As reported in these pages earlier this year: “[Macau] is undergoing an economic boom of unprecedented dimensions, much stronger than what anyone would have predicted a few years ago.”
From one perspective, times have never been better for Macau and its citizens. Unemployment is the lowest it has ever been; average salaries are up an estimated 40 percent; GDP grew about 30 percent last year; and the small businesses community is growing exponentially.
As could be expected, challenges accompany the magnitude of such growth and prosperity. A labor shortage threatens – and in some areas has already surfaced – as estimates show that upwards of 100,000 people will be needed to service the tourist trade that will be pouring into Macau. The local infrastructure is also being severely tested, not only the transportation element, but the demand for electricity and water could be overwhelming. Furthermore, the attractiveness of the commercial casino gaming industry has caught the attention of neighbors. Casinos are being built in Singapore, while Thailand, Taiwan, Korea and Japan consider the prospects for gaming. How will this impact Macau?
Growth and prosperity are difficult to attain, and once attained, are a challenge to maintain. In order to nourish the progress made in Macau – and solidify gains – it is important for all elements of the community to come together to meet the challenges.
We in the U.S. commercial casino gaming sector have found that working with government to identify the needs that must be addressed, and then cooperating to find solutions, has worked well. By combining the expertise of the private sector with the oversight mechanisms of government, we have discovered a comfortable nexus for cooperation.
In the area of regulation, for example, it is important to ensure the integrity of our business. We work closely with government entities to make certain there is a high level of transparency so the public recognizes that fair play pervades. And the importance of promoting corporate responsibility cannot be overstated, especially in a sensitive area like responsible gambling. There are people who simply cannot gamble responsibly. It is important to recognize their difficulties, educate the public about them, and about the determination of the industry to better understand and address the malady.
One of the most successful ways to review and address the many elements that comprise and support the commercial casino gaming industry in Macau and the world is to facilitate the congregation of industry, government and academic leaders in the field. The inaugural Global Gaming Expo Asia (G2E Asia) held last year in Macau was such a meeting, and its success convinced us of the wisdom of producing G2E Asia 2008 scheduled for June 3-5 at the Venetian Macau Exhibition Center.
The trade show aspect of G2E Asia already boasts more than 125 exhibitors who have claimed space on the more than 85,000-square-foot exhibition floor – three times larger than last year’s floor size. Perhaps more importantly, an expanded, multi-track conference program will delve deeper into the real and complex issues with which our industry and the entire region must grapple.
Success and challenge embrace Macau. The future will be determined by the manner in which all of us handle this success and meet the attendant challenges. G2E Asia offers one forum in which we can be educated and learn together how best to move forward.