The sale of Las Vegas Sands’ properties in Las Vegas coming so soon after the death of Sheldon Adelson does feel like the closing of a chapter in global gaming.
The company, now under its new Chief Executive, is putting its chips on Asia. Sands listed Macau, Singapore and South Korea as its “principal areas of future development interest”.
Even prior to the sale of its Las Vegas properties, Sands was already heavily weighted in favour of Asian markets, with around 90% of its EBITDA coming from Macau and Singapore.
In Macau, the company estimates it has around half of the 4 and 5-star hotel rooms on the Cotai Strip, where it continues to expand its operations. Sands is betting that the new attractions and transport links will result in visitors to Macau (1) coming from further away, (2) staying longer and (3) spending more on all activities.
The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore will also be expanding its non-gaming facilities with US$ 3.3 billion being invested in a new hotel tower, 15,000-seat arena and luxury retail.
In both markets, the emphasis is as much on non-gaming entertainment as it is the casino floor.
The integrated resorts in Singapore have certainly helped boost tourism, with visitor number almost doubling in the decade to 2019.
Casinos have been amongst the hardest hit of the gambling sectors during 2020 because of enforced closures and restrictions on cross-border travel.
But there is certainly demand and opportunities in Asia for casinos. Although one casino’s opportunity is another’s competition. Past recessions have also been the spur for new gambling regulation and the pandemic downturn could be no different.