Changing the game: Macau bets big on sports in bid to shed its gambling image

The Super 8 basketball tournament tips off at Studio City as government bids to diversify entertainment on offer in Macau

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 3:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 9:36pm

Macau has earned a reputation as the Las Vegas of Asia for good reason, right down its own garish fake Eiffel Tower at the Parisian.

Now its cavernous casino resorts are going another step closer to simulating Sin City.

Wednesday saw the launch of the inaugural edition of The Super 8 basketball tournament at Studio City Macau, as part of a government initiative to diversify the entertainment on offer with high-level sports.

“Let the youth in Macau experience the beauty of the basketball games here so that other than gambling, Macau is more like a diversified city,” said Christine Lam, vice-president of the sports bureau, at a press conference.

“We’re trying to do this more. People always think of Macau only for gaming, but we want to expand more for development.

“We hope there is more positivity in Macau. In the future, we are going to be trying to push this really hard, so there are more sports and more elements.”

The Super 8 has brought together two top teams from each of the premier leagues of China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan to Studio City for five days of competition.

“We want to support big international organisations to host events in Macau just like The Super 8,” said Lam. “It helps to promote Macau, and helps youth sports development.

“We hope there are more brands and companies that can do events here. We hope they can bring in a better sports atmosphere and higher sports standards to Macau.”

The organisers have television broadcast deals with all the countries represented and have their own live stream on Facebook.

“We had a great turn out for the press conference and incredible broadcast ratings for day one for a brand new basketball property, which is proof the concept is solid,” said Matt Beyer, chief executive of The Super 8.

American Beyer has been working in basketball for over a decade, beginning as a translator for China’s Yi Jianlian with the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA.

He has been working as a China-based agent for the last seven years, and conceived of the idea for The Super 8 while attending the NBA’s Summer League in Las Vegas.

“Macau has a lot of similar characteristics to Las Vegas with all these excellent venues, but most of the focus is on gaming,” he said.

“Why not use these excellent venues and hospitality for sports? I’ve probably been to 50 arenas in Asia, this is the best I’ve been to. I really like it ­– combined with the hotel, the restaurants, gaming facilities, it’s the perfect space.”

Walk 50 metres from the entrance to the basketball court at Studio City and you wind up in a sea of slot machines and blackjack tables.

Choose another direction and you can stumble upon a Batman-themed roller-coaster simulator, a futuristic Japanese diner or an indoor boulevard of designer shops, to name just a few of the attractions.

“As Macau transitions from gaming to diversified entertainment, this type of event integrating sports into Macau will definitely lead to GDP growth,” said Beyer.

“Over the last 10 years of the NBA Summer League, it contributed an estimated US$30 million per year to the local economy.

“Why not have the same thing happening here? Most of the world’s population is in Asia, let’s bring them to Macau for more events.”

The first three days of the tournament will see four teams qualify for Saturday’s semi-finals from two groups of four. The final and a third-place consolation match will be played on Sunday.

Battling it out on court in the group stage are Japan’s Ryukyu Golden Kings and Chiba Jets; South Korea’s Goyang Orion Orions and Seoul Samsung Thunders; Taiwan’s Fubon Braves and Pauian Archiland; and China’s Zhejiang Guangsha Lions and Shenzhen Leopard.

“We welcome The Super 8,” said Macau China Basketball Association president Wu Chong Fai. “We are pleased the Macau citizens can enjoy such high-level basketball competitions.

“We look forward to what lies ahead in future in terms of bigger and better basketball events, to promote sports, as well as events that engage Macau people on a more grass roots level.”