Inside Asian Gaming

INSIDE ASIAN GAMING | Dec 2007 26 Vendor Profile A sians, and Chinese in particular, are widely regarded as the most hardcore gamblers in the world. Scenes at crowded Macau casinos in recent years certainly supported that view, with players jostling three-deep around tables, placing main floor bets of values often seen only in VIP areas in the west. Inside Asian Gaming foresees a less hardcore future for gaming in Asia, however. It’s not that we expect Asians to become less pas- sionate about gaming or serious gamblers to bet smaller sums, but rather, we believe the region’s casinos will begin attracting a new de- mographic of player—those seeking leisurely forms of low-denomi- nation gambling as entertainment, rather than just those betting big at the tables in pursuit of a life-changing win. Macau’s casino capacity has exploded in recent years with the opening of several new large casinos, and the crowds at each ven- ue have thinned significantly, even as visitation and casino revenue continue soaring. These days, it’s hard to find a casino with players crowded more than one-deep around the tables, even on weekends. The other striking change is that the once-idle banks of slot machines at the city’s casinos are finally seeing some action. Not only have Chinese gamblers finally started warming to the “hungry tigers”, as slots are known in the local Cantonese dialect, but Macau is also now drawing a new breed of visitor—those coming to see the city’s new and expanding non-gaming attractions. The mammoth 3,000-suite Venetian Macao kicked off its pipeline of major conventions and exhibitions after it opened on August 28, and has already hosted several prominent sporting and entertain- ment spectacles, including big-name tennis and basketball matches and concerts by Beyoncé and the Black Eyed Peas. After attending their meetings or shows, the new breed of busi- ness and leisure visitor descending on Macau may be keen to try their luck at one of the casinos, but are put off by the US$12.5 mini- mum bets at the blackjack tables or US$37.5 minimums at most baccarat tables. This will feed the already surging demand for slot machines in the city. Leisure appeal If the goal is to attract leisure gamblers, then Inspired Gaming International, part of UK-based Inspired Gaming Group plc, appears to be on the right track with its unique terminal designs, incorporat- ing monitors in coffee tables (the E-Banquette) and sleek bar tops (the E-Bar) . Baccarat is often a solo battle with the house in Asia, but slots may be best enjoyed over a cocktail or cup of coffee with a friend/ colleague/significant other. Inspired may boast some of the funkiest terminals in the in- dustry, but its core product is its Open Server-Based Gaming (Open SBG™) platform. While gamblers in Asia have traditionally demanded baccarat and not much else, the new breed of gamblers playing slots respond well to a dynamic offering of choice, which is facilitated by Inspired’s Open SBG™ system. “Server-based gaming gives you the power to change your offer- ing to your customer in real time,” says Inspired’s managing director, Anne de Kerckhove.The operator is able to remotely change the type and configuration of games, including the stake and prize, according to the time of year, week or day. For example, “more fun skill-based games could be offered during the day, and more hardcore games at night,” and specific games brought in during special periods such as Chinese New Year. The operative word in the Open SBG™ platform is“open”, and the source code is published on the internet, allowing independent de- velopers to produce games for the Inspired system. Having an open source code“is shocking for traditional manufacturers”in an industry where patents proliferate, claims Ms de Kerckhove, adding “because we didn’t come from a casino background, we were not restricted by conventional wisdom.”Some 25 separate companies produce games for the platform, including the UK division of the world’s largest slot machine manufacturer—and one of the world’s most prolific filers of patents—IGT. All about choice Inspired is also happy for its casino customers to run its platform on terminals provided by other manufacturers.For example,UK gam- ing giant Gala Coral uses the Inspired system on Atronic’s e-motion™ cabinets—widely hailed by insiders as the most ergonomically-ad- vanced cabinets in the industry. Ms de Kerckhove, stresses “we’re a software company, not a game or hardware company. We do some games but it’s not our specialty. Andwe do some hardware but it’s not our specialty.”Rather,she prefers casino operators pick the games and terminals that suit them best. With the provision of greater choice as its guiding principle, Inspired has come up with several novel approaches to electronic gaming. Observing that“people like playing together”, the company saw “a big need to introduce social gaming” says Ms de Kerckhove. And so the E-Bar and E-Banquette were born, “allowing people to learn how to play games together and share in the fun.” Inspired’s Inspired Approach Inspired Gaming International offers a vision of Asia’s leisurely gaming future, when choice will reign supreme E-Banquette