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From bribery to tax reduction, new poker rooms to changes of ownership reins, the gaming industry hasn’t been short of newsworthy developments over the last few days.
While the arrest of CEO Zhang Wei on bribery charges sent China-based gaming firm Boyaa Interactive reeling a sudden administrative void and a major loss of face, amid huge opposition, the Kenyan government put its stamp of approval over the Finance Bill 2018, with reduced rates of betting taxes from 35% to 15%.
In other news, president Uhuru Kenyatta led tax reduction was accompanied by several hikes in other taxes in Kenya leading to a mixed reaction from the gaming industry. In the U.S., the growing casino industry got another add-on when a tribal casino located in Michigan opened doors of its new 14-table poker room.
Meanwhile, a change of ownership of Landmark Macau, a casino-hotel located on the Macau peninsula has seen the casino rechristened as the New Orient Landmark Hotel.
Things don’t seem to be going Boyaa Interactive’s way this year. Starting from a decline in revenue after regulators began prohibiting a large number of social games, which led to a fall in its stock prices, the China-based gaming company is now without a CEO.
Zhang Wei, CEO of the company, was recently sentenced to jail time on bribery charges and the company has been reeling from its affects and is desperately trying to fill the corporate void left by Wei’s impromptu departure.
Wei resigned on September 21 from all positions he held within the company including executive director, CEO, chairman of the board, chairman of the nomination committee and all other senior management positions. The resignation came in the aftermath of his 12-month imprisonment sentence.
Following his appearance in front of a judge with the Municipal of Intermediate People’s Court in May for charges of “bribes by entities” brought against Boyaa Shenzhen, the company received a fine of $364,667 (RMB2,500,000), while Wei was sentenced to a year in prison, with a suspended sentence of 18 months. But after he was found guilty, Wei immediately launched his appeal, which was denied last week by China’s Higher People’s Court.
Boyaa Interactive recently made an announcement that Dai Zhikang will be replacing Wei as the board’s chairman, while Tao Ying will succeed him as the company’s executive director, authorized representative and chairman of the nomination committee.
Shortly after Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta refused to sign the Finance Bill 2018, he asked the parliament to reconsider and reduce the high sports betting tax from its current 35% to 15%, and the parliament has approved the tax reduction. At the same time, the government has approved implementation of a split tax regime under which a new 20% tax would be imposed on bettors’ winnings.
On Friday, Kenyatta announced that he had signed the bill for approval following its passage in Thurday’s parliament session.
While the Finance Bill when implemented will bring sweeping changes to governance in Kenya, the gaming industry in specific was being largely belted with the whopping 35% gross gambling revenue.
In 2017, Kenyan legislators had approved a massive hike of all gambling taxes to a new uniform 35% rate. The move was largely opposed by gaming stakeholders. According to the Kenyan government, the new split tax regime would generate an additional SH30b (~US$297Million) for the government but go easier on the gaming operators.
The move however, did not find much favor with the opposition party members during the parliament session, and opposition MP’s hurled insults at National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale who is one of the prime faces behind pushing for the gambling tax reduction.
Politics apart, the Kenyan government would be imposing new indirect taxes including a 15% tax on internet and data services and a 20% tax on fees that banks charge for money transfers.
On September 14, the Gun Lake Casino in the state of Michigan, revealed a poker room, increasing the number of cardrooms within the state to nearly 40.
With plans to employ around 100 people, the casino had announced its plans for the poker room way back in May. Those plans have now come to fruition as the Gun Lake Casino recently unveiled a 3,500 square-feet poker room.
The Gun Lake Tribe performed “extensive research to determine market demands” for poker, President and chief operating officer for Gun Lake Casino Sal Semola stated, “We are thrilled to offer this new amenity to our guests. The Gun Lake Tribe has done an incredible job listening to our guests and community, which this new poker room is attributed to.”
The announcement of the poker room came after the plans for a $76 expansion project which included the addition of slot machines and table games. Boasting of 14 tables, Gun Lake Casino will join the ranks of other major poker rooms in the state like FireKeepers Casino, which has 22 tables.
Plans of opening a 475,000 square-foot parking structure are also in motion.
The Landmark Macau is counted amongst the most popular casino hotel haunts of Macau and the recent change of ownership has brought about a renaming of the casino that is now known as the New Orient Landmark Hotel.
Located on the Macau peninsula, the Landmark Macau was sold in April this year by Macau Legend Development to an indirect subsidiary of Macau Legend i.e. the New Macau Landmark Management Ltd. The property changed hands after its CEO, David Chow Kam Fai and the Macau Legend group sold 100% of their equity to New Macau Landmark.
During the deal, an official statement by Macau Legend read, “The disposal is expected to accrue gain before tax of approximately HKD3.3 Billion (US$420.5 million), which is calculated based on the purchase price, net liabilities value and carrying amount of the sale loan of New Macau Landmark Management as at December 31, 2017.”
Notably, Macau-based property investor Chong Sio Kin owns 58% of the shares of Macau Legend.
Although the casino is now functional under a new name, it is reported to have maintained its previous look, without any changes or fresh construction.