Gaming insights Gaming

Macau’s next generation

Written by Andrew W Scott

This article first appeared in the Jul/Aug 2014 issue of World Gaming magazine.

Ed: WGM’s CEO Andrew W Scott was invited to conduct a session with students studying the Master of Science in International Integrated Resort Management at the University of Macau. He discussed World Gaming magazine and gaming media in general as well as sharing insights from his 28 years experience in and around the gaming industry across the globe.

Glenn McCartney is one of our great friends here at WGM. Not only does Glenn own and operate the Irish Bar and the Irish Coffee House (both in Taipa) he has another life as a well-respected academic teaching at the University of Macau, where he becomes Assistant Professor Dr Glenn McCartney! We took some time out to have a chat with Glenn about his work at the University helping to create the next generation of Macau casino executives.

Glenn McCartney is a typical, likeable Irishman. There are many likeable Irishmen and nearly all of them love a pint of Guinness and having a good laugh or craic as they like to call it. But there is a serious side to this man and you won’t find many in Macau who don’t like and respect his wealth of knowledge. He has been here 17 years and there is almost nothing relating to Macau and her gaming industry he doesn’t know something about.

Glenn is proud to call himself a Macau local as well as being a proud Irishman. After a very short amount of time with him you quickly understand that Macau is his home and he cares for Macau’s future and the people of Macau.

It was around five years ago that the idea was born to create a Master’s degree at the University of Macau for up and coming stars of the Macau gaming industry. The Master of Science in International Integrated Resort Management, or MSc(IIRM), was finally born in 2012. The University’s Faculty of Business Administration offers the Master’s degree as a two and a half year course comprising both coursework and a 9-month thesis.

Staff at the University of Macau tell us it’s their understanding the MSc(IIRM) represents a global first – the first-ever casino management-related Master’s degree. With Macau now clearly surpassing Las Vegas as the gaming industry’s global epicenter a Master’s Degree from the University of Macau will undoubtedly become recognized as the worldwide gold standard for gaming-related higher education.

“I tell my students they may as well forget their social life for the next two years. I might be out drinking and having a good time at two in the morning but I already have the qualifications and they won’t have the time to be doing anything like that,” laughed Glenn.

This is a serious course and only around 30 students, the very cream of the crop, is selected to take part. In 2013 there were nearly 100 applicants for the course, and it would be a safe bet that the number of applicants in 2014 was even higher. The course involves attendance at the University for three hours a night on most weeknights, as well as a certain amount of weekend study. There has been growing interest from international students keen to learn the gaming trade and boost their education in the world’s gaming capital.

As with any Master’s degree, candidates must possess a Bachelor’s degree with a good grade average to be considered for the course. They must also be able to demonstrate proficiency in written and spoken English and it is highly preferred they have at least two years of industry managerial experience behind them. To be considered without the specific managerial experience candidates must undertake a 640 hour-internship in the industry.

“I am personally mentoring four of the students doing their theses this year,” Glenn said. “I chose ones that were writing about marketing, event management and event research as that is not only one of my key areas of expertise but an area of significant interest to me.”

The gaming industry is a very niche industry and traditionally its senior managers learn their craft from the ground up. In years gone by it has been possible for a casino croupier with absolutely no higher education to work their way up through the ranks to supervisor, pit boss, shift manager and finally into a senior executive position.

While Glenn is the first to admit that industry experience is an essential part of the makeup of any senior gaming or casino executive he insists that times are changing and there needs to be a balance between practical on-the-job learning and formal higher education.

“I have found casino executives who come to a point in their careers where their base knowledge of the industry is good but they don’t have the educational training to back it up and advance their ideas in an intellectually rigorous manner. The University of Macau offers people in the industry a chance to improve their prospects of getting a better job that pays more and has more responsibility. But it is a two edged sword which helps not only the individual but also the industry as a whole. With more knowledge being taught, the industry improves. From a Macau perspective these improvements are being instilled into Macau nationals that have and will always call Macau home,” Glenn said.

People tend to forget that Macau’s gaming industry is really only in its infancy. Not much more than 10 years ago there were only SJM properties and Sands Macao, the first of the new breed of international casinos, wasn’t even open. It was always going to take time for local Macanese to integrate into the hierarchy of multinational billion-dollar gaming companies, as industry-specific knowledge is essential. Executives usually can’t take expertise from another industry and simply transplant that to the casino industry.

The Macau government has been proactive in trying to educate young people and provide excellent jobs and training in the casino industry. The casino trade is complex and there was always going to be the need to bring in experts from other countries to start with. Macau will always need foreign workers but there is an emphasis that locals will not only work in the casino industry but also hold senior positions and grow with the companies that employ them.

“I have worked very closely with the Macau Government and the University of Macau. Projects like this would never have happened unless we had the support of the government. They have been very supportive of the curriculum and have helped us develop the course and make sure that we are pushing the students in the right direction,” said Glenn.

Macau is an incredible place. There is nothing like Macau anywhere on the planet, which is one of the reasons it is such a fascinating place to visit. Glenn McCartney, the University of Macau and the Macau Government are excellent examples of how the city refuses to rest on its prior successes. For the short to medium term Macau is in an enviable position. But the tireless work of training and not accepting second best for her citizens means Macau’s long-term future is just as promising.