The numbers behind baccarat in Macau are staggering. In 2018, it generated MOP268bn ($33bn) for the island’s casinos. It’s the top taker in the world’s largest gaming hub.
VIPs are responsible for most of that figure, totalling annual revenue at MOP166bn last year, a 10% increase on 2017’s results. Away from the VIP tables, baccarat revenue for the year was MOP102bn, up 21%.
Looking further back and while there are fluctuations in the results (VIP revenue declined consistently from 2013 to 2016), it is clear baccarat forms the bedrock in the special administrative region.
But do these results excuse it from modernisation? Is its current format as good as it can get?
Alex Czajkowski, CMO at RTG Asia, looks into what makes the game so popular.
He says: “Baccarat has been played forever in Macau, and that's certainly part of its appeal, but it's the low hold on either side of the bet, banker or player, of 1.064% and 1.228% respectively, that keeps the players at the tables. It's practically a 50/50 bet.”
Tinkering with a tried and tested formula may not instantly boost revenue, but in Las Vegas, success was found in changing the offerings around the game.
Before the influx of Asian players in the city, baccarat was dressed up. In an interview with Forbes, Bill Zender, a former Nevada Gaming Control Agent, casino dealer and executive, currently working as a consultant, said they had big double tables, dealers in tuxedos and attractive women in evening gowns. It was very James Bond, he says.
As Vegas’ allure grew among its Asian visitors, so did the importance of baccarat. High rollers from the region showed a particular interest in the game. They cared less about the pageantry and more about the potential.
So, what steps can casinos take to ensure that potential is reached in modern day baccarat?
The game must follow the rest of the industry and find a home online. This is less essential for the VIPs, but important nonetheless.
Czajkowski says: “Asians love gambling and, ironically, the mechanisms governments put in place to control the consumption of gaming limit access to Macau and limit the number of tables at the casinos.
“This pushes minimum bets up and only encourages players to visit the Philippines or Cambodia, or go online. Going online is the easier choice.”
Czajkowski was speaking to Gambling Insider magazine for an in-depth look at the future of Asian gaming products.
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