The making of the Asian Gaming Power 50
By Andrew W Scott
IAG Power 50 selection panel Chairman
“I don’t envy you.”
Those were the words of a very senior gaming industry executive when the subject of the Asian Gaming Power 50 recently came up over dinner. My inner monologue’s reply, which I kept to myself, was in the form of JFK’s immortal words, “We choose to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
And indeed it has been a Herculean task to put this list together. How on earth do you compare the sole owner of a smaller property to the brand new “hired help” COO of a much larger one? How do you compare a large property that is still in pre-opening to a smaller one that has been pumping for years? How do you compare a junket operator in Macau to the CEO of the Hong Kong Jockey Club? Or the head of a smallish casino company about to go public to the government-appointed President of a casino chain in Korea that doesn’t have locals gaming? These are the tough questions the selection panel of the Asian Gaming Power 50 has had to wrestle with.
When World Gaming Group acquired Inside Asian Gaming last year, we inherited the Asian Gaming 50 with it. Already eight years old, there was absolutely no way we could (or should) abandon this annual ranking of the top 50 people in the Asian gaming industry – our annual list published in September is the most popular issue of IAG each year. But we did listen to many of our industry friends to sound out their thoughts on the “Big 50” as it is sometimes called.
As with any such ranked list, there are always criticisms and objections, usually from those who feel slighted against. It amuses us that while we often hear bold claims of not reading the list or not caring about it, many on the list still contact us directly (or more often via their surrogates) to bemoan the injustice of their lowly position. Strangely, no-one has ever contacted us to complain about being ranked too high!
“It amuses us that while we often hear bold claims of not reading the list or not caring about it, many on the list still contact us directly to bemoan the injustice of their lowly position. Strangely, no-one has ever contacted us to complain about being ranked too high!”
Without doubt, the Asian Gaming 50 has contained some controversial decisions in years past and even perhaps some glaring omissions. It was against this background that we decided to completely overhaul the list and the ranking methodology, and create a selection panel to gain a wider variety of views. We expect that selection panel to grow and further diversify in future years. As well as the formal selection panel, we have quietly and informally consulted a number of respected key industry figures who shall of course remain nameless. As part of this relaunch, we’ve rebranded the annual list the “Asian Gaming Power 50.”
In an effort to further bolster fairness and impartiality, we’ve removed all corporate sponsorship of the Asian Gaming Power 50. While it may well come back in future years once the appropriate controls are in place, for now we wanted to remove even the appearance of any connection between sponsorship or advertising and rankings in the Power 50.
We recognize that over the last nine years the Asian Gaming Power 50 has become the definitive list of the industry’s most important people – and as such we play an important role in the industry and have a responsibility to simply get it right. In an effort to be scientific and objective in the rankings, for the first time we have introduced a numerical “Power Score” for each person on the list.
While we won’t divulge the precise formula used for generating this score, we can say it takes points arisen from a number of factors including the GGR of the person’s organization (or a surrogate comparative measure if necessary), a weighted “carving up” of those points between the top senior executives that have key policy control of that organization, adjustments for whether the person is hired or has a major equity position, how active in business initiatives the person has been in the prior 12 months, the long-term gaming pedigree of the person, the jurisdiction in which he or she operates, and quite a few more. Some factors are necessarily subjective, but we’ve always assigned a points value in an attempt to be objective. And we have done this without any predetermined idea of where any person “should” or “should not” be ranked.
At the end of the day, in our industry the concept of “power” generally comes down to direct or indirect control of money. So the greater the GGR (or perhaps EBITDA) controlled, the greater the power. But what, exactly, is control? It’s about influence, it’s about who is the ultimate decision maker and, sometimes, it’s simply about who is the person everyone in the room looks to for the answers. In the same way that a country is a country because other countries say it is, some people are powerful simply because other people say they are.
Here are some other questions that came up in the selection process:
What countries count as Asia?
As west as India, as south as New Zealand, as east as Saipan, and as north as Mongolia.
What about non-operators who have a strong voice in the industry, like regulators, media commentators, analysts, academics, suppliers, consultants, gaming lawyers and so on?
We did indeed look at the power wielded by all of those, but after careful consideration concluded that it was impossible to include regulators and after considering the power of people in all the other categories it was only direct operators who made it to the top 50.
How do you pick between the owner and the CEO of a company?
Many gaming companies have a charismatic and entrepreneurial owner and a perhaps more seasoned and level-headed gaming professional in charge as President or CEO. By default, being an owner necessarily ranks many more Power Score points than being the “hired help” (for want of a better term). After all, the owner can always force an appointed CEO out of his job. But in some cases a hired CEO can be even more powerful than their “boss” when the owner delegates a very large proportion of decision making responsibility. The answer is decided on a case by case basis.
And so, without any further ado, we present the ninth edition of the Asian Gaming Power 50. Enjoy!