There is plenty of gambling going on in China of course over in Macau- but this former Portuguese colony is a Special Administrative Region like Hong Kong, and sits outside mainland China, as far as the law is concerned. They have their own legal system based on Portuguese law.
But has there been a subtle shift in how China’s central government looks at gambling on the mainland in recent days? A new concept called Jesters casino bar, part of the Mangrove Tree Sanya Bay Resort World complex in Sanya, Hainan Island, has just opened. Winnings at Jesters are paid in credits that can be used to buy accommodation, luxury goods, artwork and jewelry on sale at the resort. Jesters is owned by Chinese property magnate Zhang Baoquan: it’s Beijing’s first approval of a casino in China (Macao excepted). So is this the start of a raft of Hainan Casino complexes?
Jesters has been allowed to run as a pilot. But, sitting on their hands on the sidelines are the big Las Vegas guns of the Sands Group, Caesar’s Casino and MGM – (the latter two are opening hotels in Sanya in 2014). The stakes are big. Macau generated a heart-stopping US$38 billion in gambling revenues in 2012, with most being gambled by Mainland Chinese punters. The Macau Venetian alone became bigger than the Venetian Casino in Las Vegas back in 2007. Now, it’s quite a bit bigger.
The Mangrove Tree Resort will be China’s largest resort, covering some 173 acres, with over 4,000 rooms, a 6,000-seat conference center and other goodies including a water park. Zhang is the Sheldon Adelson of the future: he is developing a 9 more resorts across China, including properties in Qingdao and even Lhasa in Tibet. Expect plenty of Sic Bo, Baccarat, Blackjack and of course, video slot games.
Jesters has taken it’s cue from Macau’s gambling palaces, with big chandeliers, a roulette wheel ceiling and bling everywhere. Understated it is not. It’s RMB500 to get in, with bets going from RMB20 to RMB2,000. High rollers can bet up to RMB100,000.
Jesters has 50 tables already. Winners can buy iPads, luxury suitcases and artwork from Zhang’s own gallery in Beijing. Prada and Louis Vuitton are all due to open. The gaming resort has been mostly funded by the China Development Bank.
Hainan is being earmarked for “international tourism” with the central government having approved 15 more resorts and 63 five-star hotels as part of a 5-Year Plan.
It’s one of the original Chinese beach holiday destinations- looks like that is going to change.