The autonomous East Asian territory of Macau is probably best known for its casino industry, which is even bigger than that of Las Vegas. In fact, in 2016, gaming revenues in Macau outstripped those in Vegas by a staggering US$17 billion. Referring to Macau as Asia’s Las Vegas seems like a bit of an understatement.
Nevertheless, although overall revenues in Macau far exceed those in the original City of Sin, it appears that slot machines in the region are all but gathering dust. From the MGM Grand Macau to the Galaxy Cotai Megaresort, the chairs on slots floors have become eerily empty. In a place where gaming is a way of life and accounts for nearly 50% of the GDP, it would be unwise to ignore such a glaring discrepancy.
So why aren’t slots big in Macau?
A Target Market Mix-Up
The general consensus among those in the know and local industry insiders is that the slots on offer simply don’t appeal to Asian players. Simply transplanting games designed in Europe and the United States into the Macanese market has been hugely unsuccessful.
Just as Macanese cultures, languages and traditions differ vastly from those in Western countries, so too does the populace’s preference for entertainment.
Bigwig Developer Dominance
Unfortunately, the trouble with sourcing slots that will appeal to the Asian market is that all the major developers are based overseas. These are the companies with the capacity to produce machines on the mass scale required by the enormous casino conglomerates that dominate the Macau skyline. With each machine fetching a hefty US$2500, this kind of production capacity is simply beyond the means of smaller players.
But it’s these small local developers who are willing and able to create slots that will appeal to the Asian market. Although some of them are steadily gaining ground in the industry, they are continually up against the same wall. Casino operators don’t want to chance it on unfamiliar software and want suppliers who can deliver in bulk.
The Online Obstacle
Added to these terrestrial challenges is an further obstacle in the form of online casinos. Internet gaming venues now offer a wide variety of games to cater to any preference to anyone anywhere in the world. With Asia being the most technologically switched-on region on Earth, there really is no reason for players to settle for the substandard slot options currently on offer in Macanese gaming houses.
Finding a Better Fit
However much the casino operators of Macau may believe in only using major software developers for their games, what they are doing clearly isn’t working. If Macau intends to draw Vegas-like numbers of slots players, it’s going to have to seriously overhaul its game plan.
One option, which would be as good for the economy in general as it would for the industry itself, is the concept of revenue sharing. Smart operators could enter into revenue-sharing agreements with small local developers in order to facilitate their growth and enhance their mass production capacity. Naturally, this radical approach is not an easy sell and it will be a while before we see any deals like this materialising, if they ever do.
Another solution may be to enter into negotiations with existing major developers to create games specifically for the Asian market. Perhaps all that’s required is a little intercultural education and it certainly would be lucrative for big developers to better cater to the massive Asian market.
Yet another option is to partner with online casino sites, to create live slots experiences via streaming internet videos from an actual casino floor.
All of these solutions combined may yet breathe new life into the dying casino slots of Macau.