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Asia round-up: eVisas to Macau's rescue; Hogg leaves The Star, Suncity update & more

Macau casino stocks have surged to their highest levels in six months amid news the region is set to resume issuing electronic visas, allowing Chinese group tours in late October or early November. 

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Chief Executive Ho lat Seng over the weekend announced that eVisas and package tours will be reinstated following discussions with the Chinese Government. Such offers have been suspended since January 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic. 

A Bloomberg Intelligence gauge of Macau’s six licensed casino operators showed overall gains of more than 10% on Monday morning. Sands China rose 16% to HKD20.50 (US$2.61), with SJM Holdings and Wynn Macau up around 14% and 10% respectively, according to RFI. 

Analysts said the news about eVisas came earlier than expected, with JPMorgan noting that the move was the most significant easing of restrictions since Macau’s border with China reopened two years ago. 

“Betting under the table in Macau has been around for a long time and I joined in because I learned from others. For the fact it is illegal, I feel regret. I have been in the Coloane Prison so far more than half a year... But to be wrong is to be wrong, I will take the responsibility” Cheong Chi Kin, Suncity shareholder

Hogg resigns as Acting CEO of The Star 

Geoff Hogg has tendered his resignation as Acting CEO of The Star Entertainment Group.

The operator’s board has accepted his resignation, which encompasses all Hogg’s other positions at The Star. A final departure date is yet to be determined, while he will work with the board to transition his executive responsibilities in an orderly manner. 

Ben Heap has been appointed to the role of Executive Chairman on an interim basis, effective immediately and until the commencement of Robbie Cooke as the incoming Managing Director and CEO. 

Cooke, currently serving as Managing Director of Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale (EFTPOS) machine provider Tyro Payments, was named as the new CEO of The Star in June, but a start date has yet to be finalised. 

The Star noted that Heap has declined to be paid any additional remuneration while he is acting in the Executive Chairman role, with the company to make a further announcement once the timing of his commencement has been finalised. 

Suncity trial: Cheong Chi Kin denies committing fraud deliberately 

The former Suncity shareholder, Cheong Chi Kin, has claimed that he did not believe under-the-table betting activities (that he instigated) constituted fraud at the time he committed the offence(s). 

A Bloomberg Intelligence gauge of Macau’s six licensed casino operators showed overall gains of more than 10% on Monday morning. Sands China rose 16% to HKD20.50 (US$2.61), with SJM Holdings and Wynn Macau up around 14% and 10% respectively

Last week, Cheong admitted to commissioning the development of an IT system, Opsman, for VIPs to come and bet under the table.  

The system was created by Suncity’s VP of IT, Ali Celestino, who said at the trial: “I commissioned the mainland IT company to set up the system and then handed it over to Cheong; then I left the operation unattended.”   

Now, Cheong has spoken on his second day of trial. He said: “How can it be fraud when we can’t control the winning or losing of gamblers? Betting under the table in Macau has been around for a long time and I joined in because I learned from others.  

“For the fact it is illegal, I feel regret. I have been in the Coloane Prison so far more than half a year, my son has grown up a lot, my daughter turns 18 next year and has her graduation; and I cannot participate in the graduation ceremony. But to be wrong is to be wrong, I will take the responsibility.” 

Other defendants to appear in court recently include Chau Chun Hee, who is also charged with defrauding Macau’s Government and concessionaires through under-the-table-betting activities.

The Philippines brings down the hammer on illegal POGO firms

As part of an effort to rid the industry of illegal gambling firms, the Philippines has revealed it plans to ban 175 Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) from the country – while deporting 40,000 Chinese workers, simultaneously. Read more here. 

Missed a big gambling industry story in Asia? Don't worry, Gambling Insider has you covered with our Asia round-up. 

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