Casino operators should have a diversified set of non-gaming offerings and amenities, which can be integral in helping to drive up gaming business, suggested on Wednesday a panel of gaming industry executives.
They were speaking during a conference session at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Asia 2017, a casino industry trade exhibition and conference being held at the Venetian Macao casino resort.
The panel was asked what kind of non-gaming amenities offer attractive returns and help boost gaming business.
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai, president and chief operating officer of Macau casino licensee Sands China Ltd, said his firm did use entertainment offerings to help direct traffic to casinos.
“We found that the right performers at the [Cotai] Arena shows bring a lot of attendance. This creates also a demand for accommodation and other businesses. So that’s why it [non-gaming] has been able to support a very high occupancy rate in our hotel accommodation,” said Mr Wong. “So I would say that entertainment is an integral part to this ecosystem.”
The Sands China executive noted that at least two of the firm’s theatres had shows every night; while for Cotai Arena at the Venetian Macao resort hotel, the venue hosts a “major pop concert” almost every other weekend.
John Shigley, chief operating officer for gaming at Macau-based MGM China Holdings Ltd, remarked during the panel session that all of the components of a casino resort – such as convention and exhibition business, food and beverage or entertainment – are all elements that “feed off each other”.
Mr Shigley said the firm’s new Cotai resort, MGM Cotai, due to open in the fourth quarter this year, would have what he termed a “high-tech” theatre.
“We expect to offer three resident shows. So we are going to have a fantastic, diversified offering. There is something for everybody; [including] something that is tailored to the Chinese culture,” said Mr Shigley.
The MGM China executive also stated that having more hotel rooms in the Macau market was helpful to casino resort business.
“We need to have more rooms to accommodate the more casual customers who just enjoy food, beverages, shows, shopping and all those things,” Mr Shigley said.
“I think there is opportunity [for hotel operators] to help grow this market because Starwood [Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc], Marriott [International Inc] – all of these [hotel groups] have fantastic international marketing systems, and they have fantastic hosts and customer loyalty programmes that tend to build and drive a lot of business to leisure destinations,” he added.
The panel was also asked about the importance of so-called millennials – people who have reached adulthood at the start of the current century – and how to cater to their needs.
“It is an area that [needs] bigger attention, but it is not an [immediate] issue [in Macau],” said Mr Wong.
Sands China’s Mr Wong said a focus in Macau was serving middle-class young families.
“The emerging middle class in China: they have more wealth; they are younger and they are travelling with family. That also justifies our attention on this total experience for families,” said the Sands China executive.
The panel also touched on the popularity and growth of e-sports and the possible appeal of skill-based casino electronic games amongst younger people.
Walter Bugno, chief executive international at global gaming supplier International Game Technology Plc, said: “My view on the millennial [customer] is that technology is driving change in the way that people want to engage [with entertainment providers] … we have a heavy investment in the online space to try to understand what people are looking for, and to see how young people are focused on sports betting.”
Mitchell Bowen, managing director for Australia, New Zealand and international at Aristocrat Technologies Inc, remarked that the key to catering to the demands of millennial clients was what he termed personalisation of the gaming content.
“I think regardless of age or demographics or gender, it is about content, it is about which channels you can put that content through. It is just to give people another touch point to get that content,” said Mr Bowen. “Resort operators today have the bricks and mortar: they have that physical meeting space that people can actually go. It is just about giving them [customers] as much experience as you can across the floor, regardless of the demographics.”
The panel has also briefly discussed the potential of i-gaming in Asia, a segment that has been of growing importance in the United States and Europe.
“The most important thing is how the regulators look at this. There is a whole host of issues to be addressed as to this type of gaming. In Macau I don’t think the regulator focuses on this aspect yet,” said Sands China’s Mr Wong. “The AML [anti-money laundering] issue is something we need to look at. It [iGaming] is not going to be an easy game [segment] to introduce.”
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”Continued negative coverage of the Abe administration, coupled with political losses for the Liberal Democratic Party ... may reduce support for the gaming agenda, which already has only limited public support”
Analyst at brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein