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Macau casino boss buys second Gold Coast shopping centre

Sun, Dec 22, 11:31am by Noah Taylor

Macau casino boss Loi Keong Kyong has exchanged contracts to buy Surfers Paradise retail centre Circle on Cavill from EG Funds Management for about $65 million.

The AFR reports the deal was his second high-profile commercial property acquisition on the Gold Coast in the past 18 months.

Mr Loi had earlier purchased Gold Coast shopping centre Soul Boardwalk, at the base of the $850 million Soul tower at Surfers Paradise, for $90 million in June 2018.

EG previously bought the Circle on Cavill centre from the receivers of failed property developer Octaviar, formerly MFS, for $40 million in 2011.

Since buying the centre, they have spent $13 million on upgrades.

The 12,364 square metre centre is anchored by Woolworths.

It also includes national tenants Hurricane’s Grill, San Churro Chocolateria and Strike Bowling.

Macau holding junket operators to account

Macau is putting its junket operators under tighter regulatory scrutiny following Suncity Group’s week to forget, but have so far found no major infractions.

Calvin Ayre reported in July Paulo Martins Chan, head of Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Policy bureau told local Portuguese-language TV channel TDM-Macau that the DICJ had conducted snap inspections of 25 VIP gaming rooms in seven Macau casinos on July 10 but failed to detect any signs of illegal activity.

Chan later told GGR Asia that the VIP rooms targeted for these spot checks included some run by the Suncity Group junket, which reportedly controls more than 40 per cent of Macau’s VIP market.

Chan told TDM that neither Suncity nor its chairman Alvin Chau were currently under investigation by authorities in either Macau or mainland China.

The July 10 inspectors came one day after a Chinese state-run newspaper accused Suncity of being among the biggest operators of China-facing online gambling sites.

With the exception of the official lotteries, all gambling is strictly prohibited on the mainland.

Suncity issued a denial of the claims made in the report, but the DICJ summoned representatives of Macau’s junket and casino operators to remind them of the illegality of online gambling within Macau.

Suncity’s Chau staged a press conference last Saturday to repeat his company’s denials of illegal activity, while pledging that it would now conduct all its global operations based on what was and wasn’t legal in Macau.

Suncity operates VIP rooms in other Asia-Pacific casino markets, including the Philippines, which at one point was said to derive half its gaming revenue from proxy betting, in which a customer on the Chinese mainland can wager through a proxy seated at the gaming table who relays real-time card information by phone or video feed.

Macau formally prohibited proxy betting in its VIP rooms way back in 2016, although stamping out the activity completely proved tougher than simply issuing the order.

The use of live streaming via social media such as WeChat has become common among illegal proxy betting operations.

Junkets are under pressure at the moment as Macau’s fabled VIP gambling market continues to shrink. This week, the DICJ revealed that VIP gambling revenue declined nearly 16% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2019, making the second consecutive quarter in which mass market gaming has claimed a larger slice of the market than VIP.

Macau revenue down in November after down year

Macau casino gaming revenue had a challenging November, but the final numbers were slightly better than most had forecasted.

Calvin Ayre reported earlier this month that the figures released in November by Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau show the special administrative region’s casino operators generated gaming revenue of US$2.84 billion in November, an 8.5 per cent decline from the same month last year and a 13.5 per cent dip on October’s number.

November’s decline is the seventh month of year-on-year declines so far in 2019, and the 8.5 per cent decline was second only to the 8.6 per cent fall suffered in Macau in August.

November’s revenue was the second lowest this year, above only September’s.

Macau’s currently woe have largely been laid at the doors of the casinos’ VIP rooms, which have struggled as high-rollers give Macau a wide berth.

The VIP drop off has been attributed to a number of factors, including tightened liquidity for some manufacturing executives as the US-China trade war drags on and Chinese authorities’ renewed interest in the activities of certain junket operators.


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