People to Watch - Andrew MacDonald
by Roger Gros

Singapore Song
Andrew MacDonald
Executive Vice President, Gaming, Marina Bay Sands

Andrew MacDonald was chosen as one of Global Gaming Business' People to Watch because of his work as an investment banker with Australia's Macquarie Capital Advisors in New York, which is building an investment banking division. MacDonald headed up the bank's gaming division.

But in the short time between the announcement and the interview, MacDonald was named the executive vice president of gaming for Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore integrated resort being developed by Las Vegas Sands.

"I'm really sad to be leaving Macquarie because we've had some great success and are just about ready to make some big moves to compete with the Goldmans and the UBSs of the world," he says. "But I'm leaving the business in capable hands to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

MacDonald knows about pouncing on opportunities. His talents have taken him in 30 years from a dealer at Hobart, Australia's Wrest Point casino, to leadership positions at organizations such as Crown Casino, SkyCity Casinos, the Queensland Casino Control Division and Genting in Malaysia.

During his time moving about Australia, he founded an educational website called Urbino.net, one of the first sites to provide literate information on the gaming industry.

"When I became a gaming analyst at the Adelaide casino in 1990, I found there was a real dearth of information on gaming," he explains. "I was looking for information on dead-chip programs, incentive programs, and even such simple things as the mathematics that makes all this work. There wasn't much out there. And most of it was written for players, not management. The list of people who have contributed over time and the information they provided has been exceptional. It's a true resource designed to help people understand how casinos work."

MacDonald is eager to move to Singapore to get started. He admires the way the government has gone about setting up a gaming industry.

"In the four or five years since the process started," he says, "the Singaporeans have gone about it in a very methodical, very orderly way. They've come up with a model for integrated resorts which is now the benchmark for other countries to copy."

At Marina Bay Sands, MacDonald will put his experience in gaming operations to work, along with colleagues Steve Karoul and Ken Davie.

"Working with a quality operating team like Steve, Ken and others will make it a lot easier to make the transition," he says. "I'm looking forward to sitting down with them and talking through all the issues."

One of the major issues facing MacDonald will be how the Singapore government sets the VIP model. The two options are the U.S. model, where the casino pays a junket operator a set fee and a possible percentage of the players' losses, or the Macau model, where the casino pays the junket operator a percentage of the players' buy-in. While the final decision had not been made at press time, MacDonald expects a more U.S.-style model.

"The government did a thorough study of the VIP market, and it is likely that their decision will be based on the best outcomes for the Singapore market," he says. "It would be unlikely that we'll be working with the traditional Macau model, so I prefer that we would deal directly with high-net-worth individuals, providing the regulatory system allows appropriate levels of credit or check-cashing facilities."

In the end, MacDonald is pleased to be back in the market he knows so well.

"Asia is the place to be right now," he says. "The potential is enormous and anyone who wants to be in the center of the action, wants to be here."

Date Posted: 01-Jan-2010

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