Unlike the 2009 version of G2E Asia, where casino operators in Macau were wondering just how far the bottom was, this year’s edition, held last month at the Venetian Macao, was a celebration of the remarkable rebound experienced by the SAR operators over the past year. The comeback was capped by a revenue increase of 95 percent in May.
With an exhibit hall featuring the latest state-of-the-art products from gaming’s most important suppliers— IGT, Aristocrat, Aruze, Bally Technologies, WMS Gaming, Novomatic, Konami, Ainsworth, Gaming Partners International, Shuffle Master and many more—the event was capped off with a conference that covered the most important issues facing the Asian industry today, including updates on the operational and legal status of gaming in such nations as Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, India and others. Singapore was the focus of its own session, featuring several gaming analysts and Marina Bay Sands President Tom Arasi.
The prestigious G2E Visionary Award was presented to Ainsworth Gaming Chairman Len Ainsworth, the 87-year-old legend who created many of the innovations that are seen in today’s slot machines. With a career that dates back to the late 1950s, Ainsworth recounted how he created Aristocrat in those years and expanded it to become one of the most popular slot brands around the world.
Galaxy Entertainment Co-Chairman Francis Lui presented a keynote speech that outlined the shape and future of the Macau gaming market. He said the current revenue boom should continue well into the future, since the Chinese middle class is rapidly expanding and will have several trillion dollars in disposable income in just a few years.
On the final day of the conference, architect Paul Steelman, whose work is known worldwide and most recently in Macau, gave his view of the Asian gaming industry by recounting some of the mistakes and good ideas that have impacted the gaming industry. In an entertaining presentation, Steelman said new casinos will be less expensive and smaller now that the era of the mega-resort is grinding to a halt.
At a session recounting the possibilities for the gaming industry in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, Harrah’s Entertainment Asian President Michael Chen said his company is interested in all the opportunities in this market. He expressed hope that the Macau government will one day approve more licenses and that Harrah’s would patiently await that day.
Also at the show, the American Gaming Association released its “Future Watch” report on the future of Asian gaming. Based on interviews with a small number of gaming experts, AGA President Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. said that it showed the Asian gaming industry will surpass gaming revenues in the U.S. within the next three years.
“The study foretells a remarkable future for Asian gaming markets—from continued revenue growth in Macau to the rise of newer jurisdictions such as Singapore,” Fahrenkopf said. “The prospects for gaming in Asia are exciting, as there are many different roads growth and expansion could take.”
Slot-makers are bullish on the Asian market despite the fact that many Asian gamblers seem to prefer table games, particularly baccarat. That’s because slot machines have made some remarkable strides in the region over the past few years.
Cath Burns, vice president for Bally Technologies’ Asia-Pacific operations, told Reuters that the increased revenues in Macau mean people in Asia are anxious for more gambling opportunities.
“The outlook for slot machines in Asia is very, very positive,” Burns said. “Those record revenues are coming across the board whether they are slots or tables, so that shows the pent-up demand from people coming to play in Macau is there.”
She says the record revenues in Macau recently could be even higher with more slots.
“Personally, I think we are underdone,” she says. “I don’t think there are enough slot machines for the demand.”
Susan Macke, chief marketing officer for IGT, who was attending her first conference in Macau, said that outside of Macau, demand for slots is very high.
“We think the slot machine uptake in Singapore will be much closer to what it is in Las Vegas, growing much more rapidly,” she said.