It was Horace Greely who famously told someone seeking their fortune to, “Go west, young man, and grow up with the country.” For most of the past 50 years, this advice also held true for those seeking to grow with the gaming industry-no matter where someone started, for the truly ambitious and those who loved the wagering business, all roads eventually led to Las Vegas and a chance to participate in the world’s preeminent casino marketplace.
But if I were to give advice to someone looking to make brick-and-mortar gaming management a career, I don’t know if I would point them west these days, in fact, I may point them 180 degrees in the opposite direction, towards the east.
I’m not necessarily talking about the eastern United States here, although that may not be such a bad place to hang your hat either. Lately it seems all the new or emerging casino markets are based in the east-Maryland, Ohio and Massachusetts-which, in turn, are forcing neighboring states to either liberalize or legalize land-based casino wagering. The prospect of integrated casino resorts in Florida still has many of the larger gaming developers frothing at the bit; while others are looking at the casino infill opportunities provided in the densely populated New England and Mid-Atlantic regions. Chances are any major growth in the land-based U.S. casino industry over the next decade will emanate from the east.
But I digress. The east I am alluding to is the Far East-and the emerging casino industry led by the Asian enclaves of Macau and Singapore. Indeed, if there was one thing made clear at last month’s very Internet-heavy Global Gaming Expo (G2E), it’s that any company seeking meaningful land-based gaming growth in the short- and mid-term will have to turn their intentions eastward. And that makes sense given the sustained record of economic excellence coming out of Macau, now easily the largest single gaming market in the world, and Singapore, whose integrated resort development model is the envy of many neighboring nations.
What is truly amazing about the Asian casino scene however is its seemingly endless capacity for growth, such is the nascent demand for gaming in the region. One of the more salient facts I heard at a G2E session on Pacific Rim gaming was that 70 percent of Macau’s casino trade is derived from a single Chinese province (Guangdong), and from only one percent of the people living there. The untapped potential of the Chinese market is enormous beyond understanding, not to mention those of Japan, which is still considering casino legalization to help ease the recovery from last year’s earthquake and tsunami, and India, with its burgeoning middle class.
The largely untapped nature of the Chinese gaming market is not lost on neighboring Asian nations, and many are looking to take a page from the Singapore playbook and develop integrated resorts aimed at limiting casino access to their citizens while attracting play from the Chinese and other Asian travelers. Vietnam appears to be farthest along, with a massive MGM Grand integrated resort under development in the coastal area of Ho Tram. Taiwan has also had some progress lately, with clearance to develop a casino resort on Matsu, one of its tourist-destination islands. The Philippines has liberalized its gaming laws, which has lead to some new/pending casino resort developments. Korea is also considering opening its small casino market to integrated resort development. Other emerging markets also include Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar; homes to established Chinese populations and nascent, but small, casino businesses.
But for the most part, the region is waiting for the next really big gaming market to open, which would be one or more of the following: Japan, Thailand or India. Any one of these markets would be a worthy rival to Macau and Singapore, and reason enough for the best and brightest of the gaming industry to continue to migrate eastward.