Harold Tsakmaklis: Reflecting on the last 20 years of Macau gaming

Harold Tsakmaklis

VP of Casino Operations, Sands China

When did you arrive in Macau and in what capacity?

I arrived in April 2004 and joined Galaxy group. I’m not sure what the job title was, my good friend Tab ( Albert Davia) was here and he just said” get your **** here quickly! Initially, we were a small group headed by one of the greatest Ciaran Curruthers… The rest is history.

What were your first impressions?

My first impression was OMG! We seemed to socialize a fair bit, it was lots of fun and great networking. I met a lot of people that went on to become some of my greatest friends. Macau itself was small and sort of quiet, well the streets seemed quiet during the day. I found it difficult getting around as nobody spoke English. I was lucky as my partner Connie and her sister Jaimie also came with me to Macau for work and they are both Chinese Australian. That made things so much easier for me. I loved that the people were friendly and Macau seemed very safe.

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

We went from building satellite casinos on the Peninsula to large IRs on the Cotai strip. Grand Waldo was actually the first property built on what was then called Coloane. I watched the Venetian being built day by day. The industry has changed and for the better. Look at all the magnificent properties and amenities we have, I don’t need to go into detail.

What have you found most challenging, or memorable?

Challenging is easy, leaving my family and friends on what was supposed to be a three-year gig that turned out to 15 years and now a full Macanese resident. Memorable is that I’m glad and proud to be part of the new pioneers of Macau. I have worked with some of the greatest in the industry.

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

Countless funny stories so I will pick something quick. My friend Joe Leonardos, who was working at Sands called me and said, H, it’s raining and I want to buy an umbrella, how do I ask for it in Chinese… I  replied Joe that’s easy, it’s the first thing I learned when I arrived… Ask the shop owner for a Nowetmi.. (no wet me)… for the next five minutes, I heard Joe asking the shop owners for a nowetmi…. hilarious.

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

I would like to say that the foundation has been set to continue the success of the industry and Macau as the entertainment capital of the world. The opportunities are countless with Hengqin Island development and the further expansion of no gaming products across Macau.

It all looks positive in my view, hopefully, I’ll be enjoying the golf with my buddies in the country club reminiscing our stories as we watch our magnificent industry continue to succeed.