IAG 2006-06-07 Jun-Jul - page 12-13

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hand, an entire medium-sized slot hall
with up to two hundredmachines requires
just one technicianonduty tohandle tech-
nical problems.
Dealers inMacauarecurrentlypaidabout
14,000patacas (US$1,750) amonth,putting
theannual labour cost of runningeach table
at 1.68 million patacas (US$ 210,000). The
basic salary of dealers rose considerably fol-
lowing the end of SJM’s 40-year monopoly
because dealers are now no longer allowed
to exhort gamblers to give them tips – as
wascommonpracticeatStanleyHo’scasinos
during the monopoly era. This, along with
limited supply driving up wages, is making
electronicgamingan increasinglycost-effec-
tivealternative.
Another innovation is electronic table
games that use human dealers in conjunc-
tionwith automation to speed play and cut
staffing requirements. Rapid Roulette and
Rapid Sic Bo, developed by Australian video
gaming company Stargames, have been in-
troduced at Galaxy Entertainment Group’s
new casino, GrandWaldo, and SJM has also
put inorders for themachines.Thedealeran-
nounces the games’ countdown and results,
while bets are taken and payouts made by
computers.
Bonus Attractions
Machines can offer more bonus features
to players than table games. Among the
most popular games at Emperor’s slot hall
is Golden Blackjack, produced by Japanese
manufacturer Ohira Giken Industry. Golden
Blackjack isunlikecomputerblackjack in that
it deals real cards to players rather than of-
fering animated simulations. Golden Black-
jackalso features aprogressive jackpot as an
addedattraction forplayers.Mr.Lam tellsofa
Chinese ladywhowalkedawaywitha90,000
pataca (US$11,250) jackpot inMay.
Machines also facilitate tracking custom-
ers’ behaviour and preferences, and allow
the awarding of redemption points which
are becoming a must-have to retain loyalty
as competition for players intensifies. All of
Macau’sslothallsoffer loyaltyprograms,with
players accumulating points that can be re-
deemed forprizes.
PatrickLamestimates that60%ofplayers
at his slot hall hold loyalty cards.“It helps. A
lot of clients like the systemwe runbecause,
for example,withinour groupwehavegot a
lotofdifferentbusinesses:ourentertainment,
jewelleryandwatches.BeforeValentine’sDay,
therewereguyscoming inwith lotsofpoints
on their cards.”
Macau SetsMachine Trends
Slot manufacturers claim that Macau is
becoming a launching pad for the latest
gaming technologies. Patrick Hogan, re-
gional general manager of RGB (Macau),
says “I think Macau is becoming the leader
as far as gaming opportunities and tech-
nologies are concerned. I would have to
say that probably Macau is now evolv-
ing to become more about multi-termi-
nal games. In Western casinos, you don’t
get the variety of games you can find
here. Macau is dynamic. It’s adventurous.”
AccordingtoMr.Lam,theEmperorPalaceCa-
sinowas thefirstplace in theworld to intro-
duceGoldenBlackjack.“Macau is very lucky.
All of theoperatorsarenew,so theybring in
the best machines from around theworld.”
Ted Chan predicts multi-terminals will
spread to other Asian gaming jurisdictions
where themarket forgamingmachines is in
its infancy, serving as a transitional product
from tables to slots.
To capture emerging machine gam-
ing opportunities in Asia, Melco’s technol-
ogy arm, Elixir, recently entered a gaming
technology alliance with Shuffle Master,
the parent company of Stargames. The al-
liance plans to “develop localized gaming
technologies for legalized gaming jurisdic-
tions in Asia” and to build “a world-class
manufacturing base” in mainland China.
TedChanpoints out that theexistingmajor
slotmanufacturers do fully not address the
Asianmarket.“Over the past 20 years,Asian
playershavecontributed too little to theslot
market. Most slot games are developed by
US andAustralian slotmakers for their own
markets. Unfortunately, we have to choose
fromwhat is available.Theproducts arenot
customized forourmarket.Nowwhat Ihope
is to have some big [Asian] slot operators
to negotiate with the slot manufacturers
or to cooperate with them to develop new
games and then re-export them to theUS.”
Mr. Chan suggests manufacturers develop
more highly volatile games to appeal to
Chinese gamblers, as well as games with
Chinese-language interfaces (some manu-
facturersareonlywillingtotranslatethema-
chines’buttons anddisplays toperfunctori-
ly satisfy their clients) and Chinese-themes.
Even the popular electronic baccarat ma-
chines are not properly customised for the
Macau market. The established practice in
Macau is for thehouse to takeafivepercent
commissiononwinningbankerbets,where-
as manufacturers only offer electronic bac-
caratmachinesrunaccordingtothepractice
in Las Vegas,where there is no commission
but thehouse takeshalf thebet if thebanker
has a six.This can,of course, confuseplayers
in Macau unfamiliar with Vegas rules. “We
are forced to take it. Fortunately, it is still
very popular in Macau,” explains Mr. Chan.
The alliance between Shuffle Master
and Elixir will compliment the Mocha
Slot outlets by providing games more in
tunewith theAsianmarket.“Wewill put our
experience into the design [of Elixir’s prod-
ucts]. These games hopefully will be the
most popular games inAsia,”saysMr.Chan.
He adds: “Mocha is a very important plat-
form. Without this platform it is very hard
to know what the market wants exactly.”
Macau is regarded as a potential goldmine
by slot machine manufacturers. Many in-
ternational manufacturers, including Aris-
tocrat Technologies, Bally Gaming and Sys-
tems, IGT,TCSJohnHuxley and RGB have set
upmarketing offices in the city in order to
get closer to local clients. At the moment,
however, theMacau gamingmachinemar-
ket is still relatively insignificant – IGT, for
example, sold 91,400 machines worldwide
in 2005, equivalent to almost 22 times the
entire installed slotmachinebase inMacau.
That isperhaps themain reasonwhy thebig
manufacturers have been so slow to devel-
op customised offerings for the local mar-
ket. This provides an opportunity for Asian
manufacturers such as Elixir and Taiwan’s
JumboTechnologyCo–developerof the sic
bomachine – to stake their position in the
emergingmarket.
Drawing aNew Crowd
Slots inMacau are attracting a new demo-
graphic of gambler seeking towhile away a
few hours without staking tableminimums
starting at 100patacas (US$12.5) in the city.
“Our prediction is that themarket will shift
to the middle class players. Gradually, slots
will become very popular in Macau,” pre-
dicts Mr. Chan. Slots are also drawing in lo-
cals, and half or more of customers at both
Mocha Slot and Emperor’s slot hall areMa-
cau residents.
The coming years will seemoremiddle-
class mainland Chinese coming to Macau,
raisingdemand for slots relative to the1,000
pataca minimum baccarat tables favoured
by big-spendingmainlanders that currently
contribute thebulk of the city’s gaming rev-
enue inVIPgaming rooms.
It was only in the 1980s that slot ma-
chines took the lead from table games in
the LasVegasmassmarket.Analysts look to
Las Vegas’ history to predict where Macau
is headed. It appeared that Macau could go
down a slightly divergent path given the
initial popularity of multi-terminal games,
but with traditional slots having taken the
lead in the gamingmachinemarket comes
further confirmation that Macau is moving
towards the Vegas model at an accelerated
pace.Thus, like the foreign casino operators
arriving in Macau, slot manufacturers fo-
cused on the city also look set to enjoy ac-
celeratedearnings.
Machines also facilitate
tracking customers’
behaviour and
preferences, and allow the
awardingof redemption
pointswhich arebecoming
amust-have to retain
loyalty as competition for
players intensifies
Emperor PalaceCasino’s slot hall
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