An exciting new Asian partnership is developing for SBM in Macau with the Galaxy Group. Further possible projects are on the horizon as well. CEO of SBM, Jean-Luc Masurel, provides further details of this intriguing venture to bring the SBM brand to gaming in new frontiers.
When Galaxy Entertainment Group joined the Société des Bains de Mer in 2015, why were they the preferred candidate of SBM?
When it was decided to open the capital at 5%, we approached and had discussions with the six largest companies who work in games and who are present in Asia, where we wanted to develop. Galaxy is the largest group in Macau. They have six hotels and 23,000 employees. Galaxy belongs to a Hong Kong family which holds more than 50% of the capital and this ensures its continuity. We saw a complementarity of culture with our own Society.
What is the blueprint of this strategic partnership that is being deployed?
We first exchanged our networks to enhance our brands. Good customers of the SBM game tables were welcomed by Galaxy in Macau to enjoy their experience. We also welcomed some of their customers who came to play in Europe. The objective is to develop the image of SBM in Asia. And get their expertise in industrial gaming. We do not want to turn Monaco into a Las Vegas, as it is neither suited for this nor adaptable to such a goal. But we are interested in their privileged clientele.
So the SBM looks right at Asia for international expansion?
Indeed, we intend to develop and exhibit our brands on the international market. A first project is underway. It is about opening a “Café de Paris de Monte Carlo”, in Macau, within the walls of one of the hotels of the Galaxy group. It will be a brewery with some fifteen à la carte signature dishes of Monegasque and Mediterranean cuisine such as barbagiuan fritters, stockfish, and octopus daube. We studied several locations, the steps are underway and the work has begun for an expected opening in the last quarter of 2017. Also in Macau, Galaxy plans to build a new complex with several hotels in three years. This could be the occasion to install one of our hotel brands. But nothing is concrete at the moment.
An installation is also envisaged in Japan?
The games market is expected to open in this country by 2018 with a law allowing the installation of integrated resorts on Japanese territory. All major groups in the hotel, entertainment, and gaming industry will seek to invest and respond to calls for tenders. There will be a competition between the various aspirants, and we will work with Galaxy on this.
This partnership brings you into another area. On its own the Monte-Carlo SBM group would never have thought of winning a contract in Japan?
Certainly. We would not have envisaged doing this without them. The Galaxy Group is also exchanging with us, via this agreement, any investment that they are considering outside Macau. For example, they can be found in countries such as Vietnam, Thailand or South Korea, which may also be of interest to us.
In the past decade, SBM has tried to export to the international market. First in Morocco and then in the United Arab Emirates, both of which failed. Regarding the project of Jawhar in Marrakech, our partner did not have the funding and the idea was abandoned. In Abu Dhabi, the concept never came to fruition. The aim was to open a hotel and a seaside resort along the sea, just like our Monte Carlo Beach. The club opened but our local partners chose not to build the hotel. So we have withdrawn, though under excellent terms, to be precise.
Today, the formula of a shareholder partnership with a large group seems to be the best chance for opening onto the international market?
I hope so. It’s a very strong alliance we have with the Galaxy Group. We share common interests for a long-term agreement.
“Galaxy has chosen to support the Monte-Carlo Ballets”
Does this partnership have other lines of development for Monaco?
We hoped that the partnership would extend to the Principality with many cultural actors. Galaxy, for example, has chosen to support the Monte Carlo Ballets and the forthcoming exhibition on the Forbidden City at the Grimaldi Forum. Discussions are ongoing with the Opera. All this increases the notoriety in the cultural dimension and can be a stepping stone for the whole of the Principality.
Today, is the Chinese market a priority in prospecting for SBM?
It is the aim in the long term. But we cannot have a single priority. Russia, the former Soviet countries, and Latin America are also in our sights. As is Turkey and the Middle East.
You welcomed Chinese players to the Casino of Monte-Carlo. Do you have to make adjustments for them?
Indeed, in order to receive certain Chinese customers and meet their needs, some of the staff of the games was trained in the techniques of baccarat, which we call punto banco. The Chinese have a special way of practising it and it is one of the games they are most fond of. Efforts have also been made to meet their needs in catering, reception and hospitality. We adapt to cultural needs, with our know-how. At the Casino, an employee speaks Chinese. We have the cultural awareness and the will to please.
Will the Galaxy team influence the Monaco facilities, such as the future Hotel de Paris?
Michael Mecca, director of the Galaxy group, sits on the board of directors and can give his opinion. But these projects were committed before this agreement.
In 2015, the opening of the capital of the SBM had also marked the arrival of the French luxury group LVMH in the shareholders. Are any developments planned with this partner?
This partnership is a contribution of advice and images between two brands that know each other well. And many of its brands will settle in the future One Monte-Carlo. But we have not signed a strategic agreement with LVMH. If opportunities arise in the field of the hotel business, these will be studied.
From this interview it’s clear that the SBM faces bright future prospects with this exciting new partnership in Macau with Galaxy and also potentially in opening up other Asian markets.