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Multi Million $ Baccarat

Corporate Senior Vice President and Chief Casino Officer (CCO), Marina Bay Sands, Andrew MacDonald speaks with Bill Healey Associate Editor Asia

Considered the world’s biggest Baccarat Tournament, the 3rd Annual Grand Dragon Master Baccarat Championship is currently in progress.  Starting in August 2014 and ending in March 2015, what is the role of Marina Bay Sands in this year’s global championship?

We are so pleased that our Annual Grand Dragon Master Baccarat Championship has become a key event on the global Baccarat calendar. Seeing this event start from a concept that involved 30,000 participants in its first year and grow into a tournament that has 70,000 participants today is very rewarding.

Marina Bay Sands has hosted three qualifying tournaments since August 2014 and will be the venue for the global championship at the end of March.  We are looking forward to welcoming players from around the world to take part in the finals as well as to watch the excitement unfold live here at our award-winning integrated resort.

What has been the feedback from participants in previous Championships?

We have had a very positive response from players and the success of the Championships is evident from our increasing participation levels. Our participation rate has increased 130 percent over the last three years and I think that is due to several factors.

First of all, we have an impressive prize pool of over SGD$12 million. We have also added a slight twist to the game, so that it is slightly different than the typical game played in casinos. Though the rules remain the same, the emphasis is not so much on luck or chance but a test of the player’s skill and strategy. In this way, understanding game trends and anticipating the actions of other players becomes even more important. These factors, as well as our extensive international reach and appeal, have allowed us to offer a unique Baccarat tournament to our players.

Though the Grand Dragon Master Baccarat Championship is held on a global scale, what type of table game tournaments does MBS host on a local scale?

We take pride in offering our patrons a variety of tournaments. At the property level, we host regular Blackjack, Craps, and Roulette tournaments. We also host annual regional Sic Bo tournaments between the Sands Macau properties—Venetian Macau, Sands Cotai Central, Sands Macau, and Plaza Macau, and Marina Bay Sands.

Participants enjoy the larger scale of our tournaments and the fact that some are held across properties. The extended time frame of many of our tournaments also adds a unique aspect to our offerings.

Does MBS also host slot tournaments?  If so, how do guests compete?

We host regular slot tournaments throughout the year. This year, we are holding tournaments fortnightly, with monthly themes based on the 12 Chinese zodiac signs. Like our Annual Grand Dragon Master Baccarat Championship, we are always looking at ways to keep our tournaments engaging. Our slot tournaments have interesting advancing structures, prize allocation, and lucky draw components.

Following on the success of our Grand Dragon Master Baccarat Championship, we are planning a regional slot tournament in April 2015 between Marina Bay Sands and our Macau properties. Looking further ahead, we plan to organise the world’s biggest Global Slot Tournament in 2016, so there’s a lot to look forward to.

How do you describe your leadership style?

I believe an effective leader is one who gives his team a sense of ownership of their individual portfolios, while being available as a mentor or guiding force. This is an approach that I personally adopt – I like to build people within my teams and have little inclination to micro-manage projects.

I’m more interested in melding a team of individuals into a cohesive group, while giving autonomy to each person so that they shine both as individuals and as a team.

In our fast-paced industry, a good leader is also one with excellent technical knowledge across a number of disciplines as well as a broad-based helicopter view of the business. He needs to use that to provide strategic direction for the company and his team, and then empowering them with the right tools to do their magic. 

What types of table games does MBS currently offer?   Which type of and slot machine and multi-player slots does the casino offer? 

We have a total of 600 gaming tables and 2,400 slot machines as well as electronic table games combined. There are three key elements that distinguish our gaming offerings. First, we offer our guests the best product. That includes several slot machines and table games that are exclusive to either Marina Bay Sands or Las Vegas Sands properties. Second, we offer unparalleled service in a unique environment. Our integrated resort offers guests the opportunity to enjoy celebrity chef dining, world-class theatre, and high-end shopping all on the property. And finally, our loyalty programme offers special promotions and events that fully complete guests’ experiences here.

China has a rather significant and growing affluence.  Has much of the population from the PRC been making their way to Marina Bay Sands? 

China is one of the top five foreign source markets for Marina Bay Sands. Like all our guests, they are constantly seeking new experiences that are unique and unmatched. The allure of the integrated resort concept has proven to be a winning formula for Marina Bay Sands in drawing visitors from China, especially aspirational and well-heeled luxury seekers with high spending power.

But while China is an important market for Marina Bay Sands, we do not overly rely on a single market - given the international appeal of Marina Bay Sands, we attract business and leisure travelers from all around the world.

Marina Bay Sands has become a highly recognized and photographed landmark, easily visible by travelers making their way from Changi Airport into the city along the East Coast Parkway.  Once in the property, many guests are taken by the wide assortment of leisure activities ranging from world-class shops to the Banyan Tree Spa to KuDeTa on the rooftop.  How significant are the assortment of leisure activities to the success of the gaming operations?

As Asia’s leading destination with Singapore’s biggest hotel, Marina Bay Sands continues to enhance our property offerings and attractions—from dining, to shopping and headlining entertainment acts—for visitors from all over the world. As a MICE-led integrated resort, the non-gaming components of Marina Bay Sands are very important, and we strive to drive traffic to all parts of our property.

As we move into our fifth year of operations, we continue to reinvest in our property, whether it’s through expansion of our luxury shopping and dining options or refurbishment of our hotel rooms.  New dining establishments include restaurants by Gordon Ramsay, David Myers, and David Thompson. The Club at Marina Bay Sands—previously situated on the Sands SkyPark—has been relocated to Level 55, Tower 2 to accommodate more club room and suite guests. On the retail front, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is also looking forward to adding several more first-in-Singapore signature stores to its under-one-roof luxury retail haven. Alexander McQueen as well as the new concept Moschino boutique have recently opened, and Dolce & Gabbana Junior is opening later in 2015.