Just about every casino operator in the world looks to target the lucrative VIP gambling market segment in Mainland China as these high-rollers are known for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars at the casino tables. Macau – the biggest gambling hub in the world once made more than fifty percent of its gross gaming revenue from VIP gamblers who lived on the Mainland.
Singapore – Limited Choice
Neighboring countries such as the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia have all looked to attract these high-rollers over to their casinos by offering them numerous perks and benefits. One country that has not had a lot of success with VIP gamblers from the mainland is Singapore. It is just a four hour flight between Singapore and China but the two casinos in Singapore have found it difficult to consistently bring in these high-rollers.
There are a number of reasons why Singapore has found it difficult to attract Chinese high-rollers. For one – there are only two legalized casinos in Singapore which is the Marina Bay Sands – operated by the Las Vegas Sands Corp and Resorts World Sentosa which is owned by the Genting Group. This leaves gamblers with just two choices when they visit Singapore and that is a big drawback as they have over 10 casinos to choose from in the Philippines, more than 15 in South Korea and over 25 in Cambodia.
Singapore – Far Too Strict
The second reason is that Singapore’s gaming laws are a lot more stringent than some of the other countries. Chinese VIP gamblers are often suspected of using questionable sources of funding at the gambling tables and the authorities in Singapore are always keeping a close eye on the casinos to prevent money laundering and other criminal activities.
While Beijing’s crackdown on Macau’s casino industry did hurt the VIP gambling industry significantly for over 2 years, VIP gamblers still throng to Macau. Tourist data show that more than 20 million Mainland Chinese visitors go to Macau each year. Singapore saw around 2.86 million Chinese visits in 2016, a 36 percent increase when compared to 2015. While 2.86 million is still a lot of people, most of these Chinese visitors ended up visiting other attractions in Singapore and very few spent time and money at the casinos.
Singapore tourist data shows that in 2015, Chinese visitors spent nearly 27 percent of their money on shopping, entertainment, gambling and sightseeing. That number dropped to 24 percent in 2016 which shows that although more tourists are arriving, they are spending less money during their holiday.
Junket Operators
Macau’s casinos have profited significantly from the VIP gambling sector as they have formed partnerships with as many as 200 junket operators in the past. Junkets act as the middlemen between the casino and high-rollers. They take on the responsibility of bringing over VIP gamblers to the casinos, offer them large sums of money on credit and take on the responsibility of collecting the outstanding money and settling the debt.
The casino in turn pays the junket operators an agreed upon percentage and the business model has worked rather for Macau and its junket operators – atleast till the anti-corruption crackdown was launched.
Singapore does not have such a system in place. There are only three licensed junket operators in Singapore and as a result the two casinos have to do a lot of the work themselves when it comes to attracting VIP gamblers from the mainland. Their biggest challenge for the two casinos in Singapore is collecting the money they loan to these VIP gamblers as junket operators in Macau often use their own terms and conditions to recover funds – which may not be legal or ethical at times.
Legal Disputes
However in Singapore, since there are only three junket operators, Singapore’s casinos are forced to provide credit and collect outstanding debts. Casinos have to strictly comply with the law and that means they need to file lawsuits in Singapore as well as in China in order to recover their funds.
This process is lengthy, costly and the casinos have no assurance of recovering the full amount of what is due to them. Resorts World sued a Chinese gambler in 2012 for $1.8 million in losses, Marina Bay Sands sued in 2015 for a $2.8 million debt and once again in 2016 for a debt of $12 million.

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