Floating Casinos Prove the Houseboat Always Wins in Hong Kong

Posted on: September 20, 2013, 05:30h. 

Last updated on: November 30, 2021, 10:35h.

A floating casino ship, moored off the Hong Kong harbor, is a welcome gambling option for many Chinese tourists.

Those that peruse the world of gambling news will undoubtedly often come across headlines announcing record financial figures for Macau, the biggest gaming region in the world. In fact, it’s difficult to read gambling news for more than a few days and not come across such information.

However, there is a more convenient, better-priced, and possibly more fun option on the rise for Chinese residents looking for a gambling spot around the Hong Kong area, which comes in the form of floating casinos.

Pricey Hotels, Cheaper Ship Berths

As a result of the popularity of Macau for tourists from mainland China, hotel prices are reported to have shot up to around $175 per night, well above those in Las Vegas which average about $108 a night, sparking consideration in those looking towards a gambling trip, since a room on a casino cruise will only run customers around $52 for an overnight stay.

As such, those who are looking into a gambling trip can now book themselves aboard an overnight casino boat which simply sails about an hour away from Hong Kong and into international waters, at which point, those aboard will be able to partake in whatever gambling the floating casino offers.

While strict gambling rules are set in nations throughout the world, the international waters are entirely murky when it comes to gambling, as virtually anything goes. So not only is it more convenient for many Chinese players (as visa restrictions don’t apply), but it is also massively cheaper for short breaks, leaving them with more chips with which to gamble.

So far, the number of mainland tourists boarding the eight nightly casino boats has risen nine percent in the first half of this year – to 615,328 players – as more and more gamblers are seeing the opportunity to free up some of their playing money rather than shelling out on expensive hotels in Macau.

While a boat big enough to carry a group of people worth taking may not exactly be purchased with pocket change, the bill certainly pales in comparison to the cost of a land- based casino in Macau. In fact, the licensing alone in Macau probably dwarfs the cost of the vessel itself.

And when considering that the casino cruise operators pay no taxes on their receipts, the casino operators in Macau could be finding themselves a little aggravated as they shell out their 39 percent gaming levy paid on gross revenue.

“The cruise ship can be a good substitute for mainland tourists,” explained Hoffman Ma, deputy chairman of cruise operator Success Universe Group Ltd, which has seen its profits double during the first half of the year and its shares rise by 54 percent for the year.

However, despite the growth in popularity of these casino cruise trips, Ambrose So, the chief executive officer of the largest casino operator in Asia, SJM Holdings, explained that the impact on Macau is “minimal”, simply stating that “the pie is growing bigger and some money overflows there.”

And since it seems unlikely that headlines on the gambling news sphere will being saying that Macau profits are plummeting any time soon – especially since the hotels on the island generally run at full capacity – these casino cruises could be simply catering to the requirements of the more modest market. Those with the additional disposable incomes are still likely to continue to flock to Macau to experience the glitz and glamor it offers alongside the gambling premises.

If anything, you could say that the casino cruise operators are filling a gap that the resorts are just unable to fill due to their capacity, meaning there is more than enough business to go around.