As gaming industry shifts, staff remain a sound investment

As Macau’s gaming industry sees revenues decrease and high-rollers look to take their money elsewhere, operators have had to shift their focus and resources to capture a bigger slice of the mass market, which includes opening up their non-gaming elements.

Amid this shift, operators have had to respond to the changing dynamic by retraining and reshuffling staff in a bid to make their workforce more adaptable, resulting in less demand for some skills and professions than previously.

It was recently announced that the number of full-time employees in Macau’s gaming sector rose 1.3 percent year-on-year in 15Q2 to 57,422, while the number of dealers dropped by 2.5 percent to 25,072, according to official data.

Average earnings in June, excluding bonuses and allowances, of full-time employees stood at MOP21,480 ($2,689), up 6.5 percent year-on-year, while dealer average earnings increased 6 percent to MOP18,580. 

Dr Leanda Care, a research analyst on Asia’s casino industry for IGamiX Management and Consulting, said the recent employment data comes as no surprise given the industry’s growth and high demand for dealers. Dealer earnings have doubled in the past 10 years, she said.

“You might remember the 25 percent wage increases as enticements from one concessionaire to another and the anecdotal stories of freshly minted croupiers jumping ship three times for incrementally higher wages while still under training, not even having faced a real-life punter. Now it looks like we are seeing the beginning of a correction of that imbalance,” she said, adding that demand now is lower for croupiers.

According to BettingJobs, a specialist recruitment company, demand in Asia for staff in IT and analytics is driving up average salaries in the betting sector.

Also revealed in the government’s data was the surprising number of participants who attended training courses provided by casinos, up 158.4 percent year-on-year to 44,769.

In June, Sands China announced that more than 1,000 of its team members had shown interest in the company’s Integrated Resort Career Development Programme, with nearly 400 participating in the first phase of it.

The purpose of the program is to place staff in several non-gaming departments throughout the company’s integrated resorts, via voluntary six-month assignments. 

“The new career development programme is a voluntary programme that gives interested team members an opportunity to broaden their career horizons,” said Simpson Lei, Sands’ corporate communications manager for Sands’ Venetian Macau.

Similarly, in June Galaxy Entertainment Group launched a new four-month “Accelerated Development Program” of which the first major program was completed in May. Of the 692 program participants, 98 percent successfully graduated and have been promoted into supervisory and management positions, the company said.

“The aim of ADP is to establish a promotional pathway platform for GEG team members who are ready for supervisory and management roles,” the company said in a press release. 

The program started in January and ended in May with members from a range of departments including in table games, electronic games and food and beverage, being trained in supervisory, management and technical skills through classroom training, on-the-job training, and other methods.

Care said the industry’s downturn has sparked an increase in training in the absence of layoffs, which has been determined by government pressure and the economy as a whole.

The second quarter saw fewer hires at 1,972, a decrease from 3,124 in the same quarter of 2014, bringing the employee recruitment rate down by 2 percentage points year-on-year to 3.5 percent.

“We are probably seeing a combination of management confidence and political pressure and incentives to develop staff here.”

“So, there are a number of reasons to shuffle staff around: supply and demand changes internally due to a shift in the business, training and development, and political pressure. But all in the context of confidence in the future of gaming in Macau – not that any of the players can afford to think otherwise on the back of the investment to date.”

While staff costs have been cited as weighing down on revenues by operators, investing in staff from now will yield promising long-term gains as opposed to quick solutions to save money, said  Sy Loh, managing partner for MSS Recruitment and

Non-gaming and mass orientated facilities will add variety to the kind of job opportunities in the marketplace, while broadening the skillset required to fill these roles.

“It means less reliance on the few key industries and a more diversified labour portfolio. It also translates to more competitive demand for the same labour pool from different industries. It will create a more dynamic labour market,” Loh said, adding that the labor shortage is most evident in areas such as IT, engineering and property management.

“During any retrenchment exercise, there are savings in the financial books in the short term but in the mid and longer term, the negative impact is huge; as remaining staff stayed on with fear and uncertainty, with many wanting to leave should there be opportunity.”