Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Happy FU Day to New York City and casinos

November 13, 2022

Warmest regards for Felix Unger Day, this year celebrating New York City, where FU Day and I were born. New York has begun the process of issuing up to three casino licenses for New York City and the downstate area.

Resorts World Catskills hasn’t done much to brighten the Borscht Belt. (Photo credit: Muhammad Cohen)

New York State has a dismal track record on casinos, largely compiled under ousted governor Andrew Cuomo. Issuing three downstate licenses virtually ensures any new NYC casinos won’t be worthy of the greatest city on earth.

And, as Oscar Madison’s secretary Myrna Turner might have told Mistuh Em, “New York City without a casino is like a fish without a bicycle.”

Former US diplomat and broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is Asia editor at large for ICE365, a longtime contributor to Forbes, columnist for Asia Times and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about TV news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook, Twitter @MuhammadCohen and LinkedIn.

EuroVegas: Mediterranean Strip tease or investment alternative to sluggish Asia?

November 11, 2022

Batumi, the Vegas of the Black Sea in Georgia, has 11 casinos, an attractive seaside plaza and big ambitions. (Photo credit: Muhammad Cohen)

As Asian gaming remains muted with its post-Covid prospects murky, the time seems ripe for integrated resorts in Europe. Hard Rock International, Melco Resorts and Cordish are developing IRs a decade after Sheldon Adelson proposed creating EuroVegas in Spain with multiple resorts, casinos, golf courses and thousands of hotel rooms.

VIP room in Casino International at the Batumi Hilton. (Photo provided by Casino International)

Europe already has hundreds of casinos, most catering to local markets, along with a handful of gaming destinations with wider reach. Batumi, Georgia’s Black Sea Vegas, drawing customers from neighboring Turkey and the Middle East, has attractive casinos in international branded hotels, dramatic surroundings, great food and wine, plus expansion ambitions.

Former US diplomat and broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is Asia editor at large for ICE365, a longtime contributor to Forbes, columnist for Asia Times and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about TV news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook, Twitter @MuhammadCohen and LinkedIn.

Marina Bay Sands drives LVS performance

November 8, 2022

The world’s most admired casino resort, seen from Gardens by the Bay. (Credit: Marina Bay Sands)

As Macau continues to struggle under the zero-Covid regime, Singapore icon Marina Bay Sands keeps driving Las Vegas Sands’ financial performance. In an exclusive interview, MBS chief operating officer Paul Town explains how the common interests and shared purpose of the resort and its Singapore host community key the integrated resort’s lasting success.

Former US diplomat and broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is Asia editor at large for ICE365, a longtime contributor to Forbes, columnist for Asia Times and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about TV news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook, Twitter @MuhammadCohen and LinkedIn.

#UWRF22: Osman Yousefzada’s ‘tug of war’

October 29, 2022

Osman Yousefzada speaking at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali. (Photo credit:Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2022)

“Reformed fashion designer” Osman Yousefzada writes about growing up in a Pakistani-Afghan family in Birmingham, England, in The Go-Between. “It’s not the typical immigrant story of having a business degree and becoming a taxi driver,” he explained at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali. “My story is completely different.”

Yousefzada’s parents weren’t literate in any language and lived according to ancestral ultra conservative Muslim traditions. His sisters were taken out of school at age 10, and his mother hardly ever left the house, where she ran a small dressmaking business, grounding Yousefzada’s career in fashion. As he approached puberty, he was increasingly shut off from women in their community beyond his immediate family, “removing the color from my life.” His family’s community didn’t like his book: “They didn’t want to show themselves.”

Margaret Thatcher’s bare knuckle capitalism attacked Birmingham’s unionized industrial base and, with it, Yousefzada’s father’s livelihood. “What Thatcherism took away, the petrodollar and religiosity replaced,” Yousefzada says. “When my father came to the UK in the 1970s, he looked suave, a sort of Cary Grant. Then he changed his appearance.”

With manufacturing virtually extinct in the UK, fashion production now resides in places like Bangladesh. Yousefzada traveled there and recorded garment workers’ views of customers buying the clothing they produce. “They believed their customers ate only fruit,” and wore clothes two or three times then threw them away. Rather than the Western mythology that anybody can become president or millionaires, a seamstress told Yousefzada, “I can only dream as much as I can afford.”

Now more focused on visual and performance art, Yousefzada approached fashion as an exercise in anthropology “about costume and space.” Making space for one’s self is a recurring theme with Yousefzada. “There’s a tug of war with myself: what do I want to call myself. I’ve settled as artist and writer.” Based on his Ubud events and The Go-Between, that seems to be a good fit.

Former US diplomat and broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is Asia editor at large at ICE365, a contributor to Forbes, columnist for Asia Times and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about TV news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook, Twitter @MuhammadCohen and LinkedIn.

Ubud Writers Festival back live to lift Bali

October 18, 2022

Born in the wake of the 2002 Bali bombings, the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival return live to foster cultural exchange and boost recovery of tourism on the Indonesian island after more than two years of Covid crimped international travel.

With more than 200 speakers from 19 countries, this 19th edition of the festival runs October 27-30 in Bali. This year’s theme is the Javanese concept Memayu Hayuning Bawana, Uniting Humanity.

“I am proud to announce that the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival returns with an exciting on-the-ground program,” festival founder and director Janet DeNeefe announced at a press conference.

“We will explore the power of storytelling and the role of the written word to uphold humanity’s values and freedoms. With the world becoming more fractured, our lives more disturbed, we will ask: how can we unite the many strands of different cultures and perspectives to create, deeper understanding, mutual respect, and equality?”

Balinese novelist and poet Putu Oka Sukanto, whose work examines Indonesia’s authoritarian past, has received the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award. “This award strengthens my determination to write and work for those that are left out and those that are marginalized by power,” Sukanto said in thanking the festival for the award.

Puteri Indonesia (Miss Universe Indonesia) 2022 Laksmi DeNeefe Suardana will bring her advocacy for literacy to the program. Daughter of the festival founder, Suardana said, “I’ve been with the festival since the beginning, and it has had a huge impact on me. I want to provide equal opportunities for Indonesian children.”

The festival is an annual highlight of the Bali calendar. As a fan and multiyear participant, I congratulate DeNeefe and her team for weathering Covid, and hope the festival continues to thrive as a forum for ideas and dialogue.

Former US diplomat and broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is Asia editor at large at ICE365, a contributor to Forbes, columnist for Asia Times and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about TV news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook, Twitter @MuhammadCohen and LinkedIn.

Wynn-Adelson Vegas rivalry ended in Macau

September 24, 2022

Las Vegas Sands founder Sheldon Adelson and wife Dr Miriam Adelson (center) at the April 2012 opening of Sands Cotai Central in Macau, with then Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on (left) and then Las Vegas Sands president and chief operating officer Michael Leven.

Las Vegas visionaries Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn took separate routes to revolutionizing the Strip while ragging on each other. When their paths brought them to Macau, the Adelson -Wynn rivalry was expected to continue. Instead it fizzled, amid their radically different approaches to the great gaming opportunity of their lifetimes.

Former US diplomat and broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is Asia editor at large at ICE365, a contributor to Forbes, columnist for Asia Times and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about TV news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook, Twitter @MuhammadCohen and LinkedIn.

Genting bankruptcy charts new cruise course

August 30, 2022

Same ship, different brand. (Photo provided by Resorts World Cruises)

Covid coupled with massive ill-timed bets on the Asian cruise market led to bankruptcy for Genting Hong Kong, the company that began as Star Cruises. But for Genting chairman Lim Kok Thay and family that control the global gaming and leisure group, bankruptcy seems little more than a course correction.

Former US diplomat and broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is Asia editor at large at ICE 365, a contributor to Forbes, columnist for Asia Times and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about TV news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook, Twitter @MuhammadCohen and LinkedIn.

The Lazarus Heist details North Korea cybercrime

August 23, 2022

I’m reading The Lazarus Heist, adapted from last year’s BBC World Service podcast of the same name about North Korea’s cybercrime wave that includes my comments on its casino angles. Author Geoff White puts Pyongyang’s high tech trespass in the context of the ruling Kim dynasty and the post-Cold War world. It’s a fascinating true crime read laced with geopolitical insight.

Note: The book repeats the podcast’s error of identifying me a Macau resident. Although I’ve been visiting Macau for decades and have on occasion spent weeks there on assignment, I have never been a Macau resident and never identified myself as one. White is working on a correction for future iterations of the book, and I’m grateful for that.

Former US diplomat and broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is Asia editor at large at ICE365, a contributor to Forbes, columnist for Asia Times and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about TV news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook, Twitter @MuhammadCohen and LinkedIn.

Angela Leong bets on Macau, Stanley Ho

July 20, 2022

Lisboeta in Cotai recreates highlights of casino mogul Stanley Ho’s salad days in1960s Macau. (Image provided by Lisboeta)

People go to Macau to see replicas of Venice, Paris and London. With Lisboeta, Angela Leong is betting tourists will come to see Macau, more specifically, the Macau of her late husband and casino kingpin Stanley Ho. The resort stakes her family’s claim as proud heirs to Ho’s gaming legacy.

Former US diplomat and broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is Asia editor at large at ICE 365, a contributor to Forbes, columnist for Asia Times and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about TV news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook, Twitter @MuhammadCohen and LinkedIn.

Japan curbs casino enthusiasm

June 11, 2022

Hokkaido is among leading Japan tourist destinations that chose not to seek a casino resort. (Photo credit: Japan National Tourism Organization)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed casino legalization for Japan in 2013, prompting unprecedented excitement among gaming companies across the globe. After a nearly a decade of delays, diffidence and grassroots dissent, Japan has two bids for three licenses, with leading casino companies and top tourist destinations, including Tokyo and Hokkaido island, choosing to pass. Across the board efforts to curb Japan casino enthusiasm have been breathtaking.

Former US diplomat and broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is Asia editor at large at ICE 365, a contributor to Forbes, columnist for Asia Times and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about TV news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook, Twitter @MuhammadCohen and LinkedIn.


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