Forthcoming Issue

December 2017

Special Issue

Integrated Mega-Casinos and Speculative Urbanism in Southeast Asia

Guest Editor Juan Zhang

Introduction: Integrated Mega-Casinos and Speculative Urbanism in Southeast Asia

Juan Zhang, The University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia

Keywords: Casino, gambling, Integrated Resorts, neoliberal urbanism, Southeast Asia, speculation, urban development


In the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, luxurious mega-casino resorts became spectacles of economic growth across diverse destinations in Asia. Built in the form of large-scale Integrated Resorts (IR), the casino and leisure industry has been regarded as hopeful sites of economic rejuvenation even when they remain dubious spaces of moral corruption. Integrated mega-casinos are ambiguous projects of development, driving the speculative processes of place making for accumulation, social control, and global competition. This editorial introduction focuses on three main themes. First, mega-IR projects show the historical and complicated relations between state power and the gambling economy. Second, these projects show different experimentation with speculative urbanism. Third, casino-as-development consolidates the differentiated treatment of citizen subjects and gives legitimacy to the biopolitical governance of citizen practices, claims and urban participation. Chinese Translation of Abstract – 摘要

Gambling on the Future: Casino Enclaves, Development, and Poverty Alleviation in Laos

Kearrin Sims, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia

Keywords: Laos, casino, expulsion, Chinese tourism, special economic zone, Greater Mekong Subregion


Following the extraordinary wealth generation of casinos in Macau and Singapore, governments and non-state actors across Southeast Asia have developed gambling establishments as a means to fast-track economic growth and stimulate national development.  Yet, here and elsewhere, casinos have been heavily criticized for their association with immoral behaviour, problem gambling, corruption and organized crime. In this article I focus on two casinos in northern Laos to address two research questions. First, I consider how casinos have come to exist within the remote border regions of one of Asia’s least developed countries. Here, I discuss vice economies within the Golden Triangle region, multi-actor aspirations to boost transnational connectivity within continental Southeast Asia, strengthening political-economic relationships between Laos and China, and Government of Laos efforts to use foreign investment as a mechanism for increasing governance capacities in borderlands. Following this, I critically analyse how, in what ways, and for whom, casinos have brought development to Laos. Here, I focus specifically on the multifarious effects of casinos on the lives and livelihoods of local communities to argue that casino development has been informed by logics of expulsion and the establishment of new predatory formations. To make this argument, the article draws on four fieldwork visits to each of the casino sites between 2011 and 2015, desk-based research, and interviews with local residents, casino staff and members of the Government of Laos. Chinese Translation of Abstract – 摘要

The State of Fun? Exclusive Casino Urbanism and Its Biopolitical Borders in Singapore

Juan Zhang, The University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia

Brenda S.A. Yeoh, National University of Singapore, Kent Ridge, Singapore

Keywords: Casino, Fun, Discipline, Urbanism, Biopolitical borders, Singapore


This paper interrogates the exclusionary politics of casino urbanism in Singapore, especially in terms of how this particular brand of urbanism reproduces disciplinary regimes through the uneven consumption of fun and leisure. Singapore’s vision of becoming a world-class “state of fun” is accompanied by increasingly sophisticated measures of boundary making between global leisure citizens and the excluded others, often the working class and those deemed to be at risk or lacking self-control and responsibility. The evolving biopoltical borders coincide with the multiple borders set up around Singapore’s casino space, ensuring the exclusive consumption of Singapore’s casino urbanism by the wealthy few. The fun regimes working through casinos help to normalize social exclusion, moralize disciplinary control, and give legitimacy to the new class of global consumers under the operations of the state-capital apparatus. This paper argues that exclusive casino urbanism has broader social and political implications on issues of equality, accessibility, and urban participation. Chinese Translation of Abstract – 摘要

PAGCOR and the Entertainment City: Complex Networks and Gaming Development in the Philippines

Vincente Chua Reyes, Jr., University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Austrialia

 Keywords: PAGCOR, casino, governance, corruption, complex networks, the Philippines


This article analyses the unique trajectory of the Philippine gaming industry with a particular focus on the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and the Entertainment City development in Manila. It aims to provide empirical insight on how state and non-state actors take part in Philippine’s growing gaming industry in a neoliberal context. This article first provides reflection on the dominant patron-client paradigms that is insufficient to provide an explanation to both the gaming development in the country and the regulatory mechanisms behind this industry. By providing a description of how the PAGCOR and the Entertainment City project circumvent the dysfunctional bureaucracy that often cripples national political and economic governance, this article suggests that a closer look at the complex networks between stakeholders in both the public and private sectors will provide an alternative way of understanding Philippine politics. The strategic decision to invest heavily into the gaming industry by the weak Philippine state presents a clear example of how these complex networks operate. The gaming regulatory policy pragmatically employs current Philippine laws to ensure maximum profit for the state. This article concludes that a critical examination of the gaming industry of the Philippines spanning both the legal and illegal types and the social relations of confidence and suspicion between public and private stakeholders can be analytically illuminating. Chinese Translation of Abstract – 摘要

Phnom Penh’s NagaWorld Resort and Casino

Teri Shaffer Yamada, California State University, Long Beach, USA

Keywords:  Cambodia, patron-clientelism, revenue farming, casino, tourism, NagaWorld


NagaWorld, the only integrated resort and casino in Phnom Penh and touted as the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, currently holds a privileged position in Cambodia’s gaming industry: a unique government agreement for a 70-year gaming license until 2065 and a casino monopoly agreement for Phnom Penh City until 2035. Its corporate management cleverly leveraged NagaWorld’s special status with the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) to facilitate the production of stellar profits. This article analyzes the intersection of NagaWorld’s business history with the political economy of Cambodia from the 1990s. It argues that NagaWorld’s special relationship with politicians can be understood in terms of its status as a new form of “monopoly revenue farm” within Cambodia’s customs of patron clientism. Its viability as a business model for casino capitalism in other areas of Southeast Asia may be limited unless similar monopoly conditions can be replicated elsewhere. Chinese Translation of Abstract – 摘要

Review Essay

“We as Peoples have the Right to Exist”: Threatened Nations and Climate Justice

Milla Emilia Vaha, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland

CLIMATE JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS. By Tracey Skillington. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. vii, 287 pp. US$129.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-137-02280-6.

DISAPPEARING ISLAND STATES. By Jenny Grote Stoutenburg. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2015. xvi, 486 pp. (Illustrations.) US$240.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-04-30300-3.

THREATENED ISLAND NATIONS: Legal Implications of Rising Seas and a Changing Climate. By Michael B. Gerrard, Gregory E. Wannier. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. xix, 639 pp. (Table, illustrations.) US$160.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-107-02576-9.

Keywords: Climate change; climate justice; international law; Small Island States. 


Climate change currently affects several states and their citizens around the globe. As sea-level-rise is threatening to make some states completely uninhabitable, Small Island States serve as examples of states at the greatest risk. This review essay analyses three recent contributions to the literature on climate change and the future of endangered populations. These books offer timely contributions to the thinking about the prospects of not only threatened nations but also about the shape and content of global governance in the era of Anthropocene. The authors of the reviewed work suggest some interesting and novel innovations, particularly for updating the international legislation surrounding climate governance. At the same time, given how unpredictable process climate change is, the imaginaries aiming to tackle future developments should perhaps be even bolder. Chinese Translation of Abstract – 摘要

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