Ken Jolly: Reflecting on the last 20 years of Macau gaming

Ken Jolly

VP & Managing Director – Asia, SG Gaming

When did you first arrive in Macau and in what capacity?

I arrived as General Manager of Aristocrat Asia. At that stage Aristocrat didn’t have a permanent person in Macau so I was asked to come and set up the office and build the team there. I started travelling in and out from 2002 and more permanent from 2004. 

What were your first impressions?

At that stage there were only the SJM casinos and people talked about this massive future and how they were going to build all these casinos and it would be like Las Vegas. It was difficult at that stage to get a grasp of what was really going to happen. About that time, SARS was in the area. There were hardly any Westerners, just lots of Chinese wearing masks and I remember thinking wow, what have I got into. When you look at the numbers of people who go through Sands and Galaxy now on a per day basis, it’s just amazing.

What were the biggest changes?

The sheer number of visitors for what is a small area and population and the actual dollars coming into the market are just astounding. Now what we’re seeing is the government building infrastructure, such as the Hong Kong, Zhuhai Bridge, the ferry terminal, getting the light rail going shortly. Also, a whole city is being built on Hengqin Island from the ground up, so it shows the significance of what the Chinese government expects that area to become. Gaming in Macau and family entertainment in Hengqin. The vision from Mainland China is that this whole thing together at the bottom of the Pearl Delta becomes the Florida of China.

What have you found most challenging?

At the end of the day, it’s a strong tables market. At SG, we’re very fortunate to be very diverse, with table systems and shufflers etc. If you are just a slot company, it could be quite frustrating as revenue is still only about 5 percent of tables. 

Where do you see Macau evolving for the next 20 years.

It’s obvious that the central government is trying to push more non-gaming in Macau. Still, when you actually talk to the casino operators, they say that 90 percent of players are from Guangdong Province. So as more and more of China gets more affluent, more and more people are going to come to Macau and have a look. And as infrastructure improves, with bridges, fast trains and better access, it will continue to grow. It’s my understanding that a lot of the new infrastructure that has been built in the area is designed to handle something like 80 million visitors. That’s more than double what it is today. They will come from second, third and fourth tier cities and further north. There is a chunk of land that sits 150 metres away that’s six times the size of Macau that’s being developed by the Chinese as a city with a financial centre, Chinese medicine research, theme parks. 

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