G2E Asia 2014 saw the most attendees and exhibitors come through their doors than ever before in its eight-year history.The organizers confirmed a 22percent lift in exhibition space since last year; a strong attendance at the first ever iGaming Summit and a bigger presence from the interactive side of the industry in general.
“We were very pleased to offer what was ultimately our largest G2E Asia ever last week in Macau,” Mike Johnson, VP of G2E Events told CalvinAyre.com.
Co-organizer Geoff Freeman of the American Gaming Association (AGA) echoed Johnson’s comments and added, “I was extremely impressed with G2E Asia. The floor had a great buzz and the conference sessions were well attended.The ability to rally the local industry leaders such as Pansy Ho, Ed Tracy, Mike Mecca and others was unique.”
At this rate, could one speculate that G2E Asia is on the track to becoming a larger event than G2E Vegas at some point in the future or at least on par?
As American casino brands set up shop in Macau, the crossover between the Vegas gambling world and the Macau gambling world continues to strengthen. Freeman told CalvinAyre.com,“There is an opportunity for the AGA to be helpful in Macau, Japan and likely other markets.” It wassomething that has been true for a while but never shared as a clear focus.
From my perspective, over the last nine plus years I’ve spent working in the online gambling industry, Macau was the gambling revenue generating giant in China, but it was not a region I discussed on a daily basis. Now, the subject of Macau crosses my mind every single day, likely due to all the daily Asia gambling industry facing newsletters I’m signed up to but also through my conversations with colleagues and external contacts. To me, this proves Macau’s influence on the gambling industry is strengthening as each day goes by.
While I did not physically attend G2E Asia; and in fact, I have not been to date, I did my best to keep up with the top content shared in the sessions via daily reports from CalvinAyre.com’s Asia team and leading industry news sources such as Asia Gambling Brief. I also kept an eye on #G2EAsia and tweets from industry contacts who were on the ground such as @Agbrief, @AsiaGaming, @G2Emike, @MistaBill and @GlobalGamingBiz. Over the course of the three days G2E Asia 2014 took place, here are five-key takeaways from my virtual perspective.
1)Macau to RemainShining Star of Gambling Universe
The message that Macau is on track to remain the shining star of the gambling universe was reiterated throughout G2E Asia 2014. Andrew Zarnett of Deutsche Bank Securities stated that Macau will likely hit $100 billion in revenue by 2021, over double the revenue that was generated in 2013. What’s also interesting is that only 1.5–2.8% of China’s population is visiting Macau, so the market is severely under-penetrated at present and a massive area for improvement.
To attract more Chinese to Macau, an improved infrastructure for transportation to the island is in the works, including construction of a bridge from Hong Kong to Macau, increased rail services from the mainland and more flight options.
2)Macau expanding beyond gambling
Operators are also looking toattract more Chinese to Macau byexpanding into industries that compliment or even go beyond their gamblingofferings. One of the most popular topics discussed at G2E Asia was how to cater to the mass market or the Chinese middle class, a portion of China’s population that is expected to double in the next decade. Offering more attractions appears to be a good way to hook the ballooning middle-class.
Macau’s six resort operators are already making moves to start offering non-gambling entertainment such as nightclubs, spas, shopping, fine dining and all sorts of to shows. During the G2E Asia sessions and more specifically Pansy Ho’s keynote, the importance of hosting events such as the Macau Grand Prix, Rolling Stonesconcerts and various celebrity endorsements are also key to raising Macau’s profile to the masses and should remain on the agenda.
Another quick point to be made is that in addition to attracting more visitors to the island, adding new attractions and non-gambling offerings will create more jobs and taxes—another injection into Macau’sbooming economy.
3)Japan &delayed gambling regulation
We’ve heard of the $20-billion potential of Japan’s gambling market, and we know MGM is poised for entry into the region. The disappointing news at G2E Asia was that it’sunlikely that Japan’s regulation will be passed in June, and now we’re looking at October. Another anticipated hurdle is that once regulation is actually passed, there will likely be labor shortages due to the upcoming Olympics and earthquake damages that already involve a large percent of the Japanese workforce.
The bad news aside, gambling regulation in Japan could help sort the country’s current tourism deficit by attracting more visitors; it would be a perfect compliment to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, and the revenue projections are impressive. Looks like regulation will be worth the wait.
4) Future of Integrated Resorts in Philippines unclear
The introduction of integrated resorts in Manila remained a hot topic for some time; with a lot of eyes glued to the progress of the project. There are some whonow feel that the market is notactually as profitable as we thought it would be five years ago.There was aconcern that the demand won’t meet the supply when the project is finished.
Foreign investors also appeared to be weary of the setup as the regulator, PAGCOR, was also a casino operator; although there has been some talk that PAGCOR may privatize their casino businessand eliminate those competition issues.
5) The regulated iGaming industry in Asiahas a long way to go
The regulated iGaming industry in Asia has a long way to go, with the Philippines hosting the only regulatory body in the continent. The government and casino operators in Macau are not (yet) interested in iGaming; Hong Kong and China are against it, yet as we all know, people will find a way to gamble on the internet regulated or not regulated, so we’ll hope these regions change their mind in the future.
Some of the topics covered during G2E Asia’s iGaming Summit would be have been considered elementary for iGaming industry vets in the West, but some interesting points did surface. The first point relates to Live Dealer and how land-based properties should build a visible live-dealer studio within their casino floor to familiarize their customers with online gambling offerings.
Another two points were made about the growth of online play in Asia; increased online slot play as the Asian customer becomes more confortable withcasino software, and although its not very popular yet, the interest in online poker is growing—slowly but surely.