IAG Managing Editor Ben Blaschke catches up with IGT’s System Sales Manager for Asia, Phil Stormonth, to discuss his journey into Macau’s gaming industry.
Ben Blaschke: Hi Phil, can you tell us a bit about your background? Where did you grow up and what are your main memories from your childhood?
Philip Stormonth: Sure, I was born in London and grew up in Bedford, England. I spent a few years in Texas when my family moved there when I was nine. I later returned to the UK and studied Law at University. I never wanted to be a lawyer, which confused my lecturers, but I wanted to know how lawyers think and act. Those skills, I think, translate to the business world.
BB: Did you have any particular idea as a youngster what you wanted to do for a living?
PS: There were a good few years where I planned to be a fighter pilot. I was in the Air Training Corps in the UK and was convinced I would become a Tornado pilot. That was until I saluted the wrong person at an RAF camp and during my dressing down by the senior staff he let it slip that I was too tall to be a fighter pilot. So I dropped that idea. I then wanted to be a professional golfer – could still happen, you never know! Later I became interested in psychology and law at high school, the latter of which I chose to study at University.
BB: Had you spent much time in Macau before working in gaming?
PS: About two years where I worked for an SME company helping set up businesses in China, Hong Kong and Macau. I got to use my legal background and it was great fun. I learned a lot about company structure and the local law in those regions. Hong Kong law is largely based on the England and Wales law system so it was easy there, but Macau and China had very different rules and regulations. Working with Macau companies gave me more insight into the gaming world as I would help set up gaming based vendor companies.
BB: So how did you then move directly into the gaming industry?
PS: I joined the Macau Australian Football Club when I arrived in Macau. I became increasingly intrigued by the gaming industry. The more I heard and learned the more interested I was. The AFL club is made up of some of the leading gaming vendors and operators and after some chat and advice I had the opportunity to join IGT, the world leader in gaming.
BB: Can you tell us about your role at IGT?
PS: I work as the System Sales Manager for Asia. What that really means is I help our customers execute strategies to realize their vision. Systems are complex and offer huge customization options through flexible tools. The goals of a casino in Oklahoma are much the same as a casino here in Macau, however the processes and procedures will be largely different.
New system products are built to assist customers to automate tasks so that their staff can focus on the more important parts of their daily roles. As well as this, these tools can help provide a return on investment. Now tools can be used to help Marketing, Slots and Table teams. This value-add software is becoming more and more prominent in the market here in Macau and throughout Asia. Essentially, helping customers to achieve their vision is what I enjoy most.
“I was convinced I would become a Tornado pilot … until I saluted the wrong person at an RAF camp and during my dressing down by the senior staff he let it slip that I was too tall to be a fighter pilot.”
BB: How did you find the transition to living in Macau during your first year here?
PS: I’ll start by just saying that I love Macau. I love living here and working here. Macau has a lot more to it than most see on the outset. Macau continues to change and evolve, it’s great to be a part of it. Because I spent a large amount of time in Macau and Hong Kong before moving here, the transition was fairly seamless. Macau feels like home now.
BB: There has been a lot of talk about diversifying Macau. Away from the job, what are your thoughts on Macau in 2017?
PS: A lot of people will say, “Macau was better before.” I think Macau has had some growing pains but when you consider the speed of which this city has grown and the relatively trivial issues associated with the enormous growth, you can agree that Macau’s done quite well. The large casinos are addressing the non-gaming segments. I’d like to see more of this.
Sheldon Adelson speaks of Macau becoming the Paris of Asia. I’d like to see the city continue to focus on non-gaming entertainment as this will help bring a finer balance of the two, which helps the city as a whole.
It looks like gaming revenue will grow at about 10% for 2017. It will be interesting to see where specifically the growth comes from and then how this will be reinvested.
BB: Has the changing focus of the industry in Macau towards mass impacted your approach or how you view the future for yourself and IGT?
PS: I’m always hearing people talk about how terrible 2015/16 were in revenue but they are comparing it with 2014 which was not a normal amount of revenue for any gaming jurisdiction in the world, much less little old Macau.
Macau saw the same drop in 2010 and the media along with the government reacted the same way. I think all markets are cyclical. Now that we can see growth in Macau again I believe everyone, including myself, is realizing this.
The movement to mass market is great I think. The mass market focus means more entertainment options, more hotels and basically results in a more diversified Macau. A good friend of mine runs a successful family owned business in the fragrance industry based and operated here in Macau. Having Macau incorporated SME companies like this thrive here in Macau and the rest of the world is exactly what Macau needs. The movement away from relying almost exclusively on VIP gaming allows for more focus, investment and promotion of companies and industries such as these.
BB: Away from work, what do you like to do in your spare time?
PS: I mentioned this but the AFL club is a huge part of Macau life. It’s more of a social club than a sports club. I recommend anyone to come down and give it a go (check out our facebook page). I’m also a huge fan of the cinema. But I have a big party to plan for next year in Macau … and by big party I mean a wedding!
BB: Should keep you busy! As for dining, do you have a favourite restaurant in Macau?
PS: Great question, it really depends when you ask me this but if I’m being honest the Copa Steakhouse in Sands is hard to beat.
BB: Macau is a fast-moving place. When you have some time off, where do you like to get away to?
PS: Macau is small so you can feel a little trapped here sometimes. When I have some time off I like to spend it on a beach somewhere. Thailand is probably my favorite place to switch off. But I’m always keen to find new places. Seeing as Japan looks to be legalizing gaming, I think a trip there soon is definitely required.