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Proxy betting booming in Manila: Morgan Stanley

So-called proxy betting – gambling done by telephone by players not physically present in the casino – is growing rapidly in casinos in Manila, the capital of the Philippines (pictured), said a note on Monday from Morgan Stanley Research Asia Pacific.

“Proxy betting has been growing rapidly in Manila, which is supported by Pagcor,” said the note, referring to the local gaming regulator the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

“It could represent as much as 50 percent of VIP revenue in Manila, versus 5 percent to 10 percent in Macau,” said the report by Praveen Choudhary, Alex Poon and Thomas Allen.

On October 29, GGRAsia broke the news that in Macau, Sands China Ltd had decided to ban junket operators from running telephone betting in VIP rooms in its Macau properties. GGRAsia subsequently heard from industry sources that at least one other Macau casino operator had taken similar action.

An industry source has told GGRAsia that one major concern about telephone betting – offered in some markets to VIP players rather than mass market ones – is that it potentially breaks the “know your customer” protocol. Such a protocol is encouraged under best international practices for tackling the threat of money laundering.

But Daiwa Securities Group Inc said in a note on February 26 that those Macau operators banning proxy betting in VIP rooms risked losing market share.

The Morgan Stanley team said on Monday: “Wynn [Macau] has allowed proxy betting (after shutting it down in the fourth quarter) to cushion the decline; and recent [property] renovation might help it maintain market share, but overall market growth remains below expectation.”

Li Gang warning

The Morgan Stanley note mentioning proxy betting in the Philippines comes as the South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper last week reported Li Gang, director of the Central People’s Government Liaison Office in Macau, warning Chinese officials – via comments to the Beijing News – that they were being watched in Macau.

“As the crackdown on graft is stepped up, some corrupt officials – including executives of some state-owned enterprises – now dare not go to Macau to gamble,” Mr Li reportedly said.

“Moreover, because of measures taken by Macau’s gambling industry, if such officials go gambling in Macau, they will be discovered,” Mr Li added. Neither the Beijing News nor the SCMP said whether any fresh measures were being taken.

“The Chinese government continues the anti-corruption drive, specifically targeting Macau,” said the Wells Fargo Securities LLC gaming analytics team of Cameron McKnight, Rich Cummings and Tiffany Lee, in a note on Friday.

Morgan Stanley said in its Monday note that Chinese junkets were currently drawing more customers to destinations other than Macau, including South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Cambodia.

“Suncity, the largest junket in Macau with 30 percent market share, will be adding four VIP rooms in Solaire and City of Dreams Manila around mid-2015,” said Morgan Stanley, referring firstly to Suncity Group Ltd.

The Solaire Resort and Casino is operated by local firm Bloomberry Resorts Corp. City of Dreams Manila, which had its official opening in February, is operated by a unit of Macau casino firm Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd, which jointly developed it with companies linked to Filipino-Chinese billionaire Henry Sy.

– GGRAsia

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