Alidad Tash: Reflecting on the last 20 years of Macau gaming

Alidad Tash, Managing Director, 2NT8 Limited

When did you arrive in Macau and in what capacity?

I first visited Macau in August 2005. I arrived as a director for the Sands sister company in Las Vegas to ensure that they’d be using the same metrics in setting up the Venetian. Steve Rosen, who was the head of casino marketing asked me to stay and I was thinking, why in the world would I come here? Rosen was right… Macau was a great move.

 What were your first impressions?

I saw a lot of opportunities. Macau was stuck in the 20th century because of the monopoly, naturally. It took awhile for the new foreign operators to realize that Macau is not Las Vegas, Atlantic City or Melbourne… It’s Macau. Eventually, it only took Macau six years to generate gaming revenues seven times that of Las Vegas… No one expected Macau to be this big, this good, this fast. 

 What are the biggest changes you have seen in your section of the industry?

Macau went through a dramatic increase in terms of product and offer. Sands Macao and The Venetian were great successes on their own. They completely exceeded expectations – every other opening since has paled in comparison. But the real game changer was Cotai. 

 What have you found most challenging, or memorable?

Everything about Macau was on another level. An example was the casino management systems. I remember we had to have a chat with developers as they had never anticipated having to add “billions” to their reporting. They asked. So you need to add billions in the end of year reports? NO – any given day! They could not understand… nine zeros! No one ever anticipated billions.

 Share a curious/ funny episode that could only have happened in Macau?

Even before opening, Venetian struck a deal with Manchester United back in 2007 that they would come for a marketing campaign in the middle of July. The thing is… after the deal was made, the opening was delayed to  the middle of August. The contract was unbreakable so we literally had to “open” a casino, but not “open” a casino – a month before the real opening day for all the superstars. We all pretended the casino was opened, everything looked opened, except there were no ‘real’ customers… 

Then at opening, there was literally not enough hotel staff. In the first few days things got so slow that the lines for check in were a mile long and many of the execs were asked to come down to the front desk and play the role of customer management and explain that their rooms were not going to be ready any time soon.  

How are you expecting Macau to evolve in the next 20 years?

Macau will go through another phase where there’s no more new supply, just completion of phases. That will create a steal-share market. What we need is new concepts. I think that Japan, with its “über technology advances” will prompt a wave of innovation. Macau has also entered a stage where locals are finally taking over. Even the upper echelon of casino management is being cut down from foreigners to locals. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years the vast majority of the senior management would be Chinese.

 

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