Inside Asian Gaming Deputy Editor Raquel Dias finds out a little more about local boy made good, Aristocrat Regional Marketing Manager Miguel Choi.
Raquel Dias: Can you tell us about your background?
Miguel Choi: I was born in Hong Kong but grew up in Macau. There is a little story behind this; my mother is from Macau and my dad from Hong Kong. Growing up I always heard that the reason they had picked the neighboring city was because my grandparents wanted to be the first to see me! My nationality is Portuguese, hence the spelling of my name.
RD: How did you get involved in the gaming industry, was it a natural decision?
MC: It wasn’t planned at all. It all just happened! When I was old enough, I went to study in Canada. I graduated in 2005 and these were exciting times for the city. I had picked Computer Science so, when I came back to Macau, I first got a job at CTM as an IT programmer. It was in 2008 that I joined Venetian to work in IT Support.
As luck would have it, I was promoted and soon started dealing with clients, which was around the time that online gaming company Laxino contacted me. They were developing their first poker and online slots games and my job was to work as a bridge between the players and the IT team. I stayed with the company for three years.
There was a brief period working for GPI, basically manufacturing gaming chips. My job had more of a technical aspect to it. I was responsible for coming up with ways in which the chips could be more secure as well as helping increase turnover by making the game faster.
RD: Can you tell us a bit about Aristocrat and how you came to be involved?
MC: While I was still at GPI, I got a call from a headhunter. I was extremely excited, Aristocrat is a big name in the industry and it was quite an opportunity. They were interested in my background since I had some experience with the market and some understanding of the games themselves. I went to the interview for the role of Regional Marketing Manager and here I am!
RD: What aspect of the gaming industry do you find the most challenging?
MC: I would say that the hardest part is keeping up with all the changes. The gaming industry is always evolving and we have to know everything that is happening to be ahead of the game. The other part is that, in my current job, there are many aspects that must be perfect. Working in slots means you have to make sure the music, the sound quality, the image as well as the game are all good … but that is what makes it exciting too!
RD: What interests do you have, outside of the industry?
MC: So, so many. If I had to pick two, I would go with food and traveling. I love Japan, for example. I think Macau is perfect for both hobbies. We are so close to everything and at the same time there is no shortage of food options. From 3-Michelin Star restaurants to the little Chinese eateries, we have everything here!
RD: Was there ever a “turning point” in your life?
MC: Wow… that is a difficult question! I suppose I have to say marrying my wife has made a big difference in my life. You know what they say, “happy wife, happy life,” and it is definitely true. She made me a better person. She also brought two little puppies with her and I cannot imagine my life without them now, Coco and Miu Miu, a Pomeranian and a poodle.
RD: Going back to your work, what do you like most about your job?
MC: I love the fact that there is never a dull moment. It is actually quite fun. We get to be involved in the process of creating all these games and play with them! I also do a lot of traveling, which means life is exciting. These are also good times with a lot of development in new gaming jurisdictions around Asia. More and more markets are growing and that is very interesting.
RD: What would be your advice for the next generation of local talent looking to make an impact in Macau’s gaming industry?
MC: I’m only 33 years old, I think I’m still part of the “next generation!” But honestly I think your background does not matter too much. I started in a completely different field and here I am. What is important is keeping up with the pace and learning about the industry as much as possible.
RD: Finally, what is your hope for Macau’s future?
MC: First of all, I think Macau has grown at an impressive rate. This last round of openings in Cotai that happened last year alone changed everything. There are still more to come with SJM and MGM developing their properties on the Cotai Strip. For us this is, of course, the best news possible and presents a good challenge. What I would like to see is more entertainment. The local government has been pushing for it and it has been happening, but I would honestly like to see it grow even more. It is important to cater to all segments of the market and Macau needs more entertainment for families and other non-gaming facilities.