41 (37) Sonny Yeung
Success Universe Group
Sonny Yeung, the Chairman of Success Universe Group, is capitalising on the substantial growth in Macau’s gaming industry over the course of this year. In addition to building up the existing Ponte 16 site into one of Macau’s must-see entertainment destinations, Mr Yeung broke ground on an extension for Ponte 16 and started a mobile network gaming venture.
Ponte 16 is a 50:50 joint venture between Success Universe group and SJM Holdings, which supplies the gaming licence for Ponte 16. Owing to its proximity to the border, the property is particularly popular among mass-market players from the neighbouring mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai.
During the ‘Golden Week’ Chinese National Holiday in October last year, the casino hosted Macau’s first ‘Hollywood Legends’ exhibition and auction of film and pop star memorabilia. It—along with the collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia in the property’s MJ Gallery—was part of a marketing campaign to position the resort as not just a gambling establishment, but an attraction in its own right. The ‘Hollywood Legends’ event will return in October this year, featuring items from Hollywood celebrities and sports heroes. The exhibition is also expected to go on show in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Shenyang and Harbin.
Ponte 16 has showed strong growth this year, delivering a positive EBITDA increase of approximately 201% year-on-year, amounting to HK$206.6 million. The resort is supported by a hotel under the Sofitel brand, and further facilities are on their way. Earlier this year, Success Universe Group recovered possession of a construction site that will be the location of a 400,000 square foot expansion for Ponte 16. The development will include a shopping arcade and additional restaurants.
Mr Yeung and Success Universe Group are also exploring investments beyond Macau. The group is currently negotiating with the Chinese government to launch a new mobile network lottery platform. Initiated in 2010, the platform was established using mainland Chinese telecommunications operators and will be the basis for a new lottery business. If successful, the venture will allow Success Universe Group access to enormous untapped markets for lottery products within the People’s Republic.
In addition to Ponte 16, Success Universe Group also operates a cruise business, MV Macau Success, and two travel businesses, Travel Success and Jade Travel. By utilizing the sales network of its travel businesses, the group has boosted occupancy rates at Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16 this year. Partnerships with China-focused airlines and tour operators to offer Chinese tourists travel packages are expected to draw even more visitors to Ponte 16 in the future.
42 (46) Paul Steelman
President and CEO
Paul Steelman Design Group
The masterpieces of Paul Steelman—the go-to designer for modern casinos—can be spotted instantly in Macau. Best known for designing Sands Macao, Mr Steelman also designed the high limit gaming areas of Galaxy Macau, which opened in May this year. Steelman Partners acted as the interior architect for the HK$14.9 billion integrated resort, which features the world’s largest sky wave pool and three world-class hotels: Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts, Okura Hotels & Resorts and the Galaxy Hotel.
Steelman Partners has remained very active in Asia during 2011. So far this year, the firm has received four new large-scale entertainment design commissions in China. Steelman Partners has also been appointed as architect and interior and lighting designers for the MGM Grand Ho Tram in Vietnam and the Solaire in Manila. Expected to open in 2013, the MGM Grand Ho Tram will be the first of five large-scale integrated resorts on the Ho Tram Strip in southern Vietnam. Recently, Steelman Partners also landed architectural and designer roles in the development of Happyland, Vietnam’s first ground-up theme park.
In the Philippines, construction work for the Solaire in Manila commenced last year. It is the first resort to be developed at the Bagong Nayong Pilipino-Entertainment City Manila. Backed by Bloombury Investments Holdings, the long-term investment for the project is expected to reach US$1 billion.
Outside of the Asia-Pacific region, Steelman Partners is juggling multiple projects from the United States to continental Europe. Presently, Mr Steelman is involved in the renovation of the Monte Carlo Casino. One of the most iconic buildings in the region, the property has been featured in several James Bond films, including Never Say Never Again and, most recently, Casino Royale.
Within the US, Mr Steelman is involved in design work for the Las Vegas Plaza and the Fontainebleau Resort Las Vegas. However, following the global financial crisis in 2008, both these developments have been subject to delays. While the Las Vegas Plaza is tentatively scheduled for completion in 2012, little activity beyond initial groundbreaking has taken place since early 2010. The property is also the subject of several lawsuits concerning trademark infringement and damages for unpaid fees. The Fontainebleau, meanwhile, filed for bankruptcy in June 2009, and construction on it has been halted since then.
Born in a casino town—Atlantic City, New Jersey—Mr Steelman currently splits his time between Las Vegas and Mammoth Lakes, California. In 2010, Steelman Partners was ranked by Architectural Record as the 56th largest architectural firm in the United States, with over US$59 million in total revenues.
43 (-) Constance Hsu
Constance Hsu, the President of Mocha Clubs, is a trailblazer in the male-dominated gaming industry of Macau. Ms Hsu joined Mocha Clubs, a division of Melco Crown Entertainment, as a Financial Controller when the company was first established in 2003.
Mocha Clubs introduced club-style electronic gaming entertainment to Macau. During Stanley Ho’s 40-year Macau casino monopoly (which officially ended in 2002), slot machines were housed either on the way out of the tables areas to catch players’ loose change, or in cheap and cheerful parlours with relatively antiquated machines. Today, Mocha is known for having a slick player rewards scheme and one of the best returns to player on its machines in the whole of Macau. The company has become the leading non-casino-based electronic gaming chain with multiple locations across peninsular Macau and Taipa.
As the name suggests, Mocha Clubs outlets offer a coffee shop-style atmosphere for patrons. Under Ms Hsu’s leadership, Mocha Clubs has expanded strategically to eight venues with approximately 1,600 electronic gaming machines.
Demonstrating leadership skills and a great attitude, Ms Hsu rose through management ranks quickly to become Chief Administrative Officer. There she oversaw finance, treasury audit, legal compliance, procurement and human resources. In 2008, Ms Hsu was promoted to President of Mocha Clubs, becoming one of only a handful of Chinese women to be a C-level executive (i.e., CEO, COO or CFO) in Macau’s gaming industry.
Ms Hsu was the winner of the ‘Inspiration of the Year Award’ at the second annual Women in Gaming Awards, organised by the International Gaming Awards Association in June 2011. The Award recognises Ms Hsu’s efforts to nurture the ‘Mocha Care’ culture within and outside her company.
Mocha Clubs says it has integrated corporate social responsibility into its core values under Ms Hsu’s watch, and strives to give back to the Macau community through social service initiatives. The company was named “Corporate Volunteer of the Year” by the Association of Volunteer Social Service of Macau for two consecutive years, in 2009 and 2010.
44 (-) Cristino ‘Bong’ Naguiat
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation
Cristino Naguiat was named chairman of the Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) last year by the country’s incoming president, Benigno Aquino. Mr Naguiat, said to be a longstanding personal friend of Mr Aquino, replaced the former PAGCOR chairman Efraim Genuino.
Mr Naguiat was presented to the public at that time as a new broom to clean up PAGCOR, which has faced numerous media allegations of internal corruption and mismanagement in the last few years. It seems Mr Naguiat has a lot to investigate. In July, not only was his predecessor Dr Genuino charged with plunder in a public office and graft, but 40 other former senior PAGCOR officials and their associates were implicated, according to a report by the ABSCBN television news channel. The charges claim “at least” PHP186 million (US$14.1 million) was misused or went missing.
Among those charged, said the channel and other news outlets, was former PAGCOR board member Rafael Francisco (ex-COO and President). Also accused were: Jose Benedicto (former PAGCOR chief-of-staff); Rene Figueroa (former executive vice-president); Edward King (former VP for Corporate Communications and Services Department); and attorney Carlos Bautista Jr (former VP for the PAGCOR Legal Department). Some commentators have characterised these events as political score-settling by the incoming administration, rather than as criminal matters, but it hardly helps the country’s public relations image as a safe place for casino investment.
On 23rd August, Philippine news sources further reported some PAGCOR officials had been accused of taking bribes from a leader of a ‘Singaporean gaming syndicate’. It was also alleged some PAGCOR casino branch managers illegally received cuts of players’ winnings whenever the accused syndicate leader visited local casinos. The Philippine government allegedly lost PHP150 million due to illegal operations by the syndicate in three government casinos in Manila, said the reports.
Such claims will also lead sceptics to revisit the debate about the wisdom of having PAGCOR—the operator of government-owned casinos—being simultaneously the regulator of private and public sector gaming venues.
It’s not all been bad news for PAGCOR. Work on the Belle Grande Manila Bay—a private casino development with a reported price tag of US$750 million—between local companies Leisure and Resorts World Corp and Belle Corp in the national capital, Manila, is proceeding. The property may have a first phase opening next year. There was also talk in the Philippines media in early September—unconfirmed at the time IAG went to press—of a Macau casino operator being interested in investing in the project.
45 (42) Albee Benitez
Member, House of Representatives, Congress of Philippines
Founding President, Leisure and Resorts World Corp,
First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corp
Albee Benitez is the founder of Leisure and Resorts World Corp (LRWC), a Philippines-listed company that has a wide range of interests in online and land-based gaming and leisure in that country.
Mr Benitez was required by law to dispose of his gaming interests on election to the Philippines senate last year. But he remains highly influential in the sector. AB Leisure Global Inc., a subsidiary of LRWC, was identified earlier this year as the operator and manager of a major new casino resort—the US$1 billion Belle Grande Manila Bay.
The companies founded and built by Mr Benitez still have extensive interests in land-based and online gaming. The LRWC unit First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corp has a dual role as regulator of the Philippines’ offshore-aimed online gaming and betting industries as well as an operator in that sector. Cagayan Special Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), in the northern portion of the main island Luzon, is the centre of the country’s online industry in terms of technical infrastructure, management and, crucially, licensing and taxation.
Through another subsidiary—AB Leisure Exponent, Inc—Leisure and Resorts World Corp operates the country’s largest group of bingo halls. Those facilities are separately regulated by the country’s regulator-cum-operator of land-based gaming, The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
Last year, Congressman Benitez opposed a reported attempt at a private buyout of PAGCOR. The proposal came from a quickly-arranged consortium of regional investors led by Ramong Ang, Vice Chairman of the Philippine consumer and brewing conglomerate, San Miguel Corporation. The aim of the buyout was clearly to make money for the investors, but with the supposed side-benefit to the public purse of introducing more commercial discipline to PAGCOR and therefore an improvement in the revenue it raises for community causes and for the government. A purchase price for PAGCOR of US$10 billion was mentioned—equal to PAGCOR’s anticipated annual income over 15 years. It was a tempting amount of cash for a central government often fighting an uphill battle to collect taxes.
There were serious questions about whether the buyout group could have actually come up with the money. But the fact the issue was raised at all was a sign of a change in political mood in the Philippines after the election of a reforming president—Benigno Aquino in May last year. President Aquino indicated early in his administration that all options were on the table regarding the future regulation and structure of the country’s gaming industries.
Mr Benitez—who by then was a member of congress’s influential Government Enterprises and Privatization Committee—spoke out against selling off PAGCOR either in part or in whole, citing the need for PAGCOR’s independence as a regulator. Interestingly, this is almost a mirror of the argument made by the pro-privatisation lobby.
They point out that it’s hard for PAGCOR to discharge its regulator role impartially when it also has commercial interests in running a large part of the country’s casino industry—a part that’s actually in competition in some cases with privately-owned casinos.
Although Mr Benitez has officially exited the gaming industry in order to join congress, some sceptics have questioned via the country’s media his commitment to politics beyond advancement of any future commercial interests. In May this year, Mr Benitez issued a rebuttal via the press, denying media reports that he was frequently missing from debates during sessions of the House of Representatives.
Congressman Benitez is ranked as one of the richest men in the Philippines—a country where stardom in sports or acting, or in business, often leads to a political career. National boxing hero Manny Pacquiao recently joined Mr Benitez in congress as representative for Sarangani district. One day, it’s possible Mr Pacquiao and Mr Benitez may both separately get a crack at the top job—as president of the republic.
46 (41) Chen Lip Keong
Founder and CEO
NagaCorp is the owner and operator of Cambodia’s biggest casino, NagaWorld, and the only one licensed within a 200-kilometer radius of the country’s capital, Phnom Penh.
Its business model is based on three key principles: long-term exclusivity—it has an exclusive gaming concession for the capital region until at least 2065; low capital and labour costs relative to the region; and a market positioning that is carefully pitched—way below the stratospheric levels of VIP roll seen in Macau casinos’ high roller rooms and the size of bets seen on the Macau mass floors, but well above the cheap and not-socheerful gambling operations seen in some of Cambodia’s border casinos.
NagaWorld seeks to be the preeminent Asian casino resort outside Macau and Singapore. It aims to achieve that by pursuing low- to medium-level VIP business with check-in upper limits typically of US$25,000. This helps to mitigate the hold volatility risk typically seen with the Asian VIP table game of choice—baccarat. It has also been working on a revenue share basis with slot and electronic game operators to drive slot handle in the mass market. The strategy shifts market risk related to product performance onto the slot operators, giving them incentives to source and operate only the top-performing games.
NagaCorp, led by Chen Lip Keong, has been aggressively pursuing its expansion ambitions. It does no harm that Dr Chen is a personal friend of Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen. NagaCorp was the first company in modern times to list on an international bourse—the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. It has also been successful in generating some analyst coverage—an important element in the battle for global visibility with investors.
In pursuit of its ambitions for a place at the top table of Asian casino resorts, NagaCorp in June announced a deal with its CEO to expand its facilities. Within a three- to fiveyear period, two projects will be developed next to NagaWorld by Dr Chen, NagaCorp’s majority shareholder, and then acquired by Naga upon completion. The projects are NagaCity Walk, a two-level pedestrian mall linked to the existing NagaWorld site, and an integrated resort complex, which will include hotel rooms, shops, and convention facilities. Investors might be interested to note that the latter facility will be known as the ‘TSCLK complex’—which is short for ‘Tan Sri Chen Lip Keong’; Tan Sri being an honorary title granted to Dr Chen by his native Malaysia.
The reasons these two projects are being developed independently by Dr Chen rather than directly by NagaCorp are—according to company sources—that land grants for casino projects are politically sensitive in Cambodia. It made more sense for the government to do the land deal personally to Dr Chen as thanks for his charitable and other public works in Cambodia, said sources.
The combined development costs for TSCLK and NagaCity Walk are expected to be US$369 million. It comprises US$275 million for TSCLK and US$94mm for NagaCity Walk. On completion, Naga will acquire the projects from Dr Chen, in exchange for shares or convertible bonds to the capital value of the project. After conversion of the instrument issued to Dr Chen, minority shareholders in NagaCorp will be diluted by approximately 42%, though analysts point out that shareholder dilution should be quickly offset by increased earnings generated from the new project.
Union Gaming said in a note to investors in June that the 7,300 square metres of extra gaming space allocated to TSCLK should accommodate between 200 to 250 table games and 500 to 600 slots. The research house said that at current table win per day of US$2,300 and slot win per day of US$200, this would imply annual gaming revenues of around US$210mm from the new facility at 2011 prices. Union Gaming estimated NagaWorld’s gaming revenues from its existing facilities in 2011 would be US$217 million, less third-party slot operator fees. The latter are performance-related and can rise to 30% of slot revenue.
The number of international tourists to Cambodia is on the rise. In the first quarter of 2011, Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism reported a 13.9% increase in international visitors year-on-year. Of the 778, 467 visits, 735,132 (94%) were related to leisure travel. The majority of them are by air travellers using Phnom Penh as the entry port, boding well for tourism and entertainment businesses in the capital.
47 (49) Leonard Ainsworth
Ainsworth Game Technology
In a world where success is increasingly measured in financial quarters, Len Ainsworth’s longevity stands out. He has been involved in the gaming industry for 59 years, starting out in 1953 by taking over from his father a company that he would eventually transform into the fledgling Aristocrat Leisure. At the time, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president of the United States and Mao Zedong had been leading the new communist government in China for only four years.
Mr Ainsworth has long been acknowledged as one of the fathers of slot and electronic gaming in Australia. He is widely credited with helping to create a sustainable business model for that country’s clubs industry through his development of poker machines.
Mr Ainsworth gave up control of Aristocrat in the mid-1990s after helping to turn it into an international premium supplier of gaming technologies and services. By then, he was in his 70s, but his appetite for business-building was undimmed. He set up Ainsworth Game Technology in 1995 as an independent competitor. The company listed on Australia’s ASX in December 2001. It now employs more than 300 people and exports worldwide.
Following the recent launch of its new A560™ family of cabinets, Ainsworth Game Technology increased its ship share across the massive Australia slot market to around 20%. In November 2009, Ainsworth was granted licensing permission to produce gaming equipment for the Nevada market—recognition the company had arrived among the ‘big boys’ of the gaming supply industry. The company is in the process of seeking approval for the A560 platform in Nevada.
Mr Ainsworth, now in his 88th year, has received numerous awards in his native Australia and overseas for his many contributions to the industry—including at G2E Asia 2010 in Macau where he was presented with a G2E Asia Visionary Award by Frank Fahrenkopf, the President and CEO of the American Gaming Association.
48 (-) David Chow
New Macau Landmark Development
David Chow has known highs and lows in his career as a Macau gaming and tourism entrepreneur. Highs include his construction of the Landmark Macau Hotel and Pharaoh’s Palace Casino on Macau peninsula. Lows include his Fisherman’s Wharf joint venture with Stanley Ho.
In 2009, several hedge funds that had invested in the latter project, including Och Ziff and TPG-Axon, accepted a heavily discounted buy out of HK$400 million-worth of debt securities. The good news is that the Fisherman’s Wharf site, on the southwest side of Macau peninsula’s Outer Harbour, is one of the best pieces of real estate in the territory. A revamp of the site is expected soon, including extra hotel accommodation to help the area become the tourist hub it was always meant to be.
Mr Chow, a Hong Kong-born former Macau lawmaker, recently raised a HK$1.8 billion (US$232 million) syndicated bank loan for investments in Macau. Some of it is expected to go on changes to Fisherman’s Wharf. A total of HK$400 million has already been allocated for refurbishment of his Landmark Macau Hotel.
That hotel is not an old property by Western standards. It was only opened in 2003. But things change quickly in Macau. By autumn 2006, with the first phase opening of Wynn Macau, The Landmark Macau Hotel began to be somewhat overshadowed and ‘out marketed’ by new product from Wynn and the other out of town investors following the casino resort building boom of the mid-2000s.
But after The Landmark Macau Hotel renovation, which is scheduled to take a year, the property will boast Macau’s biggest sauna, at 60,000 square feet. That should boost the hotel’s appeal not only to room guests but to a certain segment of Chinese walk in customers, given that it is within strolling distance of a whole cluster of downtown casinos that don’t have such a facility. They include Galaxy’s StarWorld, Wynn Macau and MGM Macau. If he follows his instincts about what Macau’s Chinese visitors really want, Mr Chow should bounce back in style.
49 (-) Albert Radman
Sales Director for Asia
Alfastreet Gaming Instruments
When Albert Radman joined Alfastreet—a leading specialist manufacturer of multiplayer electronic gaming instruments—seven years ago, he specifically asked to start at the bottom. That was despite the fact he had prior training in electronics and a university degree in communications. He reasoned that the best way to fulfil his ambition—to be a senior sales executive in the Slovenian company—was to have real insight about what it does and how it does it. Within six months he was head of production. He used that experience and understanding to realise his ambition and switch to sales manager and later to his current role—Sales Director for Asia.
His first move in the sales director role was a decisive one—to break ties with the firm that had been acting as Alfastreet’s regional sales representative. Instead, he organized his own internal sales and support team. It very quickly started producing results.
Today, Alfastreet is one of the most successful electronic table game (ETG) manufacturers in Asia. Mr Radman says the key to that was developing good relationships with customers, good support for the products, flexibility on deal making and continuous development and improvement of already stable, good quality products. Mr Radman and his team understood the need to look at Asia as a series of markets and not as just one big market. They took time to study each jurisdiction and modified Alfastreet’s products to fit perfectly into each—“even the smallest club in the rain forest”, as Mr Radman poetically puts it.
In the past year Alfastreet has had major installations across the region—most notably in Singapore. After initial mediumsized orders from both Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) and Marina Bay Sands (MBS), the quality of Alfastreet’s multi-player products showed in the casino revenue figures. Both casino operators ordered more units. Alfastreet now has 300 terminals in RWS—the single biggest set up involving no fewer than 154 terminals. At MBS, the company installed close to 200 terminals with great success and good acceptance from the operator and from the players. Alfastreet is currently developing new games on the platform for the Singapore operators. It has high hopes that the success of its expansion into the Lion City will help drive further regional sales soon.
Alfastreet has also done exceptionally well in smaller Southeast Asia markets. In Laos—where there are only a handful of casinos—Alfastreet installed a total of 250 terminals across the country. In Cambodia, the company says it has captured 90% of the ETG market. Alfastreet is also the number one supplier in Vietnam and has brought several installations to the Philippines where it says the initial response from players and operators has been very good.
Having done so well in Southeast Asia, Alfastreet’s next ambition is to build its presence in the Macau market. It’s working on some deals that are currently confidential. But Mr Radman’s decision to start on the shop floor and work his way up looks like paying off.
50 (48) Joe Pisano
Jade Entertainment and Gaming Technologies
Jade Entertainment and Gaming Technologies has built a solid reputation as a trusted provider and operator of electronic gaming machines and technologies. The company, based in Manila’s business district, Makati City, was founded by Asia-Pacific gaming veteran Joe Pisano in 2009.
Naming his venture after a gemstone that is synonymous with Asia, Mr Pisano says his aim is to make Jade Entertainment and Gaming Technologies a familiar name in casinos in the Philippines. The company aspires to be a one-stop shop for operators seeking to stock their casinos with the most up-to-date gaming products, technologies and services. Jade Gaming’s major suppliers include Novomatic, IGT, Crane, VSR and Futurelogic as well as emerging market manufacturers like Hydako.
Jade Entertainment is the exclusive representative of various Asia-focused slot manufacturers and gaming paraphernalia distributors such as Aspect Gaming and, most recently, Signs4U. In February 2011, Signs4U, a Netherlands-based private company specialising in casino signs, formed a strategic partnership with Jade Entertainment to explore gaming markets in the Philippines.
In addition to acting as a distributor and supplier, Jade Gaming also holds a gaming operator licence in the Philippines. The company operates the Oxford Princess Casino inside the former Clark Air Base south of Manila.
Jade Gaming has recently made its first foray beyond the Philippines’ borders. In May, the company set up its first overseas wholly-owned subsidiary, Jade Entertainment Macau.
An Australian citizen of Italian descent, Mr Pisano is a 30-year veteran in the gaming industry. He holds a Master’s degree in Business and Technology from the University of New South Wales. Previously, Mr Pisano has held senior positions with several large international gaming companies, amassing a wealth of technical and regulatory knowledge of the industry.