For Macau, a place that holds the moniker as the “Las Vegas of the East”, finding a game of poker may be difficult these days. With the recent closure of poker rooms in Galaxy and City of Dreams plus changes on the horizon due to Chinese Black Friday, the live poker business has become quite compromised.
Lawrence Ho about PokerStars Live Macau: “Poker was never profitable”
To stress the situation further, according to a story on CalvinAyre, Melco CEO and Chairman, Lawrence Ho said that the live poker business was “never profitable”.
This comment was in direct reference to Melco’s recently ended relationship with PokerStars at City of Dreams Macau. Ho went on to say that the PokerStars club “was taking up gaming tables and taking up space.”
For a big player like Ho who handles several large establishments such as City of Dreams, Studio City, and Altira, that statement may have a huge impact especially that it is fairly equivalent to saying “no more live poker business” offered at any of the Melco establishments in Macau. If PokerStars was an experiment, then that five-year trial has completely ceased. Melco’s sights are now set on tapping a new market. The young and explosive E-Sports generation of gamers.
Future of PokerStars brand in Macau in question
This then brings into question the future of the PokerStars brand in Macau. Since 2013, PokerStars has filled the room with repetitive record-breaking turnouts. While closure / removal of poker rooms is not a new thing, with numerous casinos opting for the more profitable gaming tables like baccarat, confusion and concern loom above the large community of live poker players reliant on PokerStars events and cash tables.
With Melco establishments out, are there other options? The Sands Group owned by Sheldon Adelson is likely a dead-end with Adelson highly vocal in opposition to online gaming. That then rules out Parisian and Venetian as well.
Still, Eric Hollreiser, Vice President of Corporate Communications for The Stars Group, expressed, “We are working on ensuring that we can continue to bring high quality live events in Asia.”
The Poker Issue in Macau
As it stands, the issue is not entirely about PokerStars Live Macau closing but poker in Macau in general. For casinos, poker is far less profitable than table games. It requires more manpower with higher qualifications to operate smoothly. This is a big issue where labor cost is very high for casinos and demand for table games is very strong (especially for baccarat).
Another big challenge for poker is the table cap. Casinos are limited in the number of tables they can set in their casino. The cap is a central issue for casinos and a constant source of negotiation. Therefore management of these tables is priority.
Casinos that allot minimal space for poker do so more as a marketing tool to attract different types of players to the casino and use their facilities. The main reason these rooms shut down is to ultimately accommodate the more profitable games. It’s better business.
Yet despite the challenges poker faces in Macau, players need to hope that declaration like the one by Lawrence Ho or of the recent events in China won’t stop organizers from finding ways to continuously offer the game in the prime gaming hub of Asia.
Article by Tricia David