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Chinese tourists the mainstay for Aussie casinos

Fri, Aug 26, 8:13am by Staff Writer

According to a recent report published by Forbes, a confluence of economic and legislative factors is motivating Chinese tourists to visit Australian casinos at unprecedented rates.

Between 2011 and 2015 the number of tourists traveling from China to Australia doubled. In 2014 there were 823,000 Chinese visitors to the country, and in 2015 the number increased by 177,900 to top the 1 million mark – good for a 21.6 percent increase.

The growth of China-to-Australia tourism continues unabated, and in June of this year the tourism rate spiked by 23 percent over the same month last year. During the last 12 months China has also moved past New Zealand as primary source of tourism – despite the additional 2-3 hours of flight time.

Chinese visitors also lead in terms of overall spending, generating AUD$8.9 billion in revenue for Australian business last year – up 38 percent year-on-year.

With the Chinese government currently pursuing a corruption crackdown in the Asian gambling mecca of Macau, casino goers all over Asia have been forced to seek out alternative sources of entertainment and leisure.

Accordingly, the two top domestic casino operators, Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment Group, have been active in their courting of Chinese and Asian customers. Per the Forbes report, Crown and Star, along with Skycity, have enjoyed gains of 58 percent in the coveted ‘international commission business’ betting volume metric, generating AUD$92 billion during the 2015-2016 fiscal year which ended in June.

All told, Australia managed to capture 8 percent of the global ‘VIP’ gambling revenue, or casino win, generated by well-heeled and affluent ‘high-rollers’ – many of whom hail from Asia, or China specifically.

Shaun McCamley, a former senior casino executive in Australia and east Asia who now holds the position of partner with Global Market Advisors, offered the following assessment of China’s buoying of Australia’s casino industry:

“Players from all Asia regions, and in particular Chinese players at all levels, have provided the growth in the market and made up for any falls from local players in what’s been a tough Australian economy in recent years.”

In specific terms, Crown has emerged as the overall domestic leader in terms of attracting Asian and Chinese players to its megaresort properties in Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth.

By placing an emphasis on marketing to the Asian demographic since the opening of Crown Melbourne in 1993, the company now attributes more than 33 percent of its Australian revenue to Asian and Chinese customers.

In the Forbes report, Sudhir Kale, a professor at Bond University on the Gold Coast, estimates that over 60 percent of Crown Melbourne’s player base is comprised by Asians, with most identifying as ethnic Chinese. According to Kale, of the top-200 players at Melbourne Crown – judged by overall wagering volume – only one is not of Asian descent.

Representatives for Crown Melbourne have stated that the venue’s plan renovation and addition of 400 guest rooms is being undertaken ‘to meet future visitor demand, particularly from the Chinese’. And in June of this year, Crown received final approval from the government to begin construction of a AUD$2.8 billion resort located on Sydney Harbor at Barangaroo. The planned megaresort casino is expected to open its doors in 2021, with many essential staff members hired specifically for their Mandarin language skills.

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