IAG: It’s almost 12 months to the day since you were promoted to Managing Director, Asia-Pacific for Aristocrat. How have you found your first year in the role?
Chris Rowe: Very fulfilling, thanks. While it was my first year as Managing Director, we’re just over three years living in Macau. My family and I continue to draw energy from a community of great people across Asia – inside and outside of the gaming industry. We have a fantastic team at Aristocrat. We’re privileged to operate in a part of the world where the gaming industry continues to grow.
IAG: What has been the biggest challenge?
CR: Finding time to “be social” amidst a new job and new baby. We love to explore Asia – beaches, historic sites, mountains, you name it. It’s only in the last couple of months that we’ve found ourselves able to escape for a brief holiday.
IAG: What have been the primary areas of your focus over these past 12 months? What have you looked to concentrate on primarily?
CR: Our people, our customers and our product. My first opportunity was to appoint my successor as Sales Director, APAC. Lloyd Robson joined us in September 2017 and has proven a great addition to our team. To great effect, we also transitioned our leadership in commercial support and operations.
I’ve spent lots of time traveling around Asia spending time with customers and staying in tune with market trends. We conducted a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey which yielded very positive results regarding customer advocacy for Aristocrat across Asia. The same survey also uncovered some opportunities around “ease of doing business” with Aristocrat; we’ve instituted a plan to this end.
Aristocrat devotes significant resources to Asian product development. We’ve spent time segmenting the market and surfacing trends to ensure sustained, focused innovation.
IAG: What are the current trends in terms of slots games right now, both in Macau and across Asia as a whole?
CR: We’re seeing a trend towards multi-denomination linked progressives and what we call “Hold & Spin” features. Both mechanics were pioneered by Aristocrat’s Lightning Link which was built for Australia but has proven to be a global phenomenon. Aristocrat, on the back of Lightning Link, continues to nurture this segment with new games like Mighty Cash. Watch this space!
IAG: Which Asian jurisdictions are seeing the most significant growth right now and why?
CR: The Philippines continues to do well, with a growing economy and increasing tourism. In the coming years, we’re looking forward to new casino openings and exiting expansion across the country. Vietnam is also promising. The trial approval of locals’ gaming has paved the way for integrated resort development which will augment the existing foreigner-only slot halls.
IAG: Focusing specifically on Macau, it has long been stated that there is considerable room for growth in the slots market given the historic dominance of table games. Have you seen signs of this growth taking place?
CR: We believe there’s opportunity to broaden the appeal of slots through pricing strategies and a broader range of slot machines – both cabinets and games. To get there will require a fundamental shift in the way the market views slot machine performance. Macau is, by any measure, a new market. Should it parallel other, mature gaming markets around the world, Macau will look to the sustainable, mass-oriented appeal of slot machines as a greater percentage of gaming revenue.
IAG: Asia is a very competitive jurisdiction in the slots market. What is Aristocrat doing on gaming floors to stand out from the crowd?
CR: Aristocrat continues to strive to up the ante in terms of player experience – the slot machine itself, the game inside and the presentation on the casino floor. Our cabinet design plays a big role in terms of design, lighting and high definition graphics. Increasingly, LED sign packages feature our artists’ best work and really make the machines pop.
IAG: What impact has the opening of new properties in Macau had on what Aristocrat is doing? Has what the operators are looking for changed in recent times as Macau has grown?
CR: With new openings, competition in Cotai is intense. Operators have established and constantly look to create points of difference. Aristocrat has had to evolve our approach to placing product. We must align with the value proposition of the property; make sure that the mix is on point and our slot machines are configured properly.
Cotai presents a well-rounded offering with lots of tourism opportunity beyond gaming. Aristocrat’s challenge is to identify and build entertainment opportunities for those who come for the Cotai experience.
IAG: Can you tell us a bit about the products you will be featuring at G2E Asia this year?
CR: Sure. We’ll do things a little differently at G2E Asia this year. We’ll look to mimic a live casino environment by sectioning our booth into mass market and high limit gaming. In mass market, we’ll demonstrate support for our high performance progressive links: Good Fortune, Mighty Cash and Lightning Link. We’ll feature a “5 Dragons Zone” which will showcase the lineage of Asia’s biggest brand – from the original “5 Dragons” to “Deluxe” to “5 Dragons Grand” and everything in between. In the high limit room will be “Fa Fa Long” – a brand new concept for the Asian market. It’s a low line, high denomination, super volatile slot experience which builds on an Asian icon. Lastly, we’ll have an Innovation Room which will feature next horizon products. It’s all about what’s inside.
IAG: Finally Chris, you’re 12 months into the role, what have you got planned for Aristocrat in Asia over the next 12?
CR: Continued focus on our people, our customer and our product. It’s our people and our product that make our customers and their customers happy. We aim to have the best team in Asia putting the customers at the center of everything we do. We’ll also be sure to action the learnings from the NPS survey – building on what customers value and addressing the opportunities to improve.