With Macau exceeding Las Vegas in gambling revenues, the Asian gambling market has come a long way. Gaming companies now want to try to step it up a notch by luring Asian gamblers away from their favored baccarat games and get them to give the slot machines a try. Slot machines are much more lucrative than other games for the gambling businesses; in Vegas, 60% of the gaming revenue is generated at the slot machines.
Asian gamblers so far tend to stay away from the one-armed bandits for a couple of reasons. One reason is just unfamiliarity – Asians have long played table games like baccarat and this type of gambling is ingrained in their culture. Slot machines, on the other hand, are new to them and do not involve the face-to-face interplay that Asians like. Culturally, Asians tend to play differently than westerners. Most often, they gamble in groups of six to eight rather than on their own. Industry experts are continuing to research the differences of style in Asian gambling versus that of the west in an effort to make available games that appeal specifically to the Asian market.
Gabe Hunterton, VP of Casino Operations for the MGM Grand in Macau, said the problem doesn’t lie with resistance to new technology. “Chinese customers are generally more technologically-advanced than US-based customers, but they tend to be less comfortable just with slot machines themselves because they don’t have much experience with them.”
MGM Grand in Macau is working on overcoming this barrier by teaching their staff to encourage Chinese customers to use the machines. They have also worked on appealing the mass nature of Asian gambling by locating groups of the same machine together so that groups of gamblers could all be playing the same machine at once.
Gaming machine creators, such as PacificNet ( a major supplier in Macau), are working on creating new designs that will be culturally specific to Asians, particular the Chinese who flock to Macau. Tony Tong, CEO of PacificNet, says that Asians “do not have an emotional or cultural attachment” to the games that are currently on the market. He wants to create new games that have stars such as Jackie Chan and the Chinese television show, Super Voice Girls, the Chinese version of American Idol.
PacificNet employs 500 game designers and engineers in Macau, Hong Kong and China. Their goal is to beat competitors to the Asian markets and find machines that will appeal to Asian gamblers. There is a lot of pressure from the casinos in this direction, as well, since croupier pay rates have tripled in recent years, putting quite a crimp in the casinos’ bottom lines. Gaming companies are also racing to see who can create electronic tables that will allow electronic wagering but still retain live dealers and real cards.
Right now, government figures show that less than 5% of Macau’s revenues were from slot machines while up to 88% is being spent at the baccarat tables. This can be limiting to revenues in itself as one dealer can serve a maximum of 12 players per table. Asians often tend to gather around tables that feel lucky or have big winners so frequently there will be a lot of action seen at one table while nearby tables are nearly empty.