inside neighboring resorts) represents no threat to Macau from virtually any point of view (quality, scale, amenities, culture, experience, luxury, customer service, and most importantly, true gambling).”

“The government has made it clear that they have no plans to allow full-fledged casino gambling in Hainan as casinos remain forbidden per the constitution,” he added. “Keep in mind that as part of the anti-corruption campaign the government made it a point that officials shouldn’t even play mahjong given its gambling characteristics. We believe the court ruling that could allow prize-oriented table games does not contradict the constitution as – like Japan’s pachinko industry – it is for entertainment purposes only and is low stakes. 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.”

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