Sunday, June 14, 2009

SkyCity chases the world's high-rollers, by John Drinnan - The New Zealand Herald - 15th June 2009

One of Ejaaz Dean's roles as executive manager for table games for SkyCity Entertainment is attracting big-spending international clients to casinos here and in Australia.

But the 24-year industry veteran says the company would get nowhere if it mainly focused on the really big spenders - the so-called whales.

"Whales are the sexy part of the casino business.

"People want to hear about these people with millions to gamble dropping $1 million in a day - or even in an hour.

"But there are probably only 100 whales in the world and if people are bidding $50,000 a hand they could lose a million dollars very quickly. We don't really want to be in that space."

Dean joined SkyCity Entertainment 12 months ago as part of the revival and new blood under chief executive Nigel Morrison.

Because of the economic downturn international gamblers at SkyCity's casinos were down 15 per cent at the start of this year.

Dean is looking to the significant but less extravagant spenders - people who might bet, say, $5000 a hand in a game of poker.

To attract them, Dean and SkyCity provide packages including tourist jaunts, accommodation, food and entertainment.

The bid is a part of the reason for SkyCity increasing its entertainment profile in Auckland - making it a more attractive destination.

Those international clients are commonly seen as coming from Asia, but Dean is also looking closer to home.

"We are trying to get more Australians from the eastern seaboard to Auckland.

"We convince them with a three-to-five day trip and that gambling is not enough - we will say we'll take you to the Orbit Restaurant, take you to Queenstown for jetboating, or jumping off the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere."

The big challenge, he says, is that Asian gamblers he coaxes to New Zealand literally fly over Australia to get here.

Calculating margins is a complicated part of a complex business, says Dean, who fell into the casino business by accident, wanting a break after studying mathematics and computer programming at the University of Western Australia in Perth.

He aimed to stay six months but after six months in his first job dealing poker at Perth's Burswood casino, knew he was there for the long haul.

There are fundamental differences between table game players and those who play the machines.

Tables game players like the interaction with the dealer and with the gaming community - they like there to be other players.

"The machine player likes the one on one - customer versus machine. Whatever their decision it affects them and no one else." (Credit: The New Zealand Herald)

Media Man Australia Profiles


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