The not-so-booming Asian gaming capital of Macau hosted the sixth annual G2E Asia last month, with the largest exhibit floor ever and a record number of attendees. The conference sessions focused on the slowing growth of gross gaming revenue in the SAR and the corresponding slowdown in the Chinese economy, although many observers suggested a certain perspective. The “sluggish” Chinese economy means a growth rate of around 7 percent, a pace most countries—including the U.S.—would envy. And the growth of gaming revenues in Macau was estimated to be “only” 10 percent to 15 percent in May, which would be trumpeted as a healthy rebound if posted in Las Vegas.
Nonetheless, operators and suppliers remained positive about the growth of gaming in Macau and across Asia. Slot manufacturers presented Asian-themed games that are often designed and produced from the ground up with the Asian gaming market in mind. Electronic table games took up increasing space on the trade show floor, with a Macau table-game cap forcing operators to look for alternatives to the live games.
The organizers of G2E Asia, the American Gaming Association and Reed Exhibitions, announced that attendance at the show was up more than 10 percent from 2011, and bookings for next year’s show surpassed expectations as well.
It was those electronic table games, however, that uncovered a dispute between U.S.-based Shuffle Master Gaming and Macau-based LT Games, which claims ownership of patents to live-dealer electronic games, which were to be displayed by Shuffle Master. The live-dealer electronic games, particularly baccarat, are becoming increasingly popular in Macau, as operators desire to cater to players who may not be able to afford the minimums on the live games, or can’t find seats during the busy holiday periods. Prior to the opening of the show, LT Games obtained an injunction from a Macau court that prohibited any company from displaying product that allegedly violated the LT patents on multi-player electronic table games.
The first day of the trade show saw Shuffle Master’s games covered with sheets while a resolution was negotiated between Shuffle Master and Macau authorities. SAR customs officials finally approved the removal of the sheets at the end of the first full day of the show, causing Shuffle Master to lose a full day of sales of the devices. LT Games, meanwhile, happily displayed its multi-player games throughout the day.
The dispute not only upset Shuffle Master but also the organizers of G2E Asia, the AGA and Reed Exhibitions. It’s not the first time LT Games has asserted and enforced its alleged patents. At previous editions of G2E Asia, LT Games has accused Alfa Street, Interblock and F2 Systems of similar patent disputes, and those companies agreed to refrain from showing their live-dealer products. Not so, said Shuffle Master, which issued this brief release:
“Shuffle Master has always and will always comply with requirements of the regulatory authorities in Macau and to date, no court in Macau has found that we have infringed upon anyone’s patents. Therefore, we strongly believe in our lawful right to sell all of our products fairly and competitively in Macau and that no infringement of patents exists or will be found to exist.”