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The world of gaming, gambling and poker is ever developing and progressing, sometimes through business or financial moves and other times through legal means.
Following several delays, the Hong Kong-based company Suncity Group was ultimately able to acquire a 34% stake in a Vietnam casino and resort, while in the continent of Africa, Kenyan gambling operators were laden with advertising restrictions by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB).
In the meantime, another Hong Kong-based company, Galaxy Entertainment, has reaffirmed its commitment to building a casino in Philippines, despite the government’s decision of not allowing casinos to operate on the island.
Nonetheless, where some countries are still struggling with legalizing poker, Ukraine has re-instated poker as a sport after removing it from the list of Register of Recognized Sports in 2010.
The Hong Kong-based Suncity Group has finally acquired a 34% stake in a Vietnam casino and resort which was completed on August 28.
Following its filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Suncity said, “Upon completion, the target has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the company.”
The Star Admiral Ltd., which Suncity bought a 100% stake in, will be sold to Suncity Chairman Alvin Chau Cheok Wa’s Goal Summit. The casino and resort will be built in Hoiana in Central Vietnam.
The company also filed a RMB1.65-billion ($242 million) loss for the first half of 2018. The revenue from January to June 2018 amounted to RMB456 million ($67 million), for which the company stated, “The increase was mainly attributable to the continuous growth in sales of travel related products and services and the new source of income from provision of hotel and integrated resort management and consultancy services since the second half of 2017.”
While the purchase agreement to acquire the 34% stake for $76.8 million was initially set for July 2017, it was later pushed back to March 2018, then July and ultimately to the end of August. Suncity has claimed that the delay occurred since the company was waiting for approval form the bank that had lent the money to developer Hoi An South Development Ltd.
The resort will be constructed in seven phases and the one of the first phases will include the construction of a casino consisting of 1,000 slot machines, 140 gaming tables, a hotel and golf course.
The gambling operators in Kenya recently received some respite in the form of tax relief that was also accompanied by new restrictions in advertising.
According to the Kenyan media outlet The Star, “the Kenyan parliament’s National Finance and Planning committee had recommended reducing the 35% uniform tax on all gambling revenue to 15%, while also cutting the 25% share directed towards social causes to 5%.”
The committee’s intention to reduce the tax was already hinted in media reports published in June, but the effort then was related to the Tax Laws (Amendment) Bill 2018 while this latest plan is attached to the Finance Bill 2018. The 35% tax rate was imposed on January 1, despite betting operators arguing that the new rate would cut their margins by nearly half.
In the meantime, the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) is now threatening to implement a gambling advertising ban between the watershed period of 5am to 10pm. This is being touted as a means of protecting children from getting addicted to gambling.
KFCB CEO Ezekiel Mutua gave a statement stating that his organization will be “stern” with media outlets that continue to air gambling ads during the watershed period. All media houses were informed by Mutua that legal action will be taken against them if they failed to adhere to the restrictions.
In a CNBC ‘Squawk Box’ interview, the founder and chairman of Hong Kong-based Galaxy Entertainment Lui Che Woo was asked about the future of the Boracay project, to which he said that his company is “very confident” that the Boracay casino will be built, despite recent orders from the Philippine government.
“We are very confident. From the beginning until now, our plans have not changed,” Woo said.
Talking about the casino part of the project being blown out of proportion, Woo said, “Gambling will actually be a small portion. We expect a few dozen tables, as this is not our focus for Boracay. We hope it will become a truly good tourism spot and return to the beautiful island it once was. This is very different to what is being said out there. We don’t pay attention to unofficial commentary.”
Barely two weeks ago, the Philippine Tourism secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat had stated that no casinos will be operating on the island. This statement was followed by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte‘s declaration that “no casinos outside of what was existing” would be allowed. Duterte had made the announcement in context of the cancellation of the land lease for casino investor Landing International Development Ltd.’s new resort.
However, Galaxy had already secured its license last March and will begin construction by next year, aiming for a 2021 opening.
“We want to restore the beautiful natural scenery to how it was before. Our plans are for a low-density environment, like in the Maldives, instead of a big casino floor like in Manila or other places that are dense or busy… [The Philippines] is no longer the top-tier natural scenic place it once was due to pollution and substandard facilities,”Woo added.
The eastern European country of Ukraine has once again enrolled poker to the list of Register of Recognized Sports which is a part of the Ministry of Youth and Sport of Ukraine’s Document 3780. Eight years ago, the mind sport had been removed from the list, but now that it has made a reappearance, the anti-gambling legislation against it no longer applies.
Prior to 2010, poker was very much considered a sport, but after being taken off the list by the Justice Minister, it was categorized with gambling games like slots and blackjack under the 2009 law “On Prohibition of Gambling Business in Ukraine” act.
Following this move, poker clubs approached the courts to allow poker an exception and in 2013, the Ukrainian Supreme Court sided with the clubs, but under the condition that the exemption only applied to tournament poker. That meant they were able to host various tournaments, but cash games were illegal.
This also led online operators to relocate their servers to avoid prosecution, including iPoker’s exit in 2016.
Nevertheless, with the re-classification of poker as a sport, the possibility of new legislation for the regulation of the game and the industry may be forthcoming, however, no timeline for such regulation has been announced.