Macau to tighten grip on junkets

Business | Bloomberg and Tracy Hu Nov 15, 2017
Macau regulators plan to tighten the standards for junket-related business in the city, starting in January when they review applications from operators for new and renewed licenses.

"The government will also regulate junket operations, promote responsible gaming and boost the Macau casino industry's competitiveness," said Macau chief executive Fernando Chui Sai-on in the annual policy address yesterday.

He added that all gaming operators in the city must make a new application for gaming concessions as the government will carefully review and strengthen the regulatory framework next year.

Meanwhile, he said that the government will encourage gaming companies to develop non-gambling business.

The moves come as business in the world's biggest gaming hub is booming, with VIP gamblers helping to drive a rebound that saw casino revenue climb to a three-year high in October.

Ambrose So Shu Fai, chief executive of casino operator SJM Holdings (0880), said at a press conference yesterday he hoped the company could get approval for a renewed license but the government has not given any updates yet about the company's renewal.

On the other hand, So expected the full-year gambling revenue of Macau to record a double-digit increase this year, along with the completion of the company's resort construction at Cotai. The gambling industry will also be boosted after the Hong Kong-Zhuhai- Macau bridge is open to traffic.

The Macau government has deployed ATMs with facial recognition to verify identities and help monitor transactions for those using Chinese bank cards. As a result, ATMs have seen a decrease in the number of withdrawals and in transaction value.

Macau has an uneasy relationship with the junket businesses that bring in mostly Chinese high-stakes players. Though the high-roller business has been girding the casino industry's rebound, the Macau government reiterated its call for operators to increase non-gaming revenue and to expand offerings to appeal to casual gamblers and tourists.

"When the market gets better, more people are eager to come back and do business, but Macau regulators will be more cautious during the junket approval process," Paulo Chan, director of the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, said yesterday.

He said the gaming regulator has conducted several reviews this year on junket promoters to examine whether they have strictly adhered to government requirements.

Last year, the government announced plans to increase supervision of junkets and raise capital requirements.

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December 2018