An increased number of Filipino high rollers are choosing Saipan as their preferred gambling destination, according to several media outlets quoting the findings of Aviareps, a tourism marketing group.
According to media reports citing Aviareps’ findings, more than 1,000 Filipinos have travelled to Saipan on a monthly basis this year.
Saipan is the home of Imperial Pacific International (IPI) Holdings’ Best Sunshine casino.
The sole gaming operation in the island has made headlines and attracted the attention of U.S. financial authorities due to record VIP gambling turnover numbers – US$5.6 billion (MOP45.08 billion) in January 2017.
Saipan is part of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. Commonwealth, which gives the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) authority over its legal mechanisms.
Last June, IPI said that it would only announce monthly unaudited results for its VIP rolling chip for its casino in Saipan when amounts totalled less than US$2.5 billion, according to a filing by the company with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
The tourism company claimed that Filipino high rollers are flying to Saipan because it offers a break from traditional destinations such as Macau and Las Vegas.
The fact that there is a direct flight connection operated by Philippine Airlines linking the Philippines to the island is also a factor encouraging more Filipinos to go there, according to reports.
In addition to being geographically close, Saipan is home to a large Filipino community, which currently accounts for 40 per cent of Saipan’s total population of 55,000.
IPI raising funds
Imperial Pacific International is seeking to raise some HK$400 million through two bond placements to use the net proceedings – commissions and expenses deducted – for the development of phase one of its Saipan project, the company announced in a filing with the Hong Kong Exchange on Wednesday after trading hours.
The first phase started in January 2017.
According to reports, IPI claims that total investment in its resort – which opened in ‘permanent mode’ in early July – could amount to a total of some US$7 billion.
The company has entered into placing agreements with Convoy Investment Services Limited to arrange places to subscribe for one aggregate of bonds up to a total amount of HK$350 million and another aggregate of up to an amount of HK$50 million.
The bonds will be placed at not less than six venues for independent professional, institutional or private investors, and those whose ultimate beneficial owners are independent third parties.
The agreement requires the issue of bonds of an aggregate principal amount of no less than HK$500,000 and subsequent integral multiples of HK$500,000.
The company noted the bonds constitute direct, unconditional, unsubordinated and unsecured obligations of the company.
Grant Govertsen, managing director and head of Asia Equity Research at Union Gaming Securities Asia, told Business Daily that it is difficult to say if the Aviareps report’s findings on Filipino high rollers preferring to travel to Saipan than Macau or Las Vegas “is accurate or not.”
On the other hand, he said that “the contribution to Macau’s GGR [gross gaming revenue] from Filipino high rollers is incredibly small, so should they stop coming to Macau it wouldn’t have an impact on GGR here.”