For those who can handle the stress, working in the casino industry can be rewarding Macau's high-flying casinos are a blaze of non-stop light and action, offering around-the-clock excitement and 24-hour entertainment for punters, fun-seekers and the general holiday crowd. But keeping the show on the road while the rest of the world is asleep takes an army of croupiers, cooks, technicians, cleaners and managers willing to work through the hours of darkness and effectively turn night into day. One such person is Otto Ieong, who has been with Wynn Macau for the past couple of years and is now thoroughly familiar with the shift patterns and routines that go with casino work. He started out as a table games supervisor on the main gaming floor and, in October last year, took on the role of pit manager in the VIP gaming area, fully aware that overnight work came with the territory for anyone looking to make a career in the gaming industry. 'I like the flexible hours and would say working shifts has more advantages than disadvantages,' said Mr Ieong, adding that the typical monthly roster assigned a mix of mornings, afternoons and nights on duty. From his point of view, the biggest plus overall was that this allowed him to spend more time with his two children, aged six and three, than if he was in a normal nine-to-five job. It also made it possible to share some of the usual household and parenting responsibilities more equitably with his wife, who similarly works on the gaming side for Wynn Macau and is therefore required to do shift work as well. 'My wife and I are the breadwinners of the family, and we live with my mum,' Mr Ieong said. 'When I am on night shifts, I can, for instance, take my children to the playground and do exercise in the afternoons. And when I am on the afternoon shift, I can spend my time off with the family or with friends.' He said there was a lot of pleasure in being able to do simple things, like drop his children off at school or pick them up afterwards, and he enjoyed the freedom and fewer delays that came from doing errands at non-peak times. 'The company will try to assign couples on complementary shifts, not overlapping,' he said. 'So when I'm on day shift, my wife will be on night shift. [That way] we can make sure one of us will be able to take care of the family.' However, one less positive factor, which could not be ignored, was that working overnight generally entailed a greater degree of stress. This was a direct result of having to cover a wider range of duties. 'We need to take care of end-of-day reports, machine clearance, replenishing gaming tools, and getting the whole gaming area ready by midnight for the next day, while operations are continuing as usual,' Mr Ieong said. As a pit manager, he is also responsible for an assigned VIP area, where he must ensure good customer service and compliance with gaming regulations and internal controls. Having moved up over the course of nine years in the sector from being a card dealer to his current executive position, he is well-aware of what it takes to keep the casino's lucrative high-roller customers happy and understands their importance. According to Macau's Gaming Inspection and Co-ordination Bureau, VIP baccarat players generated almost 70 per cent of the city's gambling revenue, or 40.9 billion patacas, in the first quarter of the year. 'VIP customers expect a high level of service, so we need to be more attentive to details, more personal, and try to anticipate expectations,' Mr Ieong said. Specialising in baccarat, he has taken numerous in-house training courses covering not just the basic rules and technicalities of the game, but also on dealing with customers, supervising others, and speaking conversational English appropriate to the situation. Like the majority of workers in Macau's gaming industry, he has also completed training courses offered by Macau Tourism and the Casino Career Centre in other games such as roulette, sic bo and Caribbean stud. Mr Ieong agreed that the recent boom in the city's gaming and hospitality sector had made shift work the norm for many individuals. The casinos and hotels were both creating and responding to a growing demand, and people who wanted to play their part in that had to be ready to adapt as necessary. They needed to accept that the standard work schedule would include morning shifts from 6am to 3.30pm, afternoons from 2pm to 11.30pm and nights from 10pm to 7.15am, with no special financial incentives for doing such hours. For those new to the business and the rotating shifts, Mr Ieong said that concerns and complaints usually centred on the same things. These were an initial sense of fatigue caused by disrupted sleeping patterns, slipping into less than ideal eating habits, and worries about missing out on social activities with friends and family. He noted, though, that he was lucky in that he did not require a great deal of sleep, and that once shift workers fell into the pattern of alternating shifts every two weeks, the body eventually became used to the changes. As for maintaining good eating habits and remaining healthy, he suggested it was a matter of being sensible and sticking to the hours and types of food you knew were best. Wynn Macau had a 24-hour staff dining room offering a high-quality buffet selection of everything from appetizers and sandwiches to fruit and main courses, so the biggest problem was not to overindulge. Rather than cutting him off from friends, Mr Ieong said, being a croupier and working what some might regard as odd hours has fortunately had no negative impact on his social life. In fact, the job had turned out to be a great opportunity to make new acquaintances and, these days, many of his friends kept similar schedules. 'I have made a lot of friends at work because handling different pit sections every day, I have the chance to meet people in different gaming areas,' he said. 'I also meet new friends from other departments through participating in [work-related] social activities.' Overall, he said he was happy with the job, the routine and the prospects for further promotion within the next five years, provided he could improve his communication skills in English and his management abilities. 'I chose to work in the gaming industry after leaving school because I saw it as a good chance,' he said. 'There is high pay, flexible working hours, challenging opportunities and interaction with other people. The customer-oriented nature of the job suits my outgoing personality. I enjoy my work and I like the people.' This is part two in our eight-part series on people who work at night Work hard, play hard As a pit manager at Wynn Macau, Otto Ieong looks after a VIP - Wynn Club gaming area. Job requirements include knowing customers' favourite games, drinks and snacks, whether they like cigars, and which tables they prefer. He has a front-row seat watching celebrities and high-profile businesspeople gamble millions, and at the same time working shifts allows him the freedom to have lunch with his wife, spend more time with his children, and play basketball with his friends.