There is a tremendous potential for growth in Asia as the demand for gaming here far exceeds current supply," Frank Fahrenkopf, president and chief executive of the American Gaming Association, told The Standard. "The gaming sector, like most other industries, is not recession- proof, but it is known that during harsh economic times, people tend to specially save up money in order to spend the weekend at casinos and escape from their daily lives."
A culture of gambling, large population and rising affluence all add up to Asia becoming a gambling superpower.
Fahrenkopf is the keynote speaker at the Global Gaming Expo Asia, the premier trade show for the Asian gaming industry held this week at the Venetian Macao. "As the Asian economy has not been severely affected by the global financial stress and mainland projected growth remains at a relatively high rate of 7 to 8 percent, it is improbable that the Asian gaming market will shrink in the near future," Fahrenkopf said.
Furthermore, he believes that there is more than enough space in Asia to accommodate the thousands of new gaming tables in the next five years.
Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan seek to follow the gaming success of Singapore and Macau by setting up a string of integrated resorts. Macau is undergoing a second round of development to satiate the enormous demand.
Gaming mogul Steve Wynn said last month that he has obtained the land grant for his second casino. Macau's Galaxy Entertainment Group, meanwhile, has announced its plans to build the us$ 1.95 billion second phase of its Galaxy Macau integrated resort.
All such expansions have led Standard & Poor's to warn Asia- Pacific gaming companies about "medium-term risks." Fahrenkopf dismissed claims that the Asian gaming industry may be over- saturated with too many new players, saying the casino market in Asia is supply-driven. "When are there too many Starbucks?" asked Fahrenkopf. "Well, the market will tell us when there are too many. The same thing is true in the gaming industry."
He said casinos have gone beyond conventional gambling services, and turned into entertainment complexes.
Government over-regulation of the casino industry may dampen its growth, he said.