Two new table game releases are helping Microgaming to redefine the online casino experience.
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Mike Halvorson is chief development officer, Sunshine Games, the sister company of Merkur Gaming Americas that was formed in 2016 to make games for the U.S. market and lead the Gauselmann Group’s charge into the highly competitive North American slot business.
As has been the trend of late, most of the talk and sstanding room-only sessions at the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) convention, held last month in San Diego, revolved around the topic of sports betting.
Indeed, many would likely agree that cashless is an area where the gaming industry needs to be more conservative moving forward. While consumers may enjoy the conveniences of cashless gaming, perhaps it is too soon for these types of payments to be fully-adopted by the land-based casino industry.
A spectacular drone light show lit up the night sky in Amador County, Calif. this past weekend as Harrah’s Northern California celebrated the official grand opening of Northern California’s only Caesars Rewards-affiliated casino.
As has been said so many times in so many different contexts, the four most dangerous words in the English language are: “This time, it’s different.” Innovation and driving down costs are what made America the economic colossus that it is.
When discussing a Macau tourist tax, it’s starting to look less like a question of if it will happen, and more like when. The Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) have launched a new survey on their website, and announced it in a press release.
The survey, which Macau residents can access via a QR code, will run from May 20 until June 20. It asks how citizens think the proceeds of a tourist tax should be spent, if one is implemented. In the release, they noted that the answer they receive “will become a significant consideration in the study.”
Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, head of the MGTO, told reporters on May 21 that the government still hasn’t settled on a tax, reports GGRAsia. “We are still collecting opinions,” she said. “There are different ideas, different opinions.”
The survey looks like it might play into the final decision of if a tax should be implemented as well. The release noted:
“By carrying out the month-long opinion poll, the office [MGTO] hopes to learn about the preference and points of view of residents regarding the feasibility of imposing tourist tax in Macau.”
Fernandes had previously floated the idea of a tourist tax in March. At the time, she announced the government would study how tourist taxes have been implemented in other countries, and consider if it would work for Macau. Some suggested the revenues should be used to promote the tourism industry, as a method of growing the economy even further.
The tourist tax idea stems from the feeling that Macau has started to reach the maximum capacity of visitors it can handle. Prior to the tourist tax, lawmaker Sulu Sou proposed a tourist cap as a method of easing the burden on the city’s infrastructure. That proposal was shot down pretty quickly.
Now that they’re asking how tax revenues should be spent, it seems more likely a tourist tax will push through. It’s now more of a question of how it will be implemented, and how aggressive the tax will be.
On May 20, it was announced that Filinvest would be pouring $200 million into their integrated casino resort in Clark City in the Philippines. This money will be invested as part of a provisional license that was granted by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) for the Casino and resort operation that is part of Filinvest Development Corporation (FDC).
The $200 million will be used toward an elaborate project. This will include a casino, a five-star hotel, a multi-purpose venue for events, even a mall. This appears to be part of an overall strategy for Filinvest that they have been looking to employ since receiving the provisional license in April 2018.
Working with the PAGCOR, the intention was to build such an elaborate project that it would attract foreign tourists to the Philippines. Positioned close to the airport, FDC president and CEO L. Josephine Yap envisioned that this project would be one that would attract tourists from both inside the Philippines and across Southeast Asia and into Oceana.
At the time the provisional licensure was granted, Yap explained:
“Now that we have secured the provisional license, we foresee further upsurge in tourist arrivals upon completion of the various project components. Its enviable location close to Clark International Airport makes it accessible to both domestic and international tourists.”
Even at the time of the official announcement, the company had already promised to invest the $200 million towards the resort project. The 201-hectare project would be located in the heart of the Clark Special Economic Zone, making it an ideal location to attract tourists.
Now all of that appears to be coming to fruition, as the company is ready to move forward to complete the casino-resort located 50 miles from Manila. That includes releasing the $200 million investment which is expected to be a small portion of what the overall amount committed to the project will be. “We see a lot of potential in this area, as Central Luzon registered 7.2 percent GDP growth in 2018, higher than the national growth rate,” Yap is quoted as saying.
Filinvest has been reaping the rewards of other projects the company is involved in. It was reported a few days ago that its property development arm, Filinvest Land Inc., saw a 24% increase in revenue in the first quarter of this year as compared to that of the same period of last year. Gross revenues rose 15% thanks to a 42% increase in rental revenues.
It has been sources of revenue such as this that have helped to give Filinvest the ability to develop long-term projects without feeling the pinch of having such large amounts of capital unavailable to them. “We are pleased with the first-quarter results, as we continue to experience growth in our recurring income business,” Yap explained, adding that the company had completely leased 118,000 square meters of property during the first quarter.
Macau’s tourism agency wants to make the city more than just one of the most successful gambling towns in the world. It is rolling out a plan that will include the development of more non-gaming and family-friendly activities in order to attract a more diverse tourism segment and part of that plan has come to life. The city’s popular Fisherman’s Wharf is getting its own virtual reality (VR) zone.
Launched through a partnership between Macau Fisherman’s Wharf and Japan-based Bandai Namco, the hot spot’s new VR Zone should officially launch this fall. It will be the first of its kind in the region and will help boost local entertainment options beyond gambling. Fisherman’s Wharf is home to Legend Palace and Babylon Casino.
The VR Zone will offer options for both children and adults, and Bandai Namco will also be launching a branded store on the site. The president of Macau Fisherman’s Wharf International Investment Limited (FWIIL), Melinda Chan Mei Yi, adds, “Since Macau is a tourist destination and our government wants to diversify our economy and build more non-gaming industries, this is something that Macau Fisherman’s Wharf wanted to establish.”
There are other projects being worked on for inclusion in Fisherman’s Wharf, as well. A restaurant with three Michelin stars will be coming to Legend Palace’s hotel this year and a dinosaur museum and meetings and conference center will most likely be ready to open sometime in 2020.
The FWIIL announced this past March that a VR experience was coming, but was light on the details. Chan had said at the time, “We’re working with a Japanese brand for this VR [virtual reality] project, but for now we cannot disclose its name. It is planned that in April there will be an agreement signing ceremony and by then the [partner’s] name will be made known.”
Bandai Namco is a manufacturer and publisher of video games, music and other entertainment options. Over the past 13 years, it has released video game titles such as Pac-Man World Rally, Ace Combat X, Dragon Ball Z, Mario Kart and Super Robot Wars, among others. Its games are found for consoles such as PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and for Microsoft Windows platforms.
When the Lucky Dragon was conceived as a future part of the Las Vegas landscape, it was designed with a very specific mission – to attract Asian gamblers. In order to help realize the dream, its developers went after Asian whales, promising residency in the US in return for sizeable investments through the country’s EB-5 visa program. Soon after its grand opening in 2016, it became obvious that the dragon was never going to roar and was forced out into the distant fields where casino dragons go to die. Unfortunately for those investors, they didn’t receive their residency or their investments and are now going after the developers to try to recuperate their funds.
The Lucky Dragon was forced into foreclosure and seized by Snow Covered Capital, its primary creditor, last year. After several failed attempts at finding a new owner, the venue finally found someone willing to purchase the property last month. It sold for just $36 million – pennies against the $160 million the casino cost to build and not enough to cover the amount that is still due the investment company.
The investors had to put up at least $550,000 in order to qualify for residency under the EB-5 program. 40 of them are now suing, arguing that the developers “fraudulently induced” the investments out of them.
The developers are looking at another lawsuit in addition to the investors’ suit. A high-rolling gambler and casino investor out of British Columbia, Jason Chen, is suing to recuperate a $400,000 deposit he had given to lease the casino only a month before it permanently shut off the lights. The lawsuit targets Andrew Fonfa of ASF Realty & Investments, one of the principle investors, who led “coordinated efforts” to obtain funds through “deceit and misrepresentation.” Fonfa acted as the Lucky Dragon’s chief financial officer and general manager when the venue first opened.
Snow Covered Capital is suing, as well. The firm is attempting to squeeze out any money it can in order to recover at least some of the money it put in.
The Lucky Dragon was anything but lucky from the start. It faced problems from the beginning and was only able to earn about 20% of its forecast revenue in the first 18 months of operation. The American dream became an American nightmare for a large number of investors, some of whom put in everything they owned.
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