China, Japan, South Korea to Drive Asian Gaming Markets, Says Goldman Sachs

Posted on: April 23, 2021, 11:43h. 

Last updated on: July 7, 2021, 02:38h.

China, Japan and South Korea — three of the continent’s richest countries — will drive the bulk of casino gaming activity in Asia in the years ahead, notes Goldman Sachs.

Asian gamblers
Japanese men gamble in a pachinko parlor. Goldman Sachs says they’ll be among the driving forces of Asia gambling growth. (Image: Insider)

Speaking at the recent Japan IR Forum Online, Goldman Sachs Managing Director Simon Cheung said gamblers from that trio of nations will combine for 80 percent of Asia-Pacific’s total addressable market going forward.

He adds that players from those countries are underserved in their home markets. Japan approved integrated resorts, but those venues are several years from opening, leaving pachinko as one of the dominant forms of gaming in the Land of the Rising Sun. South Korean gaming venues are primarily accessible to foreign visitors, while Macau is the only Chinese territory where gambling is permitted.

This is why structurally, for the last ten years, Singapore and Malaysia have been growing much slower than Macau or the Philippines,” said Cheung.

The Goldman director says casino spending as a percentage of disposable income among Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans is lower than their counterparts in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore.

Outlook for Japan Casinos

When Japan’s highly anticipated initial trio of integrated resorts opens, it’s likely those venues may not drive a significant increase in gaming numbers among domestic gamblers, but rather, will eat into pachinko’s share of the market.

“Once IRs are allowed to open in Japan, it may not drive a significant amount of Japanese gaming spending but perhaps more of a dilution of market share from pachinko business,” said Goldman’s Cheung.

The low-stakes game will not be allowed in the integrated resorts when those properties open. Earlier this month, Japan’s Casino Regulatory Commission said free slot machines and table games including baccarat, blackjack, craps, pai gow, and various forms of poker, among others, will be permitted.

Japan has yet to decide which cities will be homes to the first three casinos, though Nagasaki, Osaka, and Yokohama are among the leading contenders. Following a series of bureaucratic delays and snafus, it’s unlikely Japanese integrated resorts open before 2026 or 2027.

Other Asia Angles

Over the near term, Goldman’s Cheung believes the Asian markets with the most devoted domestic gamblers will recover more rapidly from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic than destination markets. Those slated for rapid rebounds in his opinion are Cambodia, Macau, and Malaysia.

Overall, he sees the Asia-Pacific region’s gaming figures returning to pre-pandemic levels next year, driven by pent-up demand from mass-market gamblers.

Cheung’s view on the 2022 time line to recovery jibes with forecasts set forth by other analysts. Many believe Macau will rebound faster than Singapore and that it will be mass and premium mass players, not VIPs, that do the heavy lifting.