Inside Asian Gaming

INSIDE ASIAN GAMING | January 2008 Slots & Tech M acau’s gaming industry is frequently blamed for weakening other sectors of the economy, either by sucking in work- ers with the lure of above average wages or by pushing up business rents in neighbouring districts. Now there’s a modest but timely example of gaming giving a leg up to the manufacturing sector after Aristocrat, the Australian slot machine maker, told Inside Asian Gaming it is setting up an assembly line in Macau to build gaming slot machines for the Asian market. The establishment, known as an order fulfilment centre, will em- ploy local people to assemble Aristocrat machines by putting to- gether pre-built modules imported from other parts of Asia under the supervision of technical experts from Aristocrat’s home base in Australia, and other expatriates. Ken Jolly, General Manager-Asia Pacific of Aristocrat (Macau) Pty Ltd says:“By the end of January our aim is to build every or- der for the Macau market here in Macau. By March we want to have all our orders for Asia Pacific built in Macau. That’s from Fiji in the Pacific Ocean to India to the west.” Buoyant market The centre, based in sub-leased premises on the Macau peninsula, is likely to be turning out hundreds of machines a year for the local market alone. Up to the end of the third quarter 2007—the most recent figures available—Macau had 11,510 slots, a 75.8% increase on the number recorded at the end of 2006. Of that total, Aristocrat claims a 54% share of the market. The total number of locals employed at Aristocrat’s order fulfilment centre is likely to be modest at first. The announcement may not do much to placate Macau’s militant long term unemployed—only the granting of lifetime stipends in return for some light desk job is likely to achieve that. Nevertheless, the company’s move repre- sents some good economic news for Chief Executive Ed- mund Ho and his team to cheer. It comes off the back of figures released by the government’s Statistics and Cen- sus Service (SCS) at the end of December showing that Macau’s unemployment rate for September to Novem- ber 2007 fell below 3% for the first time in ten years—to 2.9%. Macau currently has a mere 9,300 workers without jobs, and many of the remaining jobless are so lacking in skills as to be virtually unemployable. The labour force participation rate—the percentage of the active work- ing population in work or seeking work—increased 3.6% year-on-year according to SCS, while the total labour force was estimated at 320,000. Growing pains Aristocrat’s news and the employment figures are a timely antidote to gripes from locals and the local media about straining infrastructure, high drop out rates among school pupils and negative publicity surrounding the trial of Ao Man Long, the former Secretary of Public Works, on corruption charges. Mr Ho and members of his cabinet team have made a number of public speeches in support of diversifying Righteous Assembly At long last, gaming makes a visible contribution to Macau’s manufacturing economy