In Macau and legislation that sets out the future governing of junket providers and satellite casinos reportedly passed its first Legislative Assembly reading yesterday by a 30-to-one vote.
According to a report from Inside Asian Gaming, the proposed Legal Framework for Operating Games of Chance in Casinos measure is now destined to be assigned to one of three working committees for further refinement. The source detailed that this process could ultimately result in a more polished version of this legislation being put up for a final vote before the 33-member body sometime before the end of the summer.
Macau is home to over 40 casinos operated by a six-strong club of concessionaires embracing SJM Holdings Limited, Sands China Limited, Galaxy Entertainment Group Limited, Wynn Macau Limited, Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited and MGM China Holdings Limited. The former Portuguese enclave’s legislators have already passed a draft version of the Amendment to Law Number 16/2001 measure, which is intended to lay out the re-licensing rules and conditions for the next decade.
If passed as currently written and Inside Asian Gaming reported that the inaugural version of the Legal Framework for Operating Games of Chance in Casinos legislation would prevent junket operators from accepting chip or cash payments from their customers by establishing a specific ‘unlawful acceptance of deposits’ crime. The draft edition would purportedly moreover prohibit such firms from securing specific areas of any local casino for the purposes of gaming, which would have the overall effect of extinguishing all of the city’s dedicated VIP rooms.
Macau is a city of almost 650,000 people but it has reportedly long been a popular holiday destination for hundreds of thousands of mainland Chinese tourists as well as gamblers from as far afield as Japan, South Korea and the United States. The draft version of the Legal Framework for Operating Games of Chance in Casinos would also purportedly bar junkets firms and licensed casino operators from sharing revenues or working with others via so-called ‘split commission’ agreements.
Local legislators Ron Lam U Tou was the sole dissenting voice at the Wednesday vote of the Legislative Assembly and he reportedly asked the government to ‘explain the figures’ around satellite casinos. Elected in September, the legislator purportedly furthermore asserted that he will again oppose the measure ‘if the government does not have a clear explanation’ due to the fact that it should be aimed at the ‘healthy development of the gaming industry’ and not the destruction of an important local industry.
In response and Macau’s Economy and Finance Secretary, Lei Wai Nong, reportedly disclosed that the tenets of the Legal Framework for Operating Games of Chance in Casinos have been designed simply to clarify the systems that govern junkets. The China-born civil servant purportedly then asserted that the government is just attempting to solve multiple problems in the local casino industry while maintaining its position as a key source of public funds, which is evidenced by the recent decision to extend the licenses of the current six operators by a further six months to the end of the year.