With another successful G2E Asia under our belts and an AGB Networking Social coming up next week in Manila, opportunities and activity in the Asian gambling market are fresh in our minds. We’re all aware of the healthy Asian appetite for gambling, but the types of games cherished in the East remain somewhat of a mystery to those of us from the West.
Marc Dannenberg, Owner and CEO of MahjongClub.com, has a deep passion for Mahjong and bringing the popular Asian game online for real money play, for anyone around the globe to enjoy.
“I was very familiar with Mahjong due to the fact my Mother played with her friends and the tile clacking kept me up at night. I fell in love with the idea of making Mahjong as big online as it was in real life”, Dannenberg shared.
While Mahjong is a game already enjoyed throughout the world, there are pockets of regions where Mahjong is engrained in the culture and holds national sport prestige.
“China, Macau, Hong Kong, Australia and Japan are our main focus. In those areas Mahjong is a way to bring family together. It is inherently a game played for money and it is very, very competitive”, explained Dannenberg.
However, the way Mahjong is played in each of these regions varies drastically, an understanding any operator or affiliate in this space must fully understand.
“Each region of China for example has its own rulesets and even more diverse rulesets are found within those regions. We are focused at first on the 4 major rulesets, Riichi and Sanma from Japan and Hong Kong and Taiwan rulesets. We will incorporate Shenzen, Sichuan and Shanghai rulesets throughout this year. Our goal is to have the most diverse collection of rulesets to cater to all players of the game”, Dannenberg said.
“Because there are Asians in every region of the world, Mahjong play has become global. Canada, Australia and Europe are our next focus after Asia”, he added.
To increase their marketing reach, Mahjog Club has taken a game traditionally played at home or in a land-based setting and moved it online with ties to live tournaments.
“What we will do to draw players to our site is have very high valued tournaments, bonuses for regular play and opportunities for travel to live tournaments, such as the Riichi championships in Australia and Las Vegas as well as the World Series of Mahjong in Macau”, Dannenberg said.
In addition to offering and partnering with existing tournaments, to grow their business as the number one online Mahjong site in the world, Dannenberg and his team made the decision to leave the Mahjong Logic platform and build their own proprietary software from scratch.
“Mahjong Logic was a pioneer in online real money Mahjong. We decided to join their operator platform to provide a testing ground for any plans we had in the future to build our own”, Dannenberg explained.
In November of 2016, Dannenberg and his team were ready for ownership and independent operating, leading to the imminent parting of ways with Mahjong Logic.
“Mahjong Logic was restrictive in its rulesets and its player acceptance. Most if not all of the other operators were Japanese run so their focus was solely on the Japanese market. It is a great market but it is not the only one”, he said.
“I do not need to wait for a slow-moving board or tech team to give us what we need. We make all of the decisions and we control all of the mechanisms necessary to run a platform such as Mahjong Club”, he added.
In order to ensure a smooth transition to their own platform and success in the future, player feedback played a vital role in Mahjong Club’s platform development.
“I think [player feedback] is the most overlooked and one of the most important aspects of building an online gambling or gaming business”, he said.
“When marketing to Asia it is important to show a lot of life, colors, action and what I call controlled chaos on the site. There needs to be some offer flashing at you and a lot of really bright colors involved. That´s not particularly my style but my opinion does not matter so much when it comes to attracting players in a game I do not play”, shared Dannenberg.
“We hired a few of our best and most dedicated players to brainstorm with our developers and art/graphics guys to make sure players will love us. It all has come together very well”, he added.
The Asian online gambling market is notorious for payment processing challenges, the bane of any Asia-facing operators’ existence. To help circumvent this issue, the Mahjong Club management have built their own banking system for players so when they open an account at Mahjong Club, they are opening a bank account at the same time.
“We expect everything to run smoothly for all interested players but in the case there is a problem depositing, they can go to our banking website, deposit and transfer cash to their player account. We feel this is an extraordinary addition to any online gambling site”, Dannenberg explained.
Another solution to payment processing issues in any market resides in crypto currencies such as Bitcoin Cash. When asked for his thoughts on crypto currencies, blockchain and how they will impact his business in the future, Dannenberg has an open mind.
“We are looking to blockchain our site in the mid-term. Cryptocurrency is a system that will only get more widespread. We are in talks with one of our shareholders who owns a crypto exchange and the positive outcome of these negotiations will make it possible to have a crypto exchange connected directly to our banking system and our site”, he said.