Asia round-up: Lo takes the reins at Suncity; Aristocrat H1 growth & ARF figures

By Louis Thompsett

Lo takes control of Suncity

One of Suncity Group’s senior executives, Andrew Lo, has acquired controlling shares in the firm from its ex-CEO Alvin Chau.

Suncity’s transaction filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange did not disclose the relevant figures. It did, however, disclose the disposal of controlling shares owned by the company’s ex-CEO Chau.  

Chau was arrested for alleged illegal cross-border gambling, bringing the legitimacy of junket businesses into near-irreparable disrepute.  

Macau’s Legislative Assembly has since called for a ban on junkets operating outside the control of the region’s six concessionaires, starting in the next few years.  

This measure has seen the end of a number of junket businesses and thrown even more into disarray, posing big questions about junket liquidity in the long term. 

Lo has acquired Suncity Group via an entity called Fame Select Limited, which has also claimed the controlling shares of Chau’s business partner Cheng Ting Kong.

Chau and Ting held a controlling share of 75% in Suncity before Lo acquired the firm, and the number of shares still owned by Chau and Ting remains unknown.  

Lo’s now-controlling share in Suncity has subsequently handed him a controlling hand in Suncity’s subsidiary, Summit Ascent, too. 

It remains unclear what Lo’s plans for both Suncity and Summit Ascent will be, given the uncertain legal status of junkets. 

Aristocrat reports 23% growth for H1

Aristocrat has reported operating revenue of AU$2.75bn (US$1.92bn) for the six months ended 31 March 2022. 

The figure represents a 23% increase from the six months to 31 March 2021. EBITDA grew 30% year-on-year to AU$970.3m, with the EBITDA margin climbing 1.9 points to 35.3%. 

“Aristocrat delivered an impressive and resilient performance despite mixed operational conditions and challenges. We took comprehensive action to protect our people and business while investing strongly to accelerate our growth strategy going forward” Trevor Croker, CEO and Managing Director, Aristocrat

The Australian slot machine and gaming company also reported a normalised profit after tax and before amortisation of acquired intangibles (NPATA) of $580m, a 41% increase from the prior-year period. 

“Aristocrat delivered an impressive and resilient performance despite mixed operational conditions and challenges,” said Aristocrat CEO and Managing Director Trevor Croker. “We took comprehensive action to protect our people and business while investing strongly to accelerate our growth strategy going forward.” 

ARF: “61% of betting websites examined are effectively illegal in most countries” 

The Asian Racing Federation (ARF) has found that 61% of betting websites are “either under-regulated or unlicensed” in a new report entitled The State of Illegal Betting. 

The regional federation comprises 27 national racing authorities and racing-related organisations from Asia, Oceania, Africa and the Middle East. 

Its latest publication examines online betting across its multinational jurisdiction, analysing 500 websites with regard to their licensing status, products offered, website traffic, server locations and other pertinent data points. 

Notable findings include a regulatory deficit, with nearly two-thirds of websites either unlicensed or under-regulated, meaning illegal in most countries. 

Of these latter websites, three jurisdictions were responsible for 62% of betting licences that are under-regulated: Curaçao, Malta and the Philippines. 

Overall traffic, meanwhile, increased by 37% between 2019 and 2021, though growth in under-regulated and unlicensed markets outpaced their legal counterparts by a considerable margin: 64% versus 36%. 

Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, Chairman of the ARF, commented: “The report points out that the globalised growth of illegal betting results in major threats to the integrity of racing and other sports, the growth of transnational organised crime and gambling harm to customers.” 

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