It wasn't long ago that Atlantic City was the talk of the gaming world. When the New Jersey city began opening casinos in the late 1970s, it was supposed to be the next Las Vegas. But soon Las Vegas reinvented itself, as Steve Wynn built megaresorts like The Mirage, Treasure Island, and Bellagio.
Fast-forward to 2011 and the talk of the gaming world has moved to Asia. Macau boasts some of the newest and most profitable casinos in the world, and anybody who's anybody has opened a resort there. Wynn Resorts (NAS: WYNN) , MGM Resorts (NYS: MGM) , and Melco Crown (NAS: MPEL) have all joined Las Vegas Sands (NYS: LVS) , which first showed the area's possibilities when it opened Sands Macau in 2004.
But casino development has slowed in Macau as the government tries to contain gaming growth. With Singapore off limits until 2017, operators will no doubt look for their next place of conquest. Here are some countries that open up possibilities.
Japan has proposed legislation that would allow casino gambling in the island nation. A structure similar to what Singapore has implemented appears likely, with an entry fee for locals, encouraging more foreigner play. Japan has been talking about allowing casinos for years, but the nuclear disaster earlier this year has brought casino funding to the forefront as a way to help rebuild the area.
Vietnam has a small number of casinos that are open to foreigners. MGM Resorts is currently helping build an integrated resort that will be the centerpiece of a $4.2 billion development on the South China Sea coast.
Taiwan has also passed legislation to legalize casinos in the near future and is likely to seek bids from major operators relatively soon. Initial indications are that a tax rate poised between Singapore and Macau would be levied on gaming and an integrated mega-resort would be required of the builder.
Additional locations in Europe as well as South Korea have also been seen as areas of potential growth.
If more countries open up gaming, the concern is that it's too much of a good thing. Right now, the number of casinos in Southeast Asia is restricted by governments, and expansion could bring down the profitability of each casino. And most of these countries are in relative proximity to each other, so competition would definitely increase.
Which country would you like to see open a new mega-resort? Leave your pick in our comments section, and add these casino operators to My Watchlist to keep up to date with the latest on these stocks.
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