IAG speaks with Paul White, Aristocrat’s Director, Asia Sales & Business Development, about his career journey and what the short-term future looks like for the Philippines casino market.
Ben Blaschke: First of all Paul, for those who don’t know you, can you tell us about your background, where you grew up and your memories from that time?
Paul White: I grew up in Arizona, USA. It was a solid suburban upbringing; football in the fall, baseball in the spring, scorching hot summers by the pool. I studied Mathematics at University and joined the gaming industry as a Mathematician and Game Designer. My career began in the product side; creating concepts, designing game mechanics and building math models for casinos all over the world. Later, I accepted an offer to join a start-up software company in Macau because I was excited to be both in the tech space and in Macau at that very exciting time.
BB: What was your first exposure to the gaming industry and how did it come to be your career focus?
PW: My first week on the job was at G2E in Las Vegas – such a great on-boarding experience. Immediately, I became a student of the industry. I was captivated by the focus on player entertainment, the creative force, the international aspect, and the different skills that make this such an exciting industry. Soon after, I had the opportunity to work locally with game development teams in Australia, then in Europe. I gained great insights during this period about games, hardware and mathematics from some amazingly capable and knowledgeable professionals. Looking back, this learning period in the product development side is where my commitment to the industry crystallized and it became my career focus.
BB: What do you enjoy most about being part of the industry, particularly on the supplier side?
PW: We are in the business of creating great experiences for the player, and all of us on the supplier side are working extra hard to deliver something innovative and new to our customers. At the same time, we also like to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and ask, “How can we deliver here or resolve the challenge there?”
This challenges us to add skills and competencies, be humble, be uncomfortable and remain internally focused on improving the customer and player experience. The constant learning and pushing ourselves to be better is something that I enjoy each and every day.
BB: You’ve been with Aristocrat for close to six years now. How did the opportunity first come about, and what has your experience been like in that time?
PW: A great opportunity as the Philippines Market Manager caught my attention because the market was poised for tremendous growth. I wanted to participate intimately in that, and Aristocrat was a great way to do so. Since then, the experience has been more than what I expected.
The company is one that continuously challenges itself to put greater focus on our people, our customers and our product, and we do that with an exceptional culture that puts our values at the center of everything we do. Our mission is to bring joy to life through the power of play and we live and breathe that every day.
BB: Can you talk a bit about your current role and what a standard working day in the life of Paul White looks like?
PW: I am Sales Director for Asia and I work alongside an amazing team of Key Account Managers to service the customer base. I spend the majority of my time thinking about the well-being of our people, working within a suite of initiatives to ensure that we are the Employer of Choice for the best talent in the industry.
Next, I seek opportunities to engage and do outreach with our customers, especially during this challenging time of recovery from the impacts of the pandemic. This has been done to great effect through Aristocrat Assist with its core message of shared resources towards a healthy business recovery.
Next, I pay close attention to customers and market trends. Recently, we conducted a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey that highlighted positive results but which also identified opportunities to enhance the Aristocrat value proposition. We have a plan to this end and will invest in it.
BB: Of course, being in Manila you’ve no doubt seen first-hand the impact of COVID-19. What are the main challenges these past 12 months have presented from a professional and a personal standpoint?
PW: First and foremost, we have been mindful of the safety and well-being of our Philippines team members and families. We are also thinking of our customers’ health and the broader community, to ensure we are providing support during this challenging time. We recently assisted in providing medical health workers with 5,000 facemasks and face shields, and supplied more than 20,000 food items for the community since COVID lockdowns began early last year.
BB: How do you see the Philippines market recovering over the next 12 months?
PW: The Philippines will follow the broader global recovery, and the primary driver for that will be the successful availability of vaccines to the local population. The Philippines’ national and local governments, in cooperation with private industry, are actively facilitating the procurement and rollout of vaccines with a strong push throughout 2021 towards local inoculation. As the pandemic recovery becomes clear, resumption of tourist travel, full-capacity play and no age restrictions will bring the market back to its previous levels.
BB: Before COVID the Philippines was talked about as one of, if not the most exciting market in Asia from a slots perspective. Is that still the case?
PW: 100%. Manila has some of the largest jackpots in scale and quantity in the world. A typical floor in Manila has more than Php500 million in jackpots running at one time – it is hard to beat that kind of excitement!
Mighty Cash took it to a whole new level with a Php100 million (~US$2 million) Grand Jackpot startup on the mass floor and even ran one at Php200 million (US$4 million)! Aristocrat regularly launches new products with Php50 million (US$1 million) or Php100 million (US$2 million) grand jackpots. Albeit a slightly smaller scale, similar jackpots are driving player appeal in Clark, and soon Cebu.
BB: What trends have you seen developing in the Philippines slot market in recent times?
PW: The players that frequent venues in the Philippines are looking for an evolution to the Jackpot Bonus experience, and strong momentum continues to build towards multi-denominational linked progressives; particularly in the “Hold & Spin” category. Aristocrat pioneered both these mechanics with Lightning Link, and we continue to broaden this popular category with Mighty Cash and other upcoming products. It’s exciting times ahead.
BB: COVID aside, what do you enjoy doing on your downtime from work?
PW: As a family man, I draw energy from my amazing wife and wonderful children, and we have built phenomenal relationships both inside and outside the gaming industry here. There have been a few rounds of golf, some scuba diving and a few island holidays here and there too.
BB: Finally, when you can finally leave the Philippines, where is the first place you will go?
PW: Easy answer: back to the USA. It has been a long road now and we are excited to see the family again.