Integrated Resort

Windy City Gaming: Chicago will finally plant its flag for a casino development

Casinos in urban environments, not always the norm, have offered challenges in certain jurisdictions.

Major markets such as Philadelphia have had casinos near downtown for years. Pittsburgh and Detroit also feature casino gaming in downtown settings. The Washington, D.C. market, with MGM National Harbor, has also made an impact. But in recent years, more developers have embraced urban environments to meld properties into the fabric of the greater communities they serve. Two of the more recent examples were in Massachusetts, with MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor.

Some of the greatest opportunities for gaming expansion in the United States remain in urban settings. For years, New York, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas and Houston have been seen as potential expansion sites. But the most immediate opportunity exists in Chicago, which will locate a gaming development within the city itself.

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2020 Trends: Latin America

The gaming market throughout Latin America continues to emerge. While gaming has been a strong form of entertainment, Latin America can be a mystery to some that have not followed it as closely. Like Asia, it remains one of the great opportunities for expansion in the industry on a wide scale, from sports betting to further development of brick-and-mortar facilities from Mexico to Brazil to Uruguay.

Many of these governments at all levels continue to face challenges as they had relied on gaming as a source of tax revenue prior to the Covid-19 pandemic as revenue is still rebounding. This has further put burdens on governments, as those employed in gaming have also struggled in 2020 with facilities operating under limited function post-shutdown and in some cases will remain closed until the end of 2020.

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2020 Trends: Japan

Like the rest of the world, the development of integrated resorts in Japan has been significantly stalled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Japan is just beginning to reemerge as it is now starting to allow foreigners back into the country. While many speculated that 2020 would be a robust year for the integrated resorts, it looks like Covid, like the rest of the world, will push IRs back into 2021 as things finally start to move down the road.

Earlier this year, Japan transitioned from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stepping down for health reasons to the current Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Suga, who was Abe’s top lieutenant, has been a strong proponent of the integrated resorts initiative. His ascendancy was the ideal outcome in terms of the succession from Abe. Suga will not be a caretaker prime minister and wants to leave his own stamp over the next year coming into a fresh election next September.

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Strip Reset: COVID-19 is definitely challenging, but does the crisis present opportunities for a Vegas makeover?

Las Vegas soared until recent years, but we’ve reached the tipping point, where it’s necessary for the Strip to redefine itself again. Las Vegas is like no other place in the world. It’s the entertainment and sports capital of the world. It has the most amazing resorts. It just needs to remember our industry’s roots, redeliver on customer service, and provide value.

Covid-19 has devastated the industry and the greater Las Vegas economy. With the resulting industry shutdown, the city must take the opportunity to develop a strategy to reopen, reinvigorate and recapture its guests.

For the first time in well over a decade, both Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts, which between them operate 18 Las Vegas Strip resorts, have new leadership teams. These teams are comprised of seasoned casino industry professionals—not outsiders from professions other than hospitality—who have the ability to make these changes.

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Social Safeguards: How Singapore set a new standard in addressing responsible gambling

As Singapore continues to serve as the model for IR development, it has also become one of the current models to address the promotion of responsible gaming measures and casino exclusion policies for its two integrated resorts.

At the time of inception, these cutting-edge initiatives allowed for a different model for individuals to be excluded from the casino, limited the floor size of the facilities, created a publicentity to promote responsible gaming efforts, and created partnerships with operators to work with the government in creating an environment of responsible gaming. It also introduced a casino levy for locals with the option of a daily or yearly fee.

The two operators in the market, Las Vegas Sands (Marina Bay Sands) and Genting Singapore (Resorts World Sentosa), initially had to develop internal responsible gaming education and training programs. These initiatives have continued to evolve over the course of time as more research has become available and the market has matured. The programs include an initial and annual training that offers employees the ability to understand the signs of problem gambling, as well as how to respond and support a guest. It also includes support in the form of high level specialists that offer a higher level of knowledge on responsible gaming measures and how best to handle a guest that may need further assistance.

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Rising Sun: Japan begins to enter the homestretch in 2020

Like the cherry blossoms in the spring in Japan, integrated resort developments will begin to emerge into full bloom starting in January 2020. The coming year will see significant progress at the central government level that will then launch the RFP process at the prefecture level.

If the level of activity in the second half of 2019 is any indication, 2020 will prove to be a very robust year. However, there is still a lot of work to do before Japan awards up to three of the coveted IR licenses established through the IR Promotion and IR Implementation Acts.

Since the market began to emerge some 20 years ago, Japan appears to be in the homestretch for the initial round of development of integrated resorts. The movements not only by operators but also by interested prefectures will continue to evolve in the coming weeks and months.

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Research Brief: Japan IR Timeline Update

Late last month, many stakeholders following the Japan Integrated Resort process believed they were thrown a curve ball, following reports stating that the process would be delayed by a year without the appointment of the Casino Management Commission and other cabinet and ministerial positions. However, the delay will likely not be as long as initially thought but would only be a minor delay in the marathon for integrated resorts in Japan.

First and foremost, this process is still in its infancy. While stalwarts of the process have been trying to get legislation passed for over twenty years, the race continues to move at a moderate pace as the government begins its official process to form the Commission and the 300-plus items that still need to be officially decided. It was thought that the Commission would likely be appointed before the end of the current regular session of the Diet. However, this part of the process has been delayed because of the upcoming elections that have been planned for the Upper House of the Diet. While it has not been confirmed that a double election would occur in July 2019, there is also the potential that a snap election in the Lower House could be held at the same time.

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Macau: The Future Beyond the VIP

Fifteen years ago, on May 18, 2004, Las Vegas Sands Corp. opened Sands Macao and changed the course of casino gaming in the region.

Macau was once considered a secondary gaming market that catered to a small base of customers from Hong Kong and Guangdong, China. However, Sands Macao and subsequent entrants demonstrated that by providing high-quality gaming, dining and lodging environments, markets will respond.

In the case of Macau, markets responded enthusiastically. In 2005, the city’s casinos generated $5.9 billion in gaming revenue, and by 2018, the industry had generated $37.9 billion.

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Crystal Ball Gazing

Predicting the future of any industry has always been an inexact science. It requires an examination of historical trends, possible changes in public policy, the application of a variety of macro-economic theories, the unlikely entry of a disruption industry that could emerge as a worthy competitor, and a substantial amount of guesswork.

The problem is, when it comes to Macau, more often than not the soothsayers have been unable to predict the future.

When predictions are made, word spreads quickly. The number of media outlets devoted to the casino industry has increased and amplified the distribution of news. Casinos are now part of
the 24-hour news cycle; the industry has its own forums, dedicated writers and avid readership.

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