Resorts World Could Steal High Rollers from Marina Bay Sands as Money Laundering Probe Unfolds

Posted on: June 8, 2020, 08:31h. 

Last updated on: June 8, 2020, 09:55h.

Resorts World Sentosa could pilfer VIP market share from Singapore rival Marina Bay Sands (MBS), as the latter deals with a US Department of Justice (DOJ) inquiry into anti-money laundering violations.

Resorts World Sentosa Hunts Marina Bay Sands Customers
Resorts World Sentosa could win VIP share from rival Marina Bay Sands as the latter deals with a DOJ probe. (Image: YouTube)

News broke last week that the DOJ is probing MBS management’s handling of high rollers’ accounts. In addition, the agency in January issued a subpoena for the integrated resort’s head of compliance, requesting documents that could indicate aiding in money laundering and violations of internal policies. DOJ wouldn’t confirm or deny the investigation. MBS is run by Marina Bay Sands Pte Ltd., a subsidiary of Las Vegas Sands (LVS).

Maybank analyst Samuel Yin Shao Yang believes if history is a guide, Resorts World Sentosa, owned and operated by Genting Singapore, could steal high-end market share from its rival in the wake of the DOJ inquiry.

We do not presume that either MBS, Sands China, or LVS was or is guilty or innocent of any charges – which company has never had to deal with disgruntled ex-employees?,” said Yin. “What we gather is VIPs tend to avoid casinos, which are under investigation, especially by the DOJ.”

US prosecutors are reportedly looking into potential abuses by MBS in relationships with junket operators that deliver VIP gamblers to the Singaporean venue, possible misuse of third-party casino credit, and allegations that whistleblowers were mistreated for shining a light on the situation.

What History Says

This isn’t MBS’s first encounter with the Justice Department. A decade ago, the agency probed the gaming company amid a lawsuit by former Sands China CEO Steven Jacobs. That wrongful termination action contained allegations LVS Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson made illicit business demands of Jacobs, prompting investigations by DOJ and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) into whether the operator violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

In the wake of that inquiry, Resorts World Sentosa stole VIP share from its rival. In the quarters leading up that 2010 probe, the Genting property barely commanded half of the Singapore high rollers market. But in the three months immediately following news of the probe, the operator landed two-thirds of high-end gamblers visiting the city-state, and was able to maintain 59 percent share in the following quarter.

Historical data confirms Marina Bay Sands is the dominant force in Singapore in terms of luring well-heeled gamblers. Since 2015, there’s been just one quarter in which Resorts World attracted half of the VIP visitors to the city-state: the April through June period of 2018. Last year, MBS averaged nearly 55 percent high-end share on a quarterly basis, according to Inside Asian Gaming.

The Jacobs suit was settled in 2016 for $75 million to $100 million.

Need to Open First

Integral to Resorts World’s ability to attract more affluent players away from MBS is reopening for business.

“Learning from history, we gather that RWS could benefit from higher share of VIP volume. All it needs to do now is just reopen,” said Yin, the Maybank analyst.

Both venues are currently closed, as Singapore continues dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The integrated resorts have been shuttered more than two months. More than 75 percent of the city-state’s economy is now open after being stifled by the virus.