Suncity Group Holdings Invests Another $160M in Russian Casino Tigre de Cristal

Posted on: June 2, 2020, 12:04h. 

Last updated on: June 2, 2020, 12:26h.

Suncity Group Holdings is acquiring HKD1.24 billion ($160 million) worth of underwritten shares in Summit Ascent Holdings, owner of the Tigre de Cristal casino resort in Russia’s Far East.

Suncity Group Tigre de Cristal Russia
Alvin Chua’s Suncity Group is upping the ante on its investment in Tigre de Cristal in Russia. (Image: Yogonet)

Suncity is purchasing the shares from Victor Sky, a private equity company registered in Hong Kong that is fully owned by Summit. Victory Sky currently holds a 22.01 percent stake in Summit Ascent.

Suncity Group is controlled by Alvin Chau, who is one of Macau’s largest organizers of VIP junket trips. Chau’s Suncity already has a leading stake in Summit Ascent.

Following the purchase, Suncity Group will control a nearly 70 percent ownership position in Summit Ascent, and the company would effectively become a subsidiary of Chau’s emerging global gaming empire.

Tigre’s Russian Roulette

Russia banned gambling everywhere in 2009 except in Altai, Krasnodar, Kaliningrad, and Primorsky Krai. The latter was pinpointed by President Vladimir as the Far East destination that would be transformed into Russia’s version of Las Vegas. But 11 years later, only Tigre de Cristal is in operation.

Summit’s largest initial investor was Melco Resorts founder and CEO Lawrence Ho. The billionaire helped bring Summit’s only casino resort to reality. But he sold off his entire stake in Summit in 2017 after Tigre struggling in its first two years.

The integrated resort, which features a casino floor with 300 slot machines and 50 table games, 121 guestrooms, and three restaurants, became an attractive investment opportunity to Chau, who is on a mission to increase his presence throughout Asia.

Last month, Hoi An South Development Co. Ltd., a company Suncity Group holds a 34 percent stake in, was awarded a 60-year casino operating license in Vietnam. The company plans to build the largest integrated resort in the country at a cost of $5 billion.

I am thrilled,” said Chua in May. “This is a very exciting time to witness my vision for Suncity to sprout from ground zero into a truly integrated resort company.”

Along with China, Russia, and Vietnam, Chua’s Suncity is bidding to win licensure in Wakayama, Japan, for an integrated resort casino. It’s also investing in the development of a hotel and casino at Westside City Resorts World in Manila’s Entertainment City.

Pandemic Hits Far East

Tigre de Cristal has been closed since late March, as Russia has closed its borders because of COVID-19. The casino resort’s website shows hotel bookings available beginning July 1.

Tigre is in the north remote area of Vladivostok, roughly 30 miles from the downtown port city. The resort would welcome some competition in order to increase the marketability of the region as a tourism destination.

Despite the global pandemic, NagaCorp, a Hong Kong-listed gaming company controlled by billionaire Chen Lip Keong, says it is moving forward with its $300 million integrated resort casino project called Naga Vladivostok.

NagaCorp hopes to complete the Far East casino by the end of 2020. “I like the entrepreneurial spirit behind the development,” Chen recently told Forbes.