NZ security for gambling mecca

Last updated 05:00 02/02/2014

HIGH ROLLER: Macau has become the new epicentre of gambling, with revenue six times that of American gambling mecca Las Vegas.

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One of New Zealand's leading exporters is increasingly behind the security systems of the multibillion-dollar casino and hotel resorts on the next frontier of gambling - Macau.

The former Portuguese colony off Mainland China has become the new epicentre of gambling, with revenue six times that of American gambling mecca Las Vegas, and Hamilton-based Gallagher Group is hoping to hit the jackpot through its high-tech security systems.

Better known in New Zealand for inventing the electric fence, Gallagher has secured lucrative contracts with Macau hotels and casino complexes like the City of Dreams chain in Macau and Manila.

The security side of the business, securing casino-goers rather than cattle, is now the second largest and fastest growing business unit - so much so that Gallagher will this year open a Bangkok office to complement its Hong Kong and Jakarta hubs.

Marketing manager Anna Greenhill said despite the expansion, the company remains "100 per cent" committed to its innovation and manufacturing base in Hamilton.

"For us, with the support we get from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, and the reputation New Zealand has throughout the Asia region, we certainly don't see our ‘New Zealandness' as to our detriment. It is what our company is built on and something we are committed to," said Greenhill.

The company has had mixed fortunes in 2013, its 75th anniversary year, with 20 Hamilton-based employees made redundant in April due to falling global sales. But on the upside it signed a multimillion-dollar distribution deal with Auckland company Smart Water and got Australian regulatory approval for its Country Electronics.

The company had annual revenues of close to $200m but its security and analysis division continues to fly under the radar.

Macau is an island awash with casinos and hotels that demand innovative security solutions and Gallagher hopes to continue expanding its work there as a flood of Chinese tourists pour into the gambling mecca, Cotai Strip.

The complex structure of companies, consultants and contractors involved in getting a casino or hotel from blueprint to completion has provided a challenge for the manufacturer, and Asia-Middle East regional manager Peter Francis said the company needed to raise brand awareness.

"Our brand recognition is not as strong as we would like it, so as always in Asia, we have to build relationships all the time. Because so far we have not had strong relationships with the end customer - be they hotels, casinos, governments - and rely so heavily on our channel partners, there are huge benefits if we invest in that direct, personal engagement," said Francis.

That has involved wooing casino-hired security consultants with its security systems and solutions, before the first sod is turned on a Cotai Strip development.

Francis said the arms-length relationship with the final developer has to be replaced in order to get continual R&D and customisation work.

Francis said Gallagher has been in Asia for 15 years but hasn't always benefited from the wave of growth there.

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"We are niche and have strength in innovation, but some Chinese competitors have huge scale and agility of manufacturing and now have growing IP centres too," he said.

The outlook, he said, remained solid for Waikato business icon Sir William Gallagher's global company, with the next big challenge the security solutions necessary for airports, universities and hospitals in Asia.

"Obviously, with huge populations we are in the right place," Francis said.

Disclosure: Josh Martin travelled to Hong Kong and Macau courtesy of Cathay Pacific.

- Sunday Star Times

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