In a somewhat surprising announcement that came in late August, Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced that it would be blacklisting a number of casinos in other countries and possibly banning travel to the locations where these casinos operate altogether.
The announcement stated that certain cities are endangering the personal and property safety of Chinese citizens and that action must be taken to limit this danger. The blacklist has not yet been revealed, so it is unknown which destinations will be on the ban list, but it is expected that Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Cambodia may find themselves on the list.
While such restrictions may seem as excessive and inappropriate in some parts of the world, the Chinese government seems to see them as reasonable. To what extent the ban will cover all travel to these countries remains to be seen at this time.
Of course, regardless of the blacklist, Chinese players cannot currently travel abroad to play as the coronavirus related travel restrictions are still in place. Instead, online casinos may be the best way to go for the time being and players can find the best online casinos in China if they visit online-casinos.com and look for sites that accept Chinese players.
What Countries May be Affected?
China has long had a problem with a part of its population, namely the rich, travelling to other countries and gambling in ways that are not possible within China. Not only does this go against Chinese laws which prohibit gambling, but it also takes a significant amount of cash out of the country and into foreign casinos.
Some of the countries that operate casinos mostly for Chinese visitors include Singapore, Korea, Cambodia, Philippines, Vietnam and Australia. While Korean casinos have already been slapped with some travel restrictions in 2017 and this has resulted in the VIP revenue generated by Chinese visitors in Korean casinos to take a significant dip.
This time around, the restrictions are likely to affect Vietnam, Cambodia and Philippines, which have become major VIP tourist locations over the last decade. The restrictions will probably focus on advertising and capital flow, while actual travel restrictions may also be imposed in limited capacity. This does not mean that Chinese people altogether will not be able to travel to the aforementioned countries.
Australia is another country that hosts casinos which Chinese visitors frequent and it is not clear if it will be included on the blacklist. Being a bit further away from mainland China, Australia may not be as big of a thorn in the eye of the Chinese government as the countries of Southeast Asia.
What about Macau?
The new directive of the Chinese government is supposed to ban players from gambling in international locations, although it remains unclear how exactly this is to be done. Foreign casinos are already banned from advertising within the country, but this has not prevented the VIP players from visiting them on a regular basis just the same.
If the directive is implemented successfully, the biggest beneficiary would probably be Macau. Technically speaking, Macau is not a foreign country and is a part of China so it will surely not be included in the blacklist. On the other hand, this Asian gambling hub would benefit greatly from VIP players not travelling to international locations to gamble.
For some years now, Macau has been suffering from a decline in VIP clientele and revenue within its casinos. With more and more VIP players travelling to exotic Asian countries, Macau casinos have been left with only a portion of the business they had just a decade ago.
If the new blacklist is to actually pass, the Macau casinos would see this as a great win. Chinese high stakes gamblers are not likely to stop gambling altogether, but if certain bans are imposed they may simply choose to travel to Macau, which is closer and easier to get to anyway.
Philippines to Lead the List
Of all the countries that may be included on China’s new blacklist, Philippines are likely to be the first and most important on it. This Asian country has continually been providing Chinese players with an opportunity to gamble both in its integrated resorts and through online casinos which continue to accept Chinese players.
Manila’s four integrated resorts focus greatly on Chinese players and are one of the heavens for Chinese high rollers. This may stop if the blacklist is to actually pass as Philippines should be the number one country listed there.
An even greater concern for Chinese government are the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs). These online casino sites are licensed within Philippines and they actively chase Chinese players to cater to, despite online gambling being strictly forbidden within China.
All appeals of the Chinese government to president Rodrigo Duterte to ban POGOs from accepting Chinese players have been to no avail, so not Philippines may find themselves at the top of this not very flattering list.
Vietnam to be Heavily Impacted
Vietnam is another destination that Chinese travellers have been flocking to in recent years, visiting its several integrated resorts. The coronavirus pandemic has affected the country as much as any other, with most international travel partially or completely restricted.
However, like most countries, Vietnam has been looking to restart tourism and start letting travellers back into the country in greater numbers. Last year alone, Vietnam hosted some 6 million Chinese travellers who came to the country to gamble.
Now, these numbers may be reduced even further as the pandemic coincides with the new gambling related travel restrictions. Some Vietnamese tourism workers have already criticized this potential move by the Chinese, as it comes as the worst time possible when Vietnam is trying to give new life to its tourism.
Resort Owners’ Stocks in Free-fall
The announcement by the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism came as a shock to many casino operators and owners who were actively preparing for the years ahead. Along with the already existing resorts, several others are currently in the works and may not be feasible without Chinese visitors coming in to spend their money.
Suncity Group is one of the major player in Asian gambling industry and has already lost over 10% of its stock value due to the possible impact on their Vietnam resort which is currently under construction. An even greater hit was dealt to Nagacorp whose stock went down by 14% in relation to their ownership of a Phnom Penh casino resort.
International casino resorts are already seeing massive loss of revenue due to the travel restrictions imposed in relation to the coronavirus pandemic, which has cut down the revenue of some resorts such as the Marina Bay Sands by as much as 99%. Numerous other tourist attractions around Asia are also suffering as a result of the coronavirus measures.
Macau Operators Celebrating
The greatest winner in the entire situation will surely be Macau, which has already announced that it would soon be lifting its entry ban, which was imposed due to coronavirus. A great number of applications for documents needed for Macau travel have already been requested and will only grow if other international locations become unavailable.
The greatest number of Macau visitors have always been from mainland China and these numbers can only grow if players are not able to visit other nearby casino resorts. The Macau VIP player revenue is expected to raise as much as 30%, which would be a major boost to Macau economy.
In a similar way that shares of companies that operate resorts in Vietnam and Cambodia have been going down, the shares of Galaxy Entertainment Group, Sands China and other Macau operators have gone up by over 10% in expectation of the fast growing revenue in the coming months.
Should Macau really get its hands on the players who will be left with fewer choices with the blacklist in place, its status as the Las Vegas of the East may very well be given new meaning. On the other hand, companies who run casino resorts in Southeast Asia will need to look for new revenue streams or shut down altogether.
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