Special Report – Secrecy is the name of the game

The better we know the customer, the better the service can be provided. But getting to know the Chinese gambler is not easy. We examine some of the things that are known. 

MB October 2020 Special Report | The Chinese Gambler


Knowing the profile of the Chinese gambler can be an ‘impossible’ task or at least a very difficult one because, in fact, there are many types of Chinese gambler. 

The biggest difficulty is in typifying the high rollers, which on the one hand do not want to be known, and on the other hand work in a system (the junket), which is also known for its opacity. “The characteristics of the mainland Chinese market are less clear because systematic market research is relatively new and because the patterns surrounding the so-called ‘high rollers’ are a closely guarded secret, allegedly because of connections with money laundering and the high commissions paid to ‘junkets’(middlemen)”, according to a research led by Professor Zhonglu Zheng. 

And yet, the better the customer is known, the better the service can be provided … 

Does this mean that the VIP rooms do not know the customer who is looking for them? 

Macau Business contacted some sources connected to the local gambling sector and the response was unanimous: they know it, and very well! 

But this is one of the best-kept secrets, in such a way that in certain cases – the sources guarantee us – it is not even shared between the junket operators and the concessionaires. 

The secret is the soul of the business - and in the case of the high rollers the phrase couldn’t be more assertive. 

Still, there are some certainties about the Chinese gambler’s behaviour: 

Most individuals gambled mainly for the underlying expectancy of winning money and that this expectancy was the main source of excitement. This perspective found support in their study of gambling participants in Quebec and seems to apply well in the present study of gambling among Chinese participants. 

Chinese gamblers had a tendency to seek both stimulating sensations as well as an opportunity to make money in risk-taking. For Chinese visitors who gamble, table games seem to be more exciting and stimulating, as well as a better option for profit seeking risk takers. A Chinese gambler, prone to these risk taking tendencies, would tend to have more positive attitudes toward gambling and be more motivated by a gambling ambience filled with the possibility to win money, excitement, challenge, competition and risk. The Chinese gambler has a tendency to mix the need for sensational excitement with the expectancy to be rewarded with monetary gains in gambling, and would enjoy table games more (from the research of Fanny Vong). 

Curiously, an overwhelming majority of the sample analysed by Bernadete Ozorio and Davis Ka-Chio Fong (87.7 per cent), indicated that they did not have any plan of how much to spend on gambling per casino visit. As for those who had budgeted their spending, most of them (71 per cent) spent close to their budgets. 

The gambler is a man, aged between 18 and 34, probably working as a service worker or as managers/administrators.  

Casino members’ average length of play each time is 5 h, whereas non-members play for 1.5–2 h.  The finding that members visit the casino more frequently indicates that a casino membership programme does attract customer patronage, according to Zhonglu Zeng and Catherine Prentice. 

Mainland Chinese tourists flocked to casinos in Macau to enjoy its novel casino/gambling offerings, to treasure vacation time with their families, to escape everyday life, to acquire high quality leisure offerings, and to experience the casino service environment. Themed shopping malls, grandiose gaming floors, luxury hotel accommodations, and renowned Vegas-style architecture are some of the pull motives that lure millions of visitors to the enclave. Indeed, Chinese casino tourists are similar to tourists in other destinations who are looking for a variety of tourism appeals that can fulfil their travel needs, found Ipkin Anthony Wong and Mark S. Rosenbaum. 


“The patterns surrounding the so-called ‘high rollers’ are a closely guarded secret, allegedly because of connections with money laundering and the high commissions paid to ‘junkets’” – Zhonglu Zheng 

Residents from places bordering Macau, such as Guangdong and Hong Kong, are less likely to participate in gambling – only 27 per cent of visitors from Hong Kong, and 41 per cent from Guangdong have gambled in a Macau casino, whereas 61 per cent from other provinces of China have done so, according to the research of Zhonglu Zeng, Catherine Prentice and Brian Edward King. 

In the paper “Gambling among the Chinese: A Comprehensive Review”, we find a good summary: gambling is a popular social activity among the Chinese and reflects a pastime of leisure that is commonly practiced during Chinese celebrations. All forms of gambling (card games, lotteries, racetrack, and betting on outcomes), and in particular mahjong have been found to be part and parcel of social life. Furthermore, males appear to be more often identified as gamblers, and make riskier decisions in comparison to females. 

MB October 2020 Special Report | See > Las Vegas. 拉斯韋加斯