Casinos Look to China For Whales

Casinos in Las Vegas and British Columbia, Canada are appealing more and more to players from mainland China who have a penchant for high-stakes baccarat. A recent study showed Chinese tourism is set to rise 172 percent in the US by 2019.

While it’s no secret that China produces the most high rollers in the world, the fight to capture these whales has grown increasingly intense as gaming revenue is slowly climbing back in Las Vegas. According to research by the Allianz Global Assistance, Chinese tourism is expected to increase 172 percent in the U.S. by 2019.

Before 2017, the domestic Chinese market could possibly surpass the United States as the number one market in the world. Late last year, President Obama changed visa regulations for China, allowing for visas from China to be good for 10 years in the U.S., as opposed to just one year, which was the previous practice.

The B.C. Lottery Corp. is expecting a growth of high-rolling gamblers from mainland China while they hope will contribute to an increased bottom line. As lottery sales decline, the Crown corporation and partner casinos on the Lower Mainland are focused on attracting wealthy “industrialists and businessmen” who play baccarat for up to $100,000 a hand.

Jim Lightbody, the corporation’s CEO said table games revenue is up $80 million from last year, nearly 20 percent. Crown also expects to beat its target of $1.2 billion in net income for the year ending March 31. Lightbody said casinos have also included more private rooms or “salons,” which have seen table limits raise from $5,000 to $100,000 a hand.

The Lower Mainland now has 135 of these salons spread across the “big four” casinos, which consist of River Rock in Richmond, Edgewater in Vancouver, Grand Villa in Burnaby, and Starlinght in New Westminster. Lightbody said the games now cater primarily to mainland China customers, who prefer high-stakes baccarat, and buy in for up to $200,000, and usually in cash.

With the crackdown going on in Macau, the casinos have strict regulations in place to make sure the money is clean. “We know them very well,” Lightbody said, and continued by stressing they are familiar with the players’ personal information. All transactions over $10,000 are reported to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada. Recently, an audit showed the lottery corporation reported 86,000 large cash transactions and 1,000 unusual or suspicious transactions from 2013-2014.