Last Friday, the Malaysian Budget was announced and one of the main highlights of that event was the negative surprises it had in store for the gaming sectors. This came in the form of an unprecedented tax hike that affected a number of gambling businesses including the country’s casinos and slot parlors.
As stipulated by the Malaysian government’s budget, the casino licensing fee will be increased to MYR150 million per year up from MYR120 million ($28.8 million). The casino duty rate will also be raised from the previous 25 percent to 35 percent of the gross gaming revenue. Furthermore, gaming machine duties will also be raised from 20 percent to 30 percent on gross collection.
Following the budget announcement, Genting Malaysia Bhd. suffered its worst ever single-day fall after a number of analysts downgraded its stock. The investment analysts who have been observing the Malaysian gaming sector pointed out that investors had previously priced in an increase in Malaysia’s gaming tax. However, they were, apparently, not expecting that the government would impose such high taxes – the country’s tax policies on gaming revenue have remained unchanged since the late 90s when the rate jumped from 22 percent to 25 percent.
“The casino license fee and duty rate hike are the largest on record,” said analyst Samuel Yin Shao Yang of Maybank Kim Eng Research. “The new casino duty rate of 35 percent, effective sales and service tax of 3.7 percent and corporate tax rate of 24 percent, ‘crowns’ Resorts World Genting as the heaviest taxed casino in Asia. Macau casinos are also taxed at 39 percent of gross gaming revenue but they are exempted from corporate tax.”
Genting Malaysia’s stock price fell by as much as 30 percent, its biggest drop since 1989. Genting Bhd., its parent company, also saw a 12 percent decrease in stock price which is also its highest since 1989. Some analysts estimate that there will be a MYR600 million to MYR700 million impact on the casino’s earnings before taxation, interest, amortization, and depreciation as well as net income for fiscal years 2019 and 2020. This is likely to offset a huge chunk of the earnings growth that is expected from Genting Bhd.’s capital expenditure into newer capacities over the past half-decade.
On the flipside, some analysts believe that increase casino licensing and tax fees may be offset by the increased volume and revenues that are expected to become a reality when the new theme park reopens. With an increased number of visitors to the Genting Highlands, there will be a positive spillover effect on the highland’s visitors and this will, in a way, cushion it from the overall impact of the new rates.