It happened every day at almost every baccarat table: A man squeezed his card and everyone betting against the house shouted “kung” (a picture card or 10) followed by a round of applause, or, more often, sighs – if the house won.
Now picture this scene, and imagine a group of gamblers who won almost every day for a month. It is not exactly the Chinese version of Ocean’s 11 that broke the casino, but at least it hurt.
Well, no one wins forever, even if you are Steve Wynn.
The casino mogul who operates Wynn Resorts in Macau told analysts that he had the “most unique statistical anomaly in my 50 years of doing this” after a group of high-roller clients cost Wynn Palace, which opened just last August, more than US$10 million in April.
His painful revelation continued, “And that is with enormous volume, one of our leading outlets lost money for the entire month.”
According to Wynn Macau’s second-quarter results, table-games turnover in VIP operations was $11.6 billion, but table-games wins as a percentage of turnover (calculated before commissions) was 2.18%, below the expected range of 2.7-3.0%.
That was a big swing for Wynn Macau, which in its good days could generate a monthly profit of some $50 million.
Despite baccarat having the lowest house advantage compared with other games, it generates more than 80% of the gambling-table take in Macau.
Wynn disclosed that a junket operator, Suncity Group owned by flamboyant tycoon Alvin Chau Cheok-wa, who had dominated the Macau entertainment pages with his mistress and model Mandy Lieu, brought in these high-roller clients.
But it is not clear who these lucky punters really were, or how many of them.
The Wynn winners came in just months after his rival Sands China, which runs The Venetian Macao and Sands Macao, revealed that a mystery lady had an enormous winning streak at its new outlet The Parisian in January.
The president of Sands Macao parent Las Vegas Sands, Rob Goldstein, said the lady won every day, which had impacted the group’s operating earnings by about $15 million to $20 million.
The story, which came out just before the Lunar New Year, generated a lot of interest in Macau media, with quite a few online photos of the lady, whom they described as a “goddess of gamblers”, reminiscent of the popular 1989 Hong Kong movie God of Gamblers.
Despite the money lost by Wynn Palace, many commentators thought it was also a good advertising campaign, because visitors flocked to the casino with hopes of benefit from a possible “statistical anomaly”.
But just like in the movies, it is always hard to know how far such hopes are from reality.