Pavilion Poker, a new poker room in the centre of Galaxy Macau’s gaming floor, opened on Thursday with a visit from professional poker player Johnny Chan. The area was previously allocated to above-average-spend mass-market baccarat players, said the casino’s operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd.
“I’m not going to say these poker tables are going to be the highest yielding tables in the property, but it is about offering a range of products for our guests,” Raymond Yap Yin Min, director for international premium, premium mass and mass market development for Galaxy Entertainment, told GGRAsia.
Pavilion Poker has eight tables. Six of them are cash tables for everyday use, and two more are for when tournaments are held. At least two tables in the poker room will be open 24 hours per day.
Currently the management has no plans for a room name branding deal with online poker operators. But Kevin Clayton, chief marketing officer for the company, told GGRAsia that Galaxy Entertainment had been approached by firms interested in partnerships on naming and for tournaments.
Players will be able to buy in to games at Pavilion Poker for as little as HKD1,000 (US$129) in some cases, while buy-ins in the top games could go as high as HKD500,000.
There will be four categories for promotional prizes, which in the poker world can include things such as “best bad beat of the day”, i.e., a losing hand that was close to being a winning one.
At the time this story went online, management was still awaiting confirmation of approval by Macau’s gaming regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, of the type and aggregate amount of promotional prizes Pavilion Poker can offer.
“We want to make Pavilion Poker acceptable to the masses… your buy-in and entry point has to be low, the rake needs to be low, and obviously you want a certain amount of volume,” stated Mr Clayton.
“We have one of the lowest rake percentages in the Macau market,” added the marketing executive, although he declined to confirm the percentage.
In Macau, the gaming regulator requires the rake taken by casino operators on poker games to be within a percentage band. A 5 percent rake is within the stipulated band and is considered to be one of the most competitive when casinos are vying for players.
“We’re not in a race to the bottom on price,” stressed Mr Clayton. “This poker room isn’t going to make or to break Galaxy.”
Referring indirectly to the 15 straight months of casino gross gaming revenue decline in Macau, Mr Clayton added: “More than ever now it’s a buyers’ market not a sellers’ one. We want to be able to offer our customers choice.”
Mr Clayton said some of Galaxy Entertainment’s existing high end players had asked for such a facility.
“We have a number of players at the moment – especially from China and Hong Kong and in particular Galaxy Privilege Club members that have said to us, ‘Why don’t you provide that diversity and give us an opportunity to play poker on your floor?’”
He added: “We didn’t just want to give people a corner of the floor and put a rope around it and call it a poker room. We think the most important thing is to provide one of the best locations for a poker player. This is not a location that is a dead zone. This is a part of the floor that is highly active.”
Promotion of Pavilion Poker is coming from dedicated marketing budgets and not from poker operations, the management said.
Mr Yap referred also to a recent Morgan Stanley report that said Macau casino operators were cutting “advertising” spend – understood by the industry to relate also to Macau casinos’ marketing budgets. Mr Yap told GGRAsia: “Someone asked me about what it means if the casino sector in Macau is reducing its marketing spend. I said to them it actually makes us be smarter about the way we run our businesses – how we right-size them – so that we can find new ways to grow.”
(Updated 10.45am, Sept 18)
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