Monday, 18 February 2013

A Mighty Gamble in Sanya

We are just as curious as the next person to see how a new casino bar in Sanya, Hainan Island will work out.

It's not like casinos in Macau where winners can get huge cash payouts, but where they can win points that they can use to pay for accommodation, luxury goods, jewellery and art work at the resort.

Jesters casino bar is the brainchild of Zhang Baoquan, an art, film and property mogul, who got tacit approval from the government for this new gaming concept.

"Our casino bar is the first in the country. It's a test," Zhang said. "We are not at the stage of legalizing casino gambling, but I believe there is a big possibility that they will."

Zhang's would-be competitors are also ready to pounce as well with MGM Resorts International having opened its hotel in Sanya last year and Caesars Entertainment is set to open its hotel next year.

The casino market is huge in Macau -- making $38 billion in revenues last year, mostly from mainland gamblers. If China allows gambling on the mainland, the impact would be huge.

While Zhang is trying to create an integrated resort similar to those in Las Vegas and Singapore that includes a convention hall, 4,000 rooms and a water park, news reports describe Jesters as having a garish look with a giant roulette wheel on the ceiling and over-the-top chandeliers.

Players have to buy tickets at 500RMB ($80) each, and then make bets from 20RMB to 2,000RMB, while the VIP area is 2,000RMB to 100,000RMB.

When the players win, they can exchange the points for things such as an iPad 3G or a Rimowa suitcase.

Are people going to be interested in this type of gambling?

In a way it takes all the fun out of receiving giant wads of cash, but then again mainlanders would spend it on stuff anyway.

But imagine being forced to spend all the points in the resort -- there's only so many things you can bring home.

Our feeling is that the Chinese government will be watching this casino bar closely to see what happens.

With Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping anxious to crack down on corruption, we get the feeling he will not be endorsing gambling anytime soon, which is why Zhang's venture is so intriguing.

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