Macau raises the stakes

Table minimums have risen in Macau. That’s the most noticeable change during a two week visit, covering Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Asia for Macau Business and Asia Times and surveying casino floors.

At most large casinos, it’s virtually impossible to find a HK$100 (US$13) table for baccarat, Macau’s favorite game, or blackjack. Minimums run HK$300 and up in most cases, with HK$1,000 and HK$2,000 tables quite prominent. Baccarat players looking for lower stakes are being pushed to electronic gaming terminals with live or video dealers. Or they can choose roulette or dice tables (sic bo or craps), where at most venues they can still toss a HK$50 or even HK$25 bet on a number, though the main plays are least HK$100.

The higher minimum trend prevails in both downtown Macau (aka the peninsula) and on the Cotai Strip. Some of the smaller joints on the peninsula have proportionally more HK$100 play, strictly as a function of having fewer tables. Grand Lisboa has a string of HK$100 tables that also accept Macau patacas (MOP) in one section of its ground level, near the escalators leading to the main gaming floor.

Higher table limits are one factor in the rise of what’s being called the premium mass market in Macau. These are high spending players below the VIP level, and this segment came to the fore as VIP play stagnated during the past year, before staging a recovery in recent months. In March, monthly gross gaming revenue reached MOP31.3 billion (US$3.9 billion), its first month topping MOP30 billion. A MOP40 billion month (see page 60) is on the horizon, though still a ways away.

Premium mass market and VIP play are both crucial to gaming revenue, but premium mass is more appealing to casino operators for a number of reasons, so they’ll keep focused on it, no matter what happens with VIP play. Watch Macau Business for my upcoming article on this key market segment.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.