Bally Technologies’ Vice President and Managing Director of Asia-Pacific Cath Burns explains the reasons for her company’s dominance in the gaming systems business, as well as the challenges of operating a business based in Macau.
Bally’s Cath Burns is widely considered one of the rising stars of Asian gaming, recognised for her leadership and performance in building Bally’s market share in slots and systems in Macau from what amounted to a standing start.
Ms Burns has also shown another key attribute of quality leadership—the ability to create a strong local team capable of executing her plans and developing the regional business via their individual insights and initiatives. That has allowed her to play a key role in the company’s launch last year in Australia and New Zealand, knowing that the core business in the rest of the region is fully supported.
Speaking to Inside Asian Gaming publisher Kareem Jalal at the recent G2E Asia Expo for IAG’s INSIGHTS series, produced in collaboration with Aomen TV, Ms Burns discussed the performance of Bally’s systems and slots in the core Asian markets of Macau and Singapore.
IAG: Galaxy Macau is the latest in a series of system wins for Bally. What is it about your systems that have made you the market leader in Asia and the world?
Cath Burns: I think systems is a process where you build it, and you build it carefully, and you honour your commitments and you execute. When I first came to Macau, we looked at the systems business and we basically said, what out of our products meets the market requirements and what doesn’t. So when we analyzed what the market required, we looked at our products and went about making them better for the market. We wrote all of our core systems—so SDS, CMP, TableView. Particularly, tableview because that handles the junket markets, the premium player markets as does CMP.
You worked very quickly to develop market specific products for Macau.
Correct. Obviously, the table games market in Macau is unique, and unique to Asia and unique to Macau specifically. We had to really look at the product and ask, is it ready for this market or not? It wasn’t ready for the market. In talking to our customers, getting requirements, doing business studies, we identified what had to be done.
We actually started with SJM properties with L’Arc. That was our first property, then Oceanus, Casino Lisboa, and then onto StarWorld, Galaxy’s first property, and then onto Grand Lisboa and then onto Galaxy Macau.
Getting good labour in Macau can be quite a challenge. What are the other challenges of operating a business based in Macau?
We’ve been really, really lucky in Macau. We’ve got an awesome team of locals. When I got here back in 2006, I had a vision to hire locals, build locals because I believe that your business is stronger if you have great local talent. People, like myself, that have a particular expertise to come in and open up a market and hire the right people, honestly, I’m made to look good by my guys and my team. Yes, absolutely, difficult labour market. The hiring process takes a lot longer because there isn’t necessarily the depth of talent, because we’re taking a very technical industry, very IT-focused industry, and we’re starting it up in a new place.
We’ve touched on the system side of your business; now let’s talk about the slots. How are your slots going at Galaxy Macau?
Yeah, slots are great. Galaxy Macau, I mean, it’s only early days now, but it’s pretty exciting. The slot floor has a lot of different games and vendors we’ve not seen before, and everybody looks like they are performing and there are players all over the slots. I think Galaxy has done a fantastic job of building a pod-like experience with tables and games. Slots next to tables, so it’s a real combined feel.
One other area of your business is server-based gaming, something that has been a bit slow to catch on in Asia.
I mean, server-based gaming is something we’ve been committed to for a long, long time, and have been delivering it steadily for years now. I think the hesitation on server-based in Asia is getting the return on investments, very difficult. Until that happens, we’re just not going to see a takeup of server-based gaming.
You recently led Bally into the highly competitive Australia market. How’s that going?
Fantastic. I mean obviously really exciting for me to go back into Australia being that’s where I started my gaming career. And we’ve hired an awesome team, led by Michael McNee, Aristocrat veteran, over 15 years’ experience with Aristocrat in game product, General Manager of game product. Very critical for us to come into Australia, understanding that market, and building the right products. We’re doing that. So we’ve been very fortunate to pick up some great people and lead that Australia effort.
What about Singapore? Do you have anything targeted for that market?
Yeah Singapore, I mean, Singapore was fantastic last year. The two big integrated resorts opening up and we were very fortunate to get a system with Marina Bay Sands and great floor share there and also a great floor share at Resorts World. That’s continued to grow and grow and get better and better.
Have you tailored your products in any way to cater for the Singapore market?
The thing in the Singapore market is we see strong Roulette play. So we have a lot of roulette games out. Our V32 roulette product is performing very, very well at both properties. We see a niche in that. With that said, other product is also performing very well. I don’t think tailoring so much for the market, rather than putting the right game, the right configuration, into that market.