Ciarán Carruthers remembers the post-handover gaming industry in Macau, which makes him something of a rarity in the business. As an early member of the Galaxy Entertainment executive team, Carruthers became adept at discerning the demographics, trends and nuances of the Chinese gambler. It was that knowledge that allowed this upstart gaming company that—against all odds—won one of the three government concessions to prove itself worthy of competing with the strongest and most savvy casino corporations in the world.
With a family in Australia, Carruthers left Galaxy in late 2009 to spend more time with them. But business beckoned again and Carruthers formed Asia Pacific Gaming in early 2010 to provide consultancy and management services to the global financial community and Asian gaming operators. Along with several other experts who have at least 20 years experience in Asian gaming, and a dozen or so researchers, APG produces detailed monthly reports on the gaming business in Macau and offers consulting services of all varieties.
APG’s clients are mostly financial institutions that want to know what the trends are, which company’s promotions are working or not working, and how to find the little things that will predict future success.
“It’s a very competitive market,” says Carruthers. “We concentrate on the mass market but also provide reliable data from the VIP rooms.”
APG is also beginning to evaluate the non-gaming attraction of Macau.
“This used to be a pure gaming experience,” says Carruthers. “That perception is changing, and with the opening of Sands China’s Cotai Central, the critical mass is just expanding.”
Carruthers’ excellent reputation with Galaxy and APG has helped the company win a management contract with Leisure & Resorts World for the Belle Grande in Manila, one of four billion-dollar-plus integrated resorts slated for PAGCOR’s Entertainment City next to the giant Mall of Asia. The majority owner of Belle is the SM Company, which also owns and operates the mall. Phase 1 will include six hotel towers in the four- and five-star variety with a 180,000-square-foot casino.
“Our primary target is the international tourist market,” he says, “along with the VIPs. We have an excellent relationship with some of the most important junket reps in Macau, so we believe we’ll do very well. We won’t replace the Macau trips, but we’ll be a great secondary choice for those players.”
He doesn’t discount the locals market in Manila either, given the success of Resorts World Manila, a Genting project that has experienced remarkable success since opening a couple of years ago.
“Resorts World has proven that there is a desire for a quality gaming experience in Manila,” says Carruthers. “While it won’t be our primary market, we believe we’ll give those customers another high- quality choice.”
APG’s research in Macau showed that 70 percent of players visit two or more casinos. Carruthers says he believes those numbers will hold true at Entertainment City, as well.
“If a VIP player is on a losing streak,” he explains, “they often want to change where they are playing. That’s difficult if you have a stand-alone casino somewhere in the middle of nowhere. But in Manila, we’ll have four casinos in close proximity, so while our players will stay with us most of the time, they have the chance to visit another if they hit that losing streak, and having that option is important to players when making a decision to travel to gamble.”
One thing is certain: Carruthers and APG will be on a winning streak for a long time to come.