The Macau connection
THE CAPITAL OF GLOBAL GAMING HAS MOVED TO CHINA. THE DEAL TAKES A LOOK AT THE ROLE THOUSANDS OF AUSTRALIANS ARE PLAYING IN MACAU – AND TALKS EXCLUSIVELY TO JAMES PACKER AND HIS BUSINESS PARTNER LAWRENCE HO (SEE PAGE 12).
When Len Ainsworth first met casino magnate Stanley Ho in a nondescript office building in Hong Kong in 1961, the Australian pokies king could never have imagined that the once sleepy fishing village of Macau – an hour’s ferry ride away – would one day overtake Las Vegas as the world’s gaming capital.
But, he says, for all of modern- day Macau’s gleaming glass towers and palaces purpose-built for the biggest gamingwhales on the planet, one thing in the boomingChinese territory hasn’t changed. “There have always been many, many thousands of beautiful girls up there,” Ainsworth, who last month celebrated his 90th birthday, tells the deal with a broad smile. “There is a big surplus.”
Ainsworth, who has a good eye for a business deal, also sawfinancial opportunity in the former Portuguese colony, known for decades as a haven for gangsters, prostitutes and organised crime. However, all that changed when Ho’s four-decademonopoly on the Macau casino market came to an end in 2002 and it was opened up to take in new operators from Las Vegas, Asia and Australia.
Thanks to Ainsworth’s hard yards, Aristocrat, the company that he founded, today supplies more than half of the shiny gamingmachines that increasingly take pride of place in Macau’s casinos. And he is expanding his AinsworthGaming Technology into the territory, the only place under Beijing’s administration where casino gambling is legal.
He is not alone. Many Australianshave riddenthe boominMacau’s gambling market, which is expected to rake in gaming revenues of more than $42 billion this year – far outstripping Las Vegas’s annual turnover of about $10 billion.
More than 2000 Australians are working in Macau, including a host of executives spread across a wide portfolio of roles within the region’s