The land-based casino market in Asia “is strategically very important” for Light & Wonder Inc, and the casino equipment and digital gaming content provider plans to increase its presence in the region. That is according to the company’s chief executive, Matt Wilson (pictured), in an interview with GGRAsia.
“We’re in the process of expanding our facilities in the Philippines,” he stated. “It is clearly a very important market for us going forward, so we intend to plant a flag in the Philippines.”
He added: “Macau will still be our home [in Asia]. We’ve been here for a few decades now, and we intend to be here in perpetuity. It is a super important market to us.”
Mr Wilson was speaking to GGRAsia in Macau on Thursday. He was in the city – where he worked from 2007 to 2012 during his time with rival slot machine maker Aristocrat Leisure Ltd – to meet with casino clients, followed by meetings with investors in Hong Kong. The last time he had visited Macau was in 2016.
Asia “was the last market to fully recover” from the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the gaming sector, Mr Wilson said. “The Philippines has been the primary growth driver, but really the broader Asian gaming industry is something that’s really important to us.”
The executive said Light & Wonder was the supplier currently “driving the highest ship share” in the Asian marketplace. “We’re focused on making sure that continues over time,” he added, without disclosing details regarding the share of the Asian business in Light & Wonder’s overall performance.
“The Philippines is a really fast-growing business,” he said. The country is on an “expansive growth agenda”, with the number of casino resorts increasing, and Light & Wonder is “positioned nicely to benefit from that”, noted Mr Wilson.
He added: “Singapore and the surrounding markets have recovered nicely as well. Macau was maybe the last piece of the Asian gaming market to come back online in totality [post-Covid-19], but it is nice to see that the gross gaming revenue numbers [are getting back] towards 2019 levels.”
The executive discussed the cap on slot-machines in Macau introduced at the start of the year: during the next decade, the maximum total number of slot machines in the market is set at 12,000 units.
“With a slot cap, it really makes [casino operators] focus on investing in things that are going to be almost guaranteed to be successful,” he said. “This speaks to us building on franchises that are successful… things that players know and trust and love. So that slot cap does inform how we think about investing behind our product portfolio.”
Looking ahead, Mr Wilson said some of the slot products that Light & Wonder plans to promote in Asia in 2024 included “Jin Ji Bao Xi Grand” – a new version of the “Jin Ji Bao Xi” series, to be launched across the region later this year – and the recently released “Duo Fu Duo Cai Grand”.
“It is really building on some great foundational franchises that we’ve built,” he stated.
On target for 2025 EBITDA goal
Mr Wilson took over as president and CEO of Light & Wonder in October 2022, following his appointment as interim CEO in August that same year.
He says that, during the past year, the execution of Light & Wonder’s growth strategy “has really accelerated”.
“All the changes that we made in the last few years to invest behind our ambitions are starting to show up on the financial scoreboard,” he said. Light & Wonder’s second-quarter consolidated adjusted earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) were US$281 million, up 32.5 percent year-on-year, and up 12.9 percent quarter-on-quarter.
“That makes us the fastest growing supplier in the space,” said the Light & Wonder CEO.
He noted that Light & Wonder was comfortably on the way to achieve an annual EBITDA of US$1.4 billion by 2025, a target set in 2022 by the company’s management. “We’re growing above what we expected and what we need to get to those goals.”
Light & Wonder completed in May this year a secondary listing on the Australian Securities Exchange. The firm’s primary listing remains on Nasdaq in the United States.
The secondary listing has been “very well received” by investors, Mr Wilson said. He explained that the move allowed Light & Wonder to tap into a broader set of investors, as some fund managers – particularly in Australia – are required to invest in equities listed in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Many investors in this part of the world have had a lot of success investing in gaming stocks, particularly in Asia and Australia. The Light & Wonder listing on the Australian Securities Exchange just brings a new option for people to invest in,” he remarked.
Mr Wilson also highlighted as strategically important for the development of Light & Wonder the acquisition earlier this year of the circa 17 percent equity interest in the digital games business SciPlay Corp that Light & Wonder did not already own.
“Light & Wonder now is a content business. We build great slot machines, great table games, deploy them onto casino floors through our land-based gaming business. We also have an iGaming business primarily in Europe, but also in the United States. And the third business is our social casino business SciPlay.”
Dec 05, 2023Work to guard against the risk of soil liquefaction and to deal with other land issues at the site of the planned MGM Osaka casino resort in Japan began on Monday, according to an announcement by...
Dec 05, 2023
"The six Macau casino operators should not be penalised for upping expenditure on player incentives, so long as their EBITDA margins are not materially diluted”
George Choi and Ryan Cheung
Analysts at Citigroup