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Growing Macau

Mike Lei, Vice President of Slot Strategy and Operations, MGM Macau

Growing Macau

Mike Lei was born and raised in Macau, China’s Special Administrative Region known for its fashionable casino resorts.

It’s no surprise that someone who grew up in Macau would gravitate to the gaming industry. But for Lei, it wasn’t quite that easy to start with. While a student at Saint Joseph University, he secured a job as a full-time teller at a bank.

“I was a bit hesitant whether banking would be my development path,” Lei says.

The gaming industry had entered a boom time, the demand for talent strong. His first position was in a slot club, which tapped into his banking experience. But Wynn Macau offered him a position as a supervisor in May 2006 due to his education and personality.

“It actually gave me a good platform to continue to build up the required skill set, accumulate experience and get to understand the business from the ground level,” he says. By September 2015, Lei became assistant director of slots. In May 2016 he moved over to MGM Macau.

“I have witnessed the continuing development and innovation in game design, product, technology, etc., and each implementation created excitement and new customer experience, which helps to bring new energies to the business and gaming floor from time to time. It is the kind of work and achievement I have been chasing after,” he says.

During the Covid pandemic, the MGM team turned negative impacts into positive outcomes, making use of the slow business period to carry out lots of projects that proactively enhanced the casino floor and customer experience by layout reconfiguration, Lei says.

“MGM has been rewarded with a well-deserved performance outcome post-Covid from all the preparation and works we had done during the pandemic period,” he says.

Slots in Macau differ from those in the U.S. The American market is more diversified, with skill-based elements, themes based on sports, television programs and so on. Game cabinets tend to be bigger, taller and more eye-catching, Lei says.

“In Macau, the product tends to be in Asian themes,” he says. “On the other hand, slot players in both the U.S. and Macau have a strong domestic customer base.”

Lei lists a handful of mentors he’s worked with over the years: Matt Hurst, Craig Mitchell, Rick Colman, Nathan Carle, and Tian Han. “These are all great leaders who helped to shape my professionalism. I was and am deeply inspired by their leadership, business vision and management style, and also thankful for each of the learning and development opportunities that I have been given.”

Despite the differences between U.S. and Macau markets, the slot industry in Macau is going in the right direction, more sustainable in the new 10-year plan.

“The product diversification on the floor, and the ability to introduce products that already existed in other gaming markets but not in Macau, has become essential and a priority,” Lei says. “It would not only greatly benefit the business operations, but also further strengthen Macau as a leisure entertainment destination.”

Like the slot industry in general, Lei feels comfortable in his achievements, including his recent promotion to vice president of slot strategy and operations at MGM Macau and MGM Cotai.

“For short and mid-terms, I will continue to contribute my knowledge and efforts to the slot business and industry, and could explore a bit further in the sports betting field to better prepare for the day when the door is opened for more sportsbooks in the market.”

Meanwhile, Lei will do his part to train young, local talent to support the growth in the industry.

“Long term, I could be exploring the opportunity to lead a new opening project for slots within the company in other gaming judications.”

Bill Sokolic is a veteran journalist who has covered gaming and tourism for more than 25 years as a staff writer and freelancer with various publications and wire services. He's also written stories for news, entertainment, features, and business. He co-authored Atlantic City Revisited, a pictorial history of the resort.

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