Asian Casino Marketing: Lucrative but not Easy

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Steve Karoul is a recognized casino consultant with 35 years of hands-on experience with the best casinos both within the United States and internationally. He is also an authority on all aspects of casino marketing. Steve has lived in numerous countries and has conducted casino marketing activities in well over 100 countries around the world.   He is an author, a lecturer and an educator who often injects his own hands on experiences and openly shares his ideas and thoughts with fellow industry executives. Telephone +(1-860) 536-1828 or [email protected] or see www.euroasiacasino.com

Almost every casino around the world understands the value of Asian Casino Marketing but most do not understand what Asian Casino Marketing really is.  Therefore, many casinos seem to make the same fatal error and then wonder why their Asian casino marketing program failed.  One of my more popular articles was titled “I’m not Chinese, I’m Vietnamese”.  This article sums it up nicely because the first thing a casino needs to understand is that not all Asian market segments are the same or simply stated; one size does not fit all when it comes to Asian casino marketing.  It means the same thing when one considers that Asia is not Asia.  Asia consists of many different countries, many different cultures, many different languages, many different foods, customs, traditions, beliefs, holidays, etc.

I consulted for a very nice casino recently located in the United States and asked why they did not have any Asian casino marketing programs in place.  They told me that they had tried Asian marketing in the past and that they were unsuccessful so they abandoned their efforts.  Upon further investigation I learned that they had hired one Chinese speaking Casino Host and put that individual in charge of their entire Asian Casino Marketing efforts.  I also learned that they added a number of Chinese food items to their casino buffet because they did not have an Asian restaurant or an Asian Noodle Bar.  They also did not promote any Asian games on their casino floor such as Baccarat or Pai Gow.  I kept digging and finally learned that the majority of Asian players from the surrounding communities were all Vietnamese and not Chinese.  Their Asian Host was unable to communicate with these players in their own language.  The Chinese food items that they prepared were unappealing to Vietnamese players.  And they did not focus on any Vietnamese holidays or Vietnamese entertainment.  No wonder their “Asian casino marketing” efforts failed.

Chinese is normally the largest Asian culture in the United States but this may vary when segmented by geographic locations or from city to city.  In some instances, Vietnamese or another Asian culture may dominate on a local basis close a particular casino.  Never-the-less, many uninformed casino marketing managers still insist upon copying and implementing marketing strategies specifically developed to target and satisfy Chinese gamblers.  However, this approach may backfire on you and actually be offensive if your Asian players are not Chinese.  The cultural mix of Asian players residing near your casino may vary dramatically.  Do your homework first to determine if you want to attract Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Thai, Cambodian, Laotian, Malaysian, or other Asian players. One additional quirk with Asian casino marketing, especially the Chinese market segment, is that you may find sub-segments within a particular city.  For example, New York City Chinatown may have players that originally came from very large cities or provinces in China such Beijing, Shanghai, Canton, Fukien, etc. that may have their own sub-culture as well as unique dialect.  Or, to complicate things even more, some of the Chinese may have originated from Taiwan. (Republic of China versus the People’s Republic of China).

Unfortunately this is all too common across the casino industry.  Ignorance is bliss or sometimes we can simply say that “perception is reality and reality is perception” in the casino business today.  Too many casinos give the perception that they have an active Asian casino marketing department when in fact the reality is that they do not.  Instead what they really have is a very nice personable casino host who happens to be Asian and speaks one of the many different Asian languages or dialects.  However, that individual may not even understand the basics of casino marketing.  It is not their fault.  They have never been taught the basic principles of casino marketing which remain the same whether marketing to Chinese, Vietnamese, and Koreans or for that matter to Greeks, Italians, Russians or Lebanese.  There is a big difference from “hosting” casino customers who prefer to converse in their own native language than marketing to these market segments to help the casino develop new business and increase profitable business from these players.

Many of the international casino hosts that I have met are great people and terrific hosts and do a fantastic job at taking good care of existing players.  Where it gets tricky is trying to educate these hosts about the principles of casino marketing so that they can use this knowledge within their specifically targeted market segments whether it is Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Spanish, Greek, Arab, Russian or other.  I think that there is a big difference between training and educating people.  We train dogs, we train horses, we train monkeys but we educate people.  Therefore the responsibility for these new Asian Casino Marketing educational programs lies with senior management at the casino.  It is their responsibility to insure that their Asian staff understands the target market segments that the casino wishes to attract as well as their responsibility to educate their Asian marketing staff accordingly.  This is an important area that is often overlooked until budget time which normally coincides with the making of the annual strategic marketing plan for the casino.

Here-in lies the problem.  Budgets and marketing plans are normally made by some other individuals who then pass this information over to the Asian marketing staff for review.  However, much of this would be similar to the Asian marketing staff handing you their notes or ideas all written out in Chinese or Vietnamese.  If you did not have a good working knowledge of their language you would not have any idea what they were saying or trying to say.  The same goes for Asian Casino Marketing which is why educating them about the principles of casino marketing becomes so critical for so many casinos.

I have visited hundreds of casinos in the United States and internationally where the Asian Casino Marketing staffs were totally oblivious to the differences between product marketing and demand stimulation marketing, database segmentation and even Pareto’s 80/20 Rule.  On the other hand, they had an excellent understanding of their culture, their holidays, their customs, their food preferences, their entertainment preferences, etc.  Imagine how much more productive they could be from some specifically tailored education programs about the basics of casino marketing that could be applied to their specific market segments?

The burden for success of an Asian Casino Marketing program does not fall just on the Asian marketing staff.  It needs to be a collaborative team effort at the property.  It is also very important that proper educational programs be developed and implemented that will educate everyone at the property as to the value of the Asian players and that they have the ability to positively impact profitability for the entire casino.  Shared responsibilities will help guarantee success for all.  When done properly, cultural awareness programs can be interesting and fun for everyone.  They can also be very educational as well as teach your non-Asian staff about some of the Asian traditions, customs and even superstitions.  How many of your casino staff understand the Asian belief in Feng Shui or Asian superstitions related to numbers?  What about Asian food tastings in the employee team member dining room as a fun experience for all staff?

One other benefit is timing.  Many Asian players do not adhere to our normal Western holidays and therefore certain holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter when the casino is normally dead can be very productive if the casino properly plans in advance to try to maximize Asian play on these normally slow days.  Asian entertainment is a big draw but can be expensive if not properly shopped and managed.  There are outside professional consulting services that specialize in this area and may well be the proper way to proceed for many casinos with limited resources and limited experience in Asian casino marketing.  Asian players are no different than Non-Asian players.  They want the same things.  They want to be recognized.  They want to be treated fairly.  And they look for Value.  I keep emphasizing that the casino business today is not about making money but rather about creating value for our players.  Create the value first and making money will be easy.  The meaning of value translates the same whether in English, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean or any other language.  Good luck.

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