May 2, 2014

Macau junket operator disappears with HKD 10Bln

Junkets in Macau are companies that bring in high-rollers from China and Asia to casinos. They extend credit to gamblers and also collects debt on behalf of casinos on a commission basis.

Macau's junket operators are funded by a large pool of investors and the Macau junket industry accounted for nearly $30 billion of Macau's $45 billion gaming revenue last year.

Mr. Huang Shan who skipped town with about $1.3 billion, is just one of several from the junket industry who ran off with debts, according to a senior casino executive. Source

I recall Genting was longing to have more junkets in Singapore during the recent AGM and the director was gushing about how much more revenue could be earned if Singapore had junkets on a larger scale. While junkets don't normally crash and burn like this if there is enough money to be earned by everyone, I do agree with Genting.

Lets leave all the moral discussion on gambling ills for this article. If I understand correctly, there are currently only a handful of small-time junket operators in Singapore that do not contribute significantly to gaming revenues or the number of high-rollers visiting. From Genting's financial numbers last year, it is pretty clear that they are generating decent cashflow and the business is doing well on both gaming and non-gaming fronts. So from this point of view, the casino business can probably go the way of a safe and sustainable model without the need to expand inorganically or to drive gambler traffic aggressively.

On the other hand, if someone high up has the vision for Singapore to grab more market share from Macau, then junkets should be allowed as a tool to drive casino revenues here. The difference is that the regulators could probably scale it down to suit Singapore's size, just like how a small number of companies dominate their respective markets here. Junkets could also (or will certainly) be an additional stream of tax money.

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