Macau’s Casinos Need Segregated Gaming Areas To Boost Foreign Traffic, Suggests Expert

Macau’s casino market is undergoing a significant transformation, arguably the biggest in 20 years. The Chinese SAR wants to attract more foreign visitors, and a Macau gaming expert believes the best way is to give them their own gambling spaces.

Gamblers surround the gaming tables on the Grand Lisboa casino floor in Macau. If the city wants to attract more foreign gamblers, its casinos need to diversify their gaming options. (Image: Alamy)

China has always been an important feeder market for Macau, along with Hong Kong. However, the long-term aspirations include becoming a destination for tourists from other parts of the world.

The city has already laid out plans to accomplish this, requiring casino operators to invest in community projects that will diversify Macau. Gambling, however, continues to be a big component of its attractiveness. Davis Fong Ka Chio, the director of the University of Macau’s Institute for the Study of Commercial Gaming, has a plan to boost the gaming market.

Macau Open To Everyone

Macau wants to be recognized as a travel destination for everyone, not just gamblers. This is due, in no small part, to mainland China’s opposition to gambling. It doesn’t want its people flocking to the city and risking hundreds of millions of dollars in capital flight.

However, Macau is practically built on gambling, and it will continue to play a role in the city’s economic stability. Fong told Radio Macau on Wednesday that offering exclusive gaming zones inside casinos could go a long way to help the gaming market thrive.

I think Macau’s existing gaming facilities can attract foreign visitors, but the gaming elements can be improved in the future. Different ways of playing can be added to the gaming facilities or a dedicated gaming area for foreign visitors to give them a sense of privilege,” said Davis Fong.

Joining Fong in the conversation was Song Wai Kit, the president of the Macau Responsible Gaming Association. He believes there’s another way to boost international traffic, and it’s one that should already be in place.

In order to attract foreign gamblers, casino employees have to speak foreign languages. Of course, this is true of any tourist destination, but Macau, according to Song, may be missing the mark. He emphasized that workforces should strengthen their “multilingual skills,” while the casinos should offer “services that cater to visitors of different nationalities.”

Although opulence abounds in Macau, there is an overwhelmingly common theme in the gaming floors. This might turn off some would-be foreign travelers. That isn’t to say that Macau needs anything like Vegas Vic, but diversity is the key to Macau’s future.

Genting Move Still Shocks

There are six gaming concessions in Macau, with six well-entrenched operators tightly holding onto their licenses. All submitted applications to receive new concessions at the end of this year, with none expecting to exit.

However, Genting Malaysia is trying to tip the scales and push out one of the concessionaires. Most analysts feel that it won’t be able to do so, but could ultimately become a partner of an incumbent.

Samuel Yin Shao Yang, the associate director of Maybank IB, warns that overoptimism of their current status may be risky to existing operators’ futures in Macau. In an interview with Inside Asian Gaming this week, he highlighted Genting’s success in Singapore and elsewhere as an example of what could happen.

Genting has been the underdog on several occasions –Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore and Yokohama, Japan, are two good examples. Therefore, the Maybank analyst warns operators to “underestimate [Genting] at your own peril.”

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