It is now 11 years since Inside Asian Gaming first published the Asian Gaming Power 50 and what a fascinating journey it has been since then. What began in 2008 as a fun and innovative look at those who make our industry tick has evolved into an important annual insight that is anxiously awaited by all. Compiling the Asian Gaming Power 50 is an intriguing, demanding, educational and exhausting task yet one that comes with considerable responsibility to “get it right.”
With 2019 representing the 12th edition of the “Big 50”, as we like to call it, it’s interesting to look back to where it all began and consider just how much has changed – or stayed the same – in that time. You might be surprised to learn that just 14 members of the 2008 Asian Gaming Power 50 are still featured in 2019, although six of the original top 10 remain.
Given the ongoing expansion of Asia’s gaming industry, including the rise of new frontiers in Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia and more, it will be fascinating to see who appears on the list in the year 2030 – another 11 years down the track!
The birth of the Asian Gaming Power 50 in 2008 coincided with an evolution in the region’s land-based casino industry, coming 12 months after The Venetian Macao opened its doors in 2007.
Since then, a small parcel of land measuring just 6.7 square kilometres has become the richest place on earth, home to world class integrated resorts City of Dreams, Galaxy Macau, MGM Cotai, Sands Cotai Central, Studio City, Wynn Palace and The Parisian Macao.
This hugely successful Asian integrated resort model has since spread like wildfire across the region. In recent years the Philippines has been Asia’s fastest growing market, with its four IRs – Solaire Resort & Casino, Okada Manila, City of Dreams Manila and Resorts World Manila – all riding a wave of positive momentum.
In Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands are now world-renowned landmarks. Paradise City and Jeju Shinhwa World have introduced the integrated resort concept to Korea with two more properties set to open in Incheon over the next few years. Meanwhile, Vietnam anxiously awaits the launch of Suncity’s Hoiana development in 2020 while Cambodia’s NagaCorp remains the envy of the word as it eyes even more expansion to keep up with demand.
Despite such incredible development, only four people have sat atop the Asian Gaming Power 50 over the past 11 years. They are:
- 2008: Dr Stanley Ho
- 2009: Tan Sri KT Lim
- 2010: Mr Sheldon Adelson
- 2011 and 2012: Mr Francis Lui
- 2013 to 2018: Mr Sheldon Adelson
- 2019: read on to find out!
The 2019 Asian Gaming Power 50 has once again seen plenty of movement on the back of another eventful year for the industry. Some of the biggest stories of the year have included a move by Melco Resorts to acquire a 19.99% stake in their former Macau partner, Australia’s Crown Resorts; Suncity Group becoming majority shareholder in Russian IR operator Summit Ascent Holdings; an alliance led by Pansy Ho forming a majority stake in SJM Holdings parent STDM; and Singapore granting Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa permission to embark on major expansion initiatives.
The Power 50 list is not a place for people to rest on their laurels. While there are some points awarded for company longevity and/or executive tenure, the list predominantly focuses on the activities of the prior 12 months. It’s all about “what are you doing now?” and “what have you done lately?” not “what have you done in the last 15 years?” As such the Power 50 list is very dynamic as people move up, and down, and on, for a multitude of reasons.
A phenomenon that repeatedly presents during the making of the list each year is the “My business has grown therefore I should move up the list” fallacy. The truth is all boats lift in a rising tide. As a general rule, the majority of people on the list are managing businesses that grow each year, and just to maintain a spot on the list requires annual growth. Someone doing the same thing year after year and achieving similar results will slowly slip down the list as the years roll by.
Although we have become quite adept at putting this list together, the task seems to get more complex each year as the Asian gaming industry matures and becomes more nuanced. How on earth does one compare the sole owner of a smaller property to the brand new “hired help” COO of a much larger one? How about comparing a large property that is still in pre-opening to a smaller one that has been active for years? A junket operator in Macau versus the CEO of the Hong Kong Jockey Club? Or the head of a smallish casino company about to go public to the President of a casino chain in Korea that doesn’t have locals gaming? These are the types of tough questions the selection panel of the Asian Gaming Power 50 wrestles with.
As with any such ranked list, there are always criticisms and objections, usually from those who feel slighted against. We often hear claims of not reading the list or not caring about it, but we are often contacted either directly or through surrogates to bemoan the injustice of a perceived lowly position and to lobby for the following year. Strangely, no-one has ever contacted us to complain about being ranked too high!
We are pleased to welcome back the nine esteemed members of the Asian Gaming Power 50 judging panel this year and thank them for their valuable advice and insights throughout the long process of finalizing our list. You can meet all nine judges in the coming pages.
Over the last decade the Asian Gaming Power 50 has become the definitive list of the industry’s most important people and as such we play a vital role in the industry and have a responsibility to simply get it right. Keen followers of the list will remember that in 2016 we completely overhauled the Power 50 ranking methodology and in an effort to be more scientific and objective in the rankings we introduced a numerical “Power Score” for each person on the list. This proved popular and we’ve continued this tradition ever since.
Power Score points arise from a number of factors including the GGR of the person’s organization (or a surrogate comparative measure if necessary), a weighted “carving up” of those points between the top senior executives with key policy control of that organization, adjustments for whether the person is hired or has a major equity position, their length of tenure, how active in business initiatives the person has been in the prior 12 months, the long-term gaming pedigree of the person, the jurisdiction in which he or she operates and many more. Some factors are necessarily subjective, but we’ve always assigned a points value in an attempt to be objective. We have done this without any predetermined idea of where any person should or should not be ranked.
At the end of the day, in our industry the concept of “power” generally comes down to direct or indirect control of money. The greater the GGR controlled, the greater the power. But what, exactly, is control? It’s about influence, it’s about who is the ultimate decision maker, and sometimes it’s simply about who is the person everyone in the room looks to for the answers.
In the same way that a country is a country because other countries say it is, some people are powerful simply because other people say they are.
Here are some other questions that have arisen during the selection process:
What countries count as Asia?
As west as India, as south as New Zealand, as east as Saipan and as north as Mongolia.
What about non-operators who have a strong voice in the industry, like regulators, media commentators, analysts, academics, suppliers, consultants, gaming lawyers and so on?
We have looked at the power wielded by all of those, but after careful consideration concluded that it was impossible to include regulators (PAGCOR’s Andrea Domingo is considered purely as an operator, not a regulator) and after considering the power of people in all the other categories it was only direct operators who made it into the top 50.
How do you pick between the owner/CEO and the COO of a company?
Many gaming companies have a charismatic and entrepreneurial owner/CEO and a perhaps more seasoned and level-headed gaming professional in charge as President and/or COO. By default, being an owner necessarily ranks many more Power Score points. After all, the owner can always force an appointed COO out of his job. But in some cases a hired COO can be even more powerful than their “boss” when the owner delegates a very large proportion of decision making responsibility. The answer is decided on a case by case basis.
Why isn’t Dr Stanley Ho on the list anymore?
Dr Ho was retired from the list in 2011 after he effectively withdrew from active day-to-day management of SJM. As one seasoned industry professional put it, “You can’t put him in with normal people.” We agree.
Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow selection panel members for their tireless work and excellent insights. And so, without any further ado, we present the 12th edition of the Asian Gaming Power 50. Enjoy!
Andrew W Scott is Asian Gaming Power 50 selection panel Chairman