|The Asian Gaming 50 – 2009|
|The Asian Gaming 50 – 2009: 1-10|
|The Asian Gaming 50 – 2009: 11-20|
|The Asian Gaming 50 – 2009: 21-30|
|The Asian Gaming 50 – 2009: 31-40|
|The Asian Gaming 50 – 2009: 41-50|
41 (-) David Kinsman
Chief Executive Officer, Weike Gaming Technology
Weike passed an important milestone last December when the Singapore-based manufacturer achieved the first of a series of GLI-11 certifications for its equipment. This included approvals for its Infinity platform and gaming machine range, and its multi player electronic table game equipment.
The certificates enabled the company to move to the next phase in its drive to build sales in key Asian target markets, including Macau.
The company was founded in 1998. David Kinsman, the company’s current CEO, was recruited in 2008 as part of the drive to turn the company into a truly global player.
“Our aim is to build Weike into Asia’s number one gaming machine company,” says Mr Kinsman. “We do not aspire to be the biggest, but definitely to be the best,” he adds.
Mr Kinsman is a passionate advocate of Weike’s products, but also of the benefits of electronic gaming to the whole industry. He points out, for example, that the ability of electronic games to give pinpoint-accurate player odds creates value and levels of player engagement that ultimately benefit the operators. He says that once initial capital costs are covered, an electronic baccarat table in the Macau market can typically be 90% cheaper a year to run than a live table.
The company has also been building its gaming systems business in Asia, including slot management, customer relationship management and monitoring systems.
Mr Kinsman started his gaming career with Olympic Video Gaming in Australia, which became Australasia’s No. 2 manufacturer under his leadership. The
company was eventually sold to IGT Group in 1997 for A$178 million (US$152.8 million at today’s prices). Mr Kinsman also served as General Manager of Vidco, launching multi-terminal gaming products. Vidco was then sold to another group and renamed as Star Games in 1991.
His next role was as CEO of Online Gaming Systems in Australia, where he set up the regional office in Sydney to service the Australian, Asia-Pacific and South African markets. Later, the company took over the worldwide assets of its then parent.
Between 1994 and 1998, he served twice as Director of AGMMA, the Australian Gaming Machine Manufacturers’ Association (now known as the Gaming Technologies Association).
In 2004, Mr Kinsman was headhunted by the online gaming provider Mansion Group as COO, creating ‘The Poker Dome’, a television series featuring poker games between the world’s top players betting their own money. It became one of the top-rated shows on the Fox Network in the United States and beyond, generating a large pool of clients for Mansion.
42 (30) Albee Benitez
President, Leisure and Resorts World Corp
President, First Cagayan Leisure and Resorts Corp
The Philippines’ First Cagayan Leisure and Resorts Corp acts both as regulator and operator of gaming businesses in the Cagayan Special Economic Zone Authority (CEZA). CEZA, a freeport set up in the north of the country by the Philippines government in 1995, is Asia’s first and so far only issuer of internationally recognised licences for companies offering online offshore gaming content and services.
First Cagayan Leisure and Resorts Corp is in turn majority owned by a Philippines public company—namely Leisure and Resorts World Corp— led by entrepreneur Albee Benitez.
Through the latter company, Mr Benitez heads the Philippines’s largest chain of bingo halls with 36 sites—all licensed and regulated in turn by the national regulator-cum-operator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). The bingo halls are in the country’s major shopping malls and offer a range of games including traditional bingo, electronic bingo, instant bingo pull-tabs and Rapid
Bingo—a keno-type game.
43 (-) Clarence Chung
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Elixir Gaming
Elixir Gaming Technologies appears to have been the most fleet-footed of the slot operators in the Cambodia market, which contracted sharply earlier this year when the government barred locals from visiting slot clubs in Phnom Penh.
Seeing the way things were going politically following the accidental death of Phnom Penh’s police chief in November 2008, by early January Clarence Chung and his management team at Elixir had signed a deal with NagaCorp to operate slot machines on a revenue share basis in the latter’s NagaWorld Casino in Phnom Penh.
Hong Kong-listed NagaCorp is insulated from the political and regulatory turmoil recently surrounding Cambodia’s gambling industry, as it has an exclusive and currently unlimited 70-year casino licence within 200 kilometers of the capital.
The deal meant that by the time the final clampdown on Phnom Penh’s 70 slot clubs came in February, EGT was able to relocate equipment from its three slot clubs in the capital and mitigate potential losses.
EGT’s primary business is the placement of gaming machines on a revenue share model in three, four and five star resorts, hotels, and other venues across emerging gaming markets in the Asia Pacific region. In its results for the financial year ended 31st December 2008, EGT said it expected growth in the Philippines market in 2009 as well as expansion of capacity at NagaWorld would help to offset the closure of its own Phnom Penh slot clubs.
Mr Chung has extensive financial and gaming management experience. Concurrent with his roles at Elixir Gaming, Mr Chung is an executive director and the Chief Operating Officer of Melco International Development Ltd and is also a director of Melco Crown Entertainment Limited. Previously, he served as the Chief Financial Officer at Melco and over the last 20 years has held senior financial positions at a number of multinational companies.
44 (46) Nick Niglio
COO and Executive Director, Neptune Group Ltd
As Chief Operating Officer and executive director of Neptune Group Ltd since 2007, Nick Niglio has been helping to ramp up the high growth gaming activities of the Hong Kong-listed conglomerate.
Neptune Group, known until July 2007 as Massive Resources International Corp, has interests in securities’ investments and electrical engineering as well as gaming. The company is probably best known to the general public as operator of the casino cruise ship Neptune, which it acquired in June 2005 for HK$68 million (US$8.7 million) and which sails out of Hong Kong to international waters. Within the gaming industry, the company has a growing profile in the operation of VIP junkets to Macau, including dedicated VIP rooms at Galaxy Entertainment Group’s StarWorld Hotel & Casino.
Since the beginning of 2007, Neptune Group has been buying up smaller junket operators or taking equity stakes in entities that have profit agreements with Macau junkets. The company is now considered— along with A-Max Holdings, Dore Holdings and Golden Resorts Group (companies that are also Hong Kong listed)—one of the key junket aggregators in the Macau market.
Neptune Group has been, for the past year, consolidating its interest in Macau to further enhance its value to investors. As part of this consolidation, Mr Niglio has eliminated unprofitable sub junkets and sought to expand Neptune’s presence in all areas of the casino floor. Expect Neptune to attempt to diversify its business throughout 2010 with new capital projects as it pursues new revenue streams.
Mr Niglio brings extensive experience from the US gaming sector to Macau, including a stint as Executive Vice President for Caesars World Marketing and Executive Vice President of Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In Macau and Hong Kong, Mr Niglio served as a gaming consultant for several large international concerns seeking to position themselves in Asian markets.
45 (-) Mike Aymong
Executive Chairman, Asian Coast Development (Canada) Ltd
Mr Aymong makes this year’s list as the leader and public face of the company planning to develop a stretch of Vietnam coastline as the Ho Tram Strip—the first truly integrated gaming resort in the history of that country.
The site in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province will have MGM MIRAGE as its branding partner and will be known as the MGM Grand Ho Tram.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the site was held in July, according to the English-language edition of Saigon GP Daily, an official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam.
Some in the industry were sceptical about whether ACDL and its partners would be able to raise the reported US$4.2 billion cost of the project in the current credit crisis. David Friedman, a senior executive of the Macao Studio City project on the Cotai Strip in Macau, has fallen off this year’s Asian Gaming 50 list precisely because of the failure of that project to get all the finance in place.
Industry sources suggest banks in Vietnam have agreed to underwrite a significant portion of the finance for MGM Grand Ho Tram on condition of support from the overseas banking sector.
Site designs for Ho Tram were approved by MGM MIRAGE early in 2009. Land clearance began soon afterwards, followed by some preparatory landscaping and tree planting. According to the company’s current schedule, the resort is due to open in early 2012.
The resort facilities feature two hotel towers with luxury suites plus convention, entertainment and recreation areas including a championship golf course designed by Greg Norman.
Prior to taking up his role at ACDL, Mr Aymong was Executive Chairman of World Gaming plc, a London-based publicly traded global leader in the back office gaming software industry. He also spent several years in executive roles for three telecommunications companies: MetroNet Communications (later purchased by AT&T Canada); TELUS Advanced Communications and GT Group Telecom.
46 (-) Tristan Sjöberg
Managing Director Asia, TCSJOHNHUXLEY
TCSJOHNHUXLEY, a supplier of gaming equipment worldwide, has reported strong sales in Asia in 2009. The company recently won significant orders for Singapore’s new integrated resorts—Las Vegas Sands Corp’s Marina Bay Sands and Genting’s Resorts World at Sentosa. Other large projects for TCSJOHNHUXLEY in the region include: Savan Vegas Hotel & Casino in Laos; NagaWorld in Cambodia; Kangwon Land Resort & Casino in South Korea and Genting Highlands Resort in Malaysia. The company has enjoyed a particularly strong business relationship with Genting over many years.
Much of the credit for TCSJOHNHUXLEY’s success in the region must be attributed to the work of Tristan Sjöberg, Managing Director Asia for the company, and his team. Mr Sjöberg has a PhD in oceanography, so a career in gaming was not the most obvious choice of direction. The fact, however, that oceanography deals with analysis of highly complex systems probably set Mr Sjöberg in good stead when he moved into the electronic gaming equipment market.
Mr Sjöberg relocated to Singapore from London at the beginning of 2009. The move coincided with the group’s expansion programme in the region, enabling the long-term development in manufacturing, sales, service and support in this rapidly expanding and increasingly important market. The creation of the Singapore bureau means the company now has offices in 11 of the world’s main gaming jurisdictions.
Under Mr Sjöberg’s regional leadership, the company has pursued a policy of investing, if possible, in the communities where it has clients. For example, where locally manufactured products meet the company’s brand standards in terms of quality, innovation and ready availability, TCSJOHNHUXLEY will try and use that local product. This policy has been put into practice in a number of orders for Macau casino venues in the past few years including at Sands Macao, Galaxy StarWorld Hotel & Casino, MGM GRAND Macau and, most recently, Melco Crown Entertainment’s City of Dreams Macau resort on Cotai.
47 (44) Alfonso R. Reyno Jr
Chairman and CEO, Manila Jockey Club
Gross sales from horse racing betting in the Philippines have fallen nationally 10.6% year-on-year in 2009, according to the Philippine Racing Commission. It’s too early to call this a downward trend, as takings from horse racing have shown some volatility nationally over the last five years.
Despite the 2009 slowdown, the industry as a whole still managed to book 4.9 billion pesos (US$100 million) in sales in the eight months to the end of August.
Manila Jockey Club Inc, (MJCI) founded in 1867 and the oldest such organisation in southeast Asia, has to a degree been protected from the economic effects of the national sales downturn thanks to product diversification under its Chairman and CEO Alfonso R. Reyno, Jr, who took up the post in 1997.
In particular, the Club got into the real estate business. In 2003 Mr Reyno adopted the sort of business model used by many European soccer clubs for their stadia. He moved the race stadium and track from a piece of prime land in the centre of Manila to a bigger, cheaper site in the suburbs at Cavite. The old 16-hectare site was then redeveloped as a mixed-use project with 3,400 high-end condominiums and townhouses in partnership with Ayala Land Inc.
At the new site racetrack site, MJCI and its partner Century Properties also developed a 77-hectare estate with an up-market residential village known as Canyon Ranch, overlooking the sporting complex.
MJCI also operates more than 200 off-track betting stations (OTBs) in Metro Manila and in the neighbouring provinces, with the number of OTBs still growing. The Club also has its tele-betting facilities, which it reports have been adopted enthusiastically by race fans.
48 (-) Hyung Joo Kim
Founder and CEO, Intercity Group
Hyung Joo Kim is the founder and CEO of Intercity Group (ICG), a South Korean real estate development company. Mr Kim enters this year’s list thanks to Intercity winning a sole concession from the Cambodian government in October 2008 to build a gaming resort near Cambodia’s tourism hot spot Angkor Wat.
Bellus Angkor Resort & City (BARC) will cost US$470 million and the first phase is due to open in 2011. The developers had initially hoped to get the project ready for 2010, but the global recession necessitated a change of plans. The scheme will be on a 265-hectare site 20 kilometres north of the temple complex at Angkor Archaeological Park and about the same distance from Siem Reap International Airport, which lies to the west of the temples. Around two million tourists visit the area annually via the airport—representing around two thirds of all the foreign visitors to the country each year.
Facilities at the resort will include: a casino with 200 tables and 1,000 slot machines; hotels offering a total of 1,500 rooms; a world-class 18-hole golf course; a water park; shopping malls, plus a culture and entertainment centre. The groundwork and road construction for the site began in March this year and building construction is expected to start in December.
Intercity says that while revenue from the gaming operation is central to the business plan for the project, it also spotted a gap in the market for a high quality all-round holiday resort. It says that although the local service centre town Siem Reap has a range of international quality hotels, it lacks entertainment and nightlife venues. The company thinks that even accounting for the existing upward trend in the number of visitors to Angkor Wat, its resort will bring in even more new visitors. It estimates three million visitors will be coming to the area annually by the end of 2011.
Mr Kim is a developer with a clear practical vision for how Bellus Angkor Resort & City will look and function. He studied architecture at the prestigious Seoul National University and later furthered his studies in the US at the University of Michigan, where he received a Masters in Architecture. He has worked in Korea and internationally as an architect.
In order to pursue a career as a developer, he then went on to obtain an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Early on in his career, he recognised the potential of Southeast Asia. He spent several years involved in the Vietnam real estate market—an experience that he believes played a vital role in helping him obtain this opportunity in Cambodia.
49 (45) Leonard H. Ainsworth
Executive Chairman, Ainsworth
SJM isn’t the only company thinking about the issue of succession planning in 2009. Len Ainsworth, aged 86, a founder of a company that was the precursor to Aristocrat Leisure, has been dealing with the issue in typically earthy Australian fashion.
“Once you’re in a box you don’t know what’s happening, do you?” Mr Ainsworth told the Sydney Morning Herald in an interview earlier this year.
Even post credit crisis, Mr Ainsworth has been estimated to be worth A$835 million (US$710.2 million) and was recently named Australia’s 34th richest person. Mr Ainsworth’s money comes from the family’s (now non-voting) share in Aristocrat and money made in the recent past from Ainsworth Game Technology, the rival slot maker he set up in the mid-1990s.
Mr Ainsworth has plenty to think about when it comes to disbursing his fortune and deciding what to do with his business. He’s already had experience of the difficulties this can cause. In an earlier brush with mortality in 1994, Mr Ainsworth was diagnosed with prostate cancer. As a result he portioned off his shares in Aristocrat to his family. But after he was given the all clear from cancer shortly afterwards, he decided against retirement.
In 1995 he founded Ainsworth Game Technology as a rival to Aristocrat. So far the venture hasn’t hit the same heights as Aristocrat, but to be fair the Australian and international slot markets are far more crowded with rival suppliers now than when Mr Ainsworth started out in 1954.
As part of his succession planning, this year Mr Ainsworth extended the maturity on a A$40 million loan to Ainsworth Game Technology, to a date four years from the day he dies. He has also changed the redemption date on the company’s A$25.6 million in bonds due to mature this December by two years, with the option to extend for another three.
As a sweetener, the 8% coupon will rise to 10% on 1st January 2010. Mr Ainsworth reportedly owns about 60% of the notes and is the company’s principal source of funding.
Extending the maturity on the loan and the redemption on the bonds prevents any of his family from taking legal action to divert the money from the company, though family members indicated recently they would respect Mr Ainsworth’s wishes without the need for litigation.
50 (35) Dennis Valdes
President, PhilWeb Corp.
The Philippines is a difficult market to call when it comes to predicting how politics will affect a gaming company’s prospects.
PhilWeb Corp., the online gaming operator led by Dennis Valdes, seems to have cast off the gloom experienced by the sector early in 2009. At that time, several politicians were lobbying for a ban on domestic online gambling in the country. The local media said the initiative was aimed at Internet cafés—a core part of PhilWeb’s business.
That regulatory threat appeared to have receded by the end of the first quarter. In April, the company said it had more than doubled earnings for the first quarter this year, as it opened 10 new e-gaming cafes.
Profits reached P96 million (US$1.96 million) for January to March, 108% higher than the previous year’s P46.2 million, the company said in a filing to the Philippine Stock Exchange.
During a special stockholders’ meeting in August Mr Valdes said he expected annual net income for 2009 to reach P584 million (US$11.94 million). That’s exactly double the P292 million net income booked by the company in 2008.
Mr Valdes is said to have excellent contacts within the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), the licensing body for land-based and Internet gaming in the Philippines, and with politicians in the country.
Challenges do however remain for PhilWeb’s business. Internet cafés were especially lucrative in the Philippines in the early Noughties when domestic broadband was not widely available. Now an expansion in general Internet café licensing has led to an explosion of competition and heavy downward pressure on hourly rates. These can now be as low as P8 per hour compared to the previous industry average of P40 to P50.