Cards Firmly Stacked in Marina Bay Sands Favor as Its Posts Record Profits
Yasmine Yahya – Straits Times
Singapore. Wealthy gamblers came out in full force to play at the Marina Bay Sands gaming tables last quarter, helping the casino achieve its most impressive numbers since opening in Singapore two years ago.
The flood of wealthy gamblers patronising the resort between January and last month prompted Sheldon Adelson, the chief executive of MBS’ parent firm Las Vegas Sands, to say that he was “constantly surprised” by the vast numbers of high rollers in the world.
But there are no plans to draw in more such high rollers through junket operators, Adelson said.
Last month, Singapore’s Casino Regulatory Authority granted licences to two Malaysian junket operators, letting them take big spenders to MBS’ rival Resorts World Sentosa (RWS).
But unlike in Macau, Mr Adelson, speaking on a conference call to analysts, noted that junket operators who bring gamblers to Singapore are not allowed to share commissions with anyone else or to give out credit to their customers.
“So they’re the equivalent of our more than 100 sales people,” he said. “So what are we going after them for? We don’t see that RWS has any advantage over us.”
Business from cashed-up punters pushed up MBS’ first-quarter operating profits by 66 per cent from the same period last year to $472.5 million.
Revenue at MBS’ casino business shot up 51 per cent from a year earlier to $701 million.
A significant portion of the gambling activity was during the Chinese New Year holiday, said Las Vegas Sands’ president of global gaming operations, Robert Goldstein.
Although it will be nearly another year until the festival rolls around again, he said in the conference call with analysts that he was optimistic MBS will continue to grow strongly in the next few quarters.
Singapore is a “very, very exciting place to travel for Asians’ and there is little competition in the gaming industry here, with only two players – MBS and Genting’s RWS.
“I don’t think there’s any question to growth in Singapore in the future,” Goldstein said.
Adelson noted that some stock analysts had previously raised concerns that the number of VIP gamblers in Singapore seemed to have reached a plateau. He disagreed, saying: “The word ‘plateau’, in terms of Asia, is not in our vocabulary.”
Adelson said that there was a time when the gaming industry believed there were only about 150 high rollers in the world. But these days, MBS hosts that many VIP gamblers within a week or two.
“There are an awful lot of people who are playing all around the world and from many different countries that nobody even thought of before,” Adelson said.
Profits at parent company Las Vegas Sands more than doubled to US$489.9 million in the first quarter compared with the same period a year earlier, boosted by the strong performance of MBS and its Macau casinos. Las Vegas Sands’ revenue jumped nearly 31 per cent to a record US$2.76 billion.
“We’re cooking on all cylinders,” Adelson said.
The non-casino segments of MBS also racked up strong numbers in the first quarter. Revenue from the hotels business grew 38 per cent from the same period a year ago as rooms were almost fully occupied throughout the three months.
The Marina Bay Shoppes mall took in 25 per cent higher revenue compared with a year ago.