Macau clamps down on junket operators

Business | Reuters and Kevin Xu 17 Jul 2019

The Macau gaming authority is drafting and revising the initiatives to regulate junket promoters, and will put forward stricter requirements on deposits and capital, said Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau director, Paulo Martins Chan.

The news came as most gaming operators' licenses are due for renewal in 2020.

Chan's bureau said it has asked gaming companies to strictly supervise the junket promoters in their casinos to prevent offenders from using Macau casinos for promoting telebet or online betting. Chan said it would constitute a criminal offense in Macau to conduct any activities related to online gambling.

The bureau said the meeting was held in response to a mainland media report on the operation of online gambling platforms.

Suncity (1383) Macau's biggest junket promoter which operates VIP gambling rooms around Asia, has raked in billions of dollars in online gaming and proxy betting, causing great harm to China's social economic order, said a report by the state-backed Economic Information Daily. It was the first time a Macau junket has been singled out for online gaming activity.

Gambling is illegal in the mainland, but legal in Macau, so Chinese nationals are able to bet in casinos in the special administrative region. However, Suncity enables Chinese players to bet through online casinos in the Philippines and Cambodia, and utilize underground banks to move capital out of the country, the report said.

"The annual amount bet through online gambling in the mainland is more than one trillion yuan (HK$1.136 trillion), equivalent to nearly twice the annual income of China's lottery," the report said.

Suncity responded by saying it did not operate any online gaming business, and all its operations are permitted under local government regulations.

Meanwhile, gross revenue from VIP Baccarat fell 16 percent year-on-year, or 6.97 percent quarter-on-quarter, to 34.61 billion patacas (HK$33.6 billion) in the second quarter, according to the gaming bureau.

The VIP Baccarat revenue accounted for 47.1 percent of all gross gaming revenue in the second quarter, compared to 55.4 percent in the same period last year.

Mass-market baccarat grew 22.8 percent year-on-year in the second quarter to nearly 29.61 billion patacas.

Casino stocks advanced yesterday, with MGM China (2282) rising 4.28 percent to HK$14.12, and Melco International (0200) gaining 4.48 percent to HK$21.

Suncity fell 1.33 percent to HK$1.48.

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