Last month we discussed how Jimei Casino opened Macau’s first VIP slots room. This was a landmark move because, up until recently, Macau’s VIP scene had been dominated by baccarat tables. Unfortunately, the majority of their high-roller play might stay confined to baccarat because Jimei’s VIP slots area is struggling badly.
As reported by Bloomberg, the casino disbanded the slot room’s HK$100,000 (US$13,000) membership fee just a week after opening. Now, out of desperation, the casino advertises that you can play in the high-stakes slots parlor for just HK$1, which equates to 13 cents. And the only person whom the Bloomberg reporter saw playing slots was Zhang Zheng, the junket operator who runs the room.
Zheng, who owns one of the many junket companies that recruit VIPs from mainland China to Macau (China banned gambling advertising), is part of an industry that’s struggling badly due to the Chinese government’s corruption crackdown.
Slots games don’t seem like the logical way to reverse the slide of VIP play in Macau. However, Zheng says that those who do play slots are “die-hard” fans, which gave him the idea for Jimei’s VIP room. He also reasons that slots are a smart direction to go since high-roller baccarat isn’t doing so well.
“Operating a traditional baccarat VIP room can barely make profit these days,” said Zhang. “I am confident the VIP slots room can perform well because it faces less competition.”
Grant Govertsen, a Macau-based analyst at the Union Gaming Group, believes that desperate times lead to desperate measures. “Junkets are still in economic distress, as they are willing to try anything to increase revenue,” said Govertsen.
Last year saw the closure of over 30 VIP rooms in Macau. Sadly, it looks like the Jimei VIP slots room could also close if things don’t turn around during the Lunar New Year, Macau’s busiest time. And if this happens, it won’t necessarily just be because of slots, but rather larger things that are going on in Macau right now.