Las Vegas, Monte Carlo, Macau…Hainan?

Jesters At Mangrove Tree Resort World Testing Non-Monetary Gambling

Mangrove Tree Resort in Sanya

A long-rumored development in China’s tropical southernmost province, Hainan, is finally taking shape as gamblers bet “points” — rather than cash — at Jesters casino at the Mangrove Tree Resort World on Sanya Bay. Opened at the end of last year, the resort’s casino bar is a government-approved test site of sorts, where gamblers can cash in points within the resort for rooms, luxury items, jewelry and artwork. According to Reuters, the possibility that gambling could be legalized in Hainan — which has sought to make itself a duty-free shopping destination over the past two years as well — has real competitive implications for Macau, currently the only legal gaming site in Greater China, as well as international investors. Via Reuters:

“Right now we are not at this stage,” he added, referring to whether casino gambling was being legalized in mainland China. “But my personal opinion is, in future, there is a big possibility that they will have.”

The stakes are enormous — casinos in Macau, the former Portuguese colony that is now a special administrative region of China, posted $38 billion in gambling revenue last year, primarily from mainland Chinese players. If Beijing were to allow gambling elsewhere in the country, the cash would follow.

Last year, MGM Resorts International opened a hotel in Sanya, a popular tourist destination on Hainan Island, and a fellow U.S. casino operator, Caesars Entertainment, plans to open a hotel in 2014.

When asked about gambling in Hainan, an MGM spokesman said the company had no plan to introduce “anything of this kind.” Caesars did not respond to requests for comment.

The gaming set-up at the Mangrove Tree in Sanya is interesting, if highly unusual. To gamble, hotel guests — only guests are currently allowed in the casino bar — purchase tickets for 500 yuan (US$80), then can place bets from 20-2,000 yuan in the low-rollers area, and 2,000-100,000 yuan in the high-limits section. Reuters notes that a VIP room, which will allow bets of over 100,000 yuan, is under construction. Currently, guests can cash in their points for items such as iPads and Rimowa suitcases, but will soon be able to “shop” with points at 20 planned luxury boutiques slated to open at the resort, among them Prada and Louis Vuitton.

UPDATE 2/19/2013: Reuters reports that the Mangrove Tree’s casino bar has been shut down by authorities. That was quick.

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