In Macau’s tough VIP gaming market, anyone can turn into a tasty meal
“Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.”
Augustus De Morgan, mathematician and logician (1806-1871)
If ever there were a rhyme to sum up the pyramid marketing scheme that is the Chinese betting agent system in Macau, then it’s Augustus de Morgan’s little stanza.
Macau’s modern VIP baccarat market may recently have spawned junket agent consolidators busy herding whales into manageable ‘schools’ to be reeled in by casino operators. But there’s still plenty of room left for the quick thinking independents.
One recent development in particular seems to be presenting a great opportunity for the ‘little fleas’. This is the ramping up of efforts by the casinos to recruit more VIPs directly without the middlemen agents interposing.
After going to all the hard work of luring the VIP player into a direct relationship with their high limit rooms (in order to gain a better margin on their business), the casinos are finding that their own due diligence procedures sometimes won’t allow them to give the player direct credit.
When that happens, it doesn’t take much prompting for international marketing agents originally hired by the casinos to bring in whales to redirect those same players back into the arms of the junkets.
It doesn’t stop there. Even when a casino has granted a VIP his own line in credit, the marketing agents are always on the lookout for opportunities to boost their own business and are not shy of poaching that same customer and sending him back to the junkets.
“The word is some junkets are offering marketing agents as much as 0.2% of a player’s rolling turnover to convert a casino’s direct player into a junket player,” an industry insider tells Inside Asian Gaming.
It’s as if the Macau high roller market were a cross between a spy novel and a wildlife documentary film. Everyone is out for what they can get. From the humble casino worker willing to tip off an agent contact about a new player in town, to the marketing agent hired by the casino who turns out to be a double or even triple agent—playing one casino off against another or one junket agent against another.
“There are reports of high rollers arriving compliments of one casino, being whisked away to another property,” adds the source.
“VIP room attendants have been paid gratuities for tipping off junket scouts on the arrival of big players. Hosts have been paid to pass on premium customer information to junkets.
“There was one case recently where a casino flew in a large group of premium players and got them settled down comfortably, only to see them walk across to a competing property the next day,” states the insider.
“The suggestion is that inside information leaked out. There were even reports that junior staff members were overheard talking about how much they got paid and how it compared with what went to their supervisors.”
Even if VIPs are being ‘poached,’ they are unlikely to be passive victims in this process. They don’t need much persuading to move from one casino to another provided there’s something in it for them. That ‘something’ isn’t likely to be whether the guy on the door has a nice smile or remembers their name. That ‘something’ is likely to be whether he gets a better return to player on the ‘roll’ of his non-negotiable chips. Why does this happen? What happened to all that talk among the operators about their ability to compete on quality?