Inside Asian Gaming

INSIDE ASIAN GAMING | Dec 2007 14 W hen James Bond played a literally heart-stopping poker match in the recent film Casino Royale the stu- dio producers were wittingly or unwittingly providing a huge marketing boost for the game across Asia. Poker in its various forms—including Texas Hold ‘em, Draw and Stud—is increas- ingly being seen as ‘cool’ by a new gen- eration of fashion and label-conscious con- sumers in the region. If card games were clothing labels then poker would be Prada— aspirational and loved by celebrities—while Macau’s current number one game,baccarat, would probably be H&M—offering satisfac- tion and solid performance for middle in- come and rich alike. The poker wave is now spreading be- yond its traditional Asian footholds in the Philippines and South Korea, where genera- tions of locally based American GIs helped to popularise it. Macau held its first international poker tournament organised by the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) in November, with the support of Grand Waldo Casino, which runs under the license of Galaxy Entertainment Group. Galaxy had previously installed Pok- ertek automated tables in its StarWorld resort in downtown Macau—making StarWorld the first casino in Macau to offer poker. No one is expecting Macau to become a Texas Hold ’em town overnight. Baccarat in its VIP form with minimum bets counted in thousands of Hong Kong dollars and the mass market version with HK$100 mini- mums (although many popular venues only offer HK$300 minimums), accounted for 85.3% of the territory’s total revenues from games of fortune last year according to sta- tistics from Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ). It’s a measure of the relative immaturity of the poker market in Asia and the lack of any regulatory precedents that the organis- ers of the Macau tournament needed special permission from the DICJ just to hold the contest in the first place. It’s also an indica- tion of the potential of the game that the APPT had to hastily apply for an extension to the 270-player event because of popular demand. Originally, APPT had only planned and obtained approval for 27 ten-player ta- bles, but that was extended to 35 tables only days before the event. The tour had to bor- row poker tables from other casinos’training rooms to seat all the participants. Poker joins the Macau mix It all adds up to the fact that Macau’s product pack is getting a re-shuffle. Only days after the pioneering APPT event at the Grand Waldo casino, which eventually at- tracted 352 players from across the region, the PokerDome Group,an Australian compa- ny from Sydney, announced it had reached an agreement with the SJM-licensed Dia- mond Casino at the Holiday Inn Macau for the territory’s first dedicated poker room. IN FOCUS The New Deal Poker, driven by strong online marketing, has arrived in Macau