China’s move to ban gambling activities nationwide, except in Macau, could boost travel by citizens to other countries, including Malaysia, home to one of the region’s major casinos.
The gambling ban imposed after the Communist Party of China took over the country in 1949 indirectly changed the development of the industry and casinos in other Asian countries.
Most of Southeast Asia’s 340 casinos are now seen as part of an effort to lure gambling-inclined Chinese tourists.
In Malaysia, the country’s only casino is run by Genting Group in the mountainous tourist resort of Genting Highlands.
Li Henggui, executive director of the Socio-Economic Research Center, said the growth of China’s wealth market will encourage wealthy citizens to try their luck at casinos across Asia, including Genting Malaysia.
“High gamblers in China will spend a lot of money at casinos in Asia, and despite competition from neighboring countries such as Singapore, Australia and the Philippines, Genting Malaysia will still get a piece of the action,” Lee told Malaysia Now.
“As such, we must maintain our image as a clean and safe leisure and tourism destination.”
Malaysia as a whole has become a top destination for Chinese tourists, and the number of Chinese tourists has increased in the past few years.
In 2019, before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysia recorded 3.1 million tourist arrivals from China, up from 2.94 million the previous year.
Despite a sharp decline in tourist numbers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, to 405,000 in 2020, Malaysia’s tourism industry is expected to start benefiting from Chinese visitors again as the republic gradually eases restrictions.
For the third quarter ended Sept 30, 2022, Genting Berhad recorded revenue of RM4.12 billion, up 75% from RM3.5 billion in the same period last year.
In a Nov 24 report to Bursa Malaysia, the group said its revenue surge was mainly due to the leisure and hospitality sector in Malaysia and Singapore.
It said the resumption of operations at Resorts World Sentosa also reflected a revival in regional tourism, although this was not yet at pre-Covid-19 levels.
“The rebound in gambling revenue was driven by the presence of premium customers who stayed longer in the country,” it said.