Macau Casino Watchdog Looks to Strengthen Supervision

Macau’s casino regulator has moved to strengthen its ranks as tourism from mainland China is swelling and gross gaming revenue is improving at the world’s largest gambling hub after a dreadful 2020 of limited and, at times, no business at all due to the coronavirus pandemic.

News emerged last week that Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, DICJ, has tabled proposals to more than double the number of its inspectors to 459 from 192. The regulator also plans to create a new director-level post.

DICJ, which advises the city’s chief executive on all gambling-related matters, further proposed to restructure several of its departments in its latest effort to bolster supervision.

The proposed regulations are set to take effect once published in the local official gazette. Local news outlets noted that this is expected to happen in the next few weeks.

News about the planned restructuring of the regulatory agency and the addition of more than 250 new inspectors emerge about a year before the expiry of the six casino licenses that allow to six local and international companies to offer casino-style gambling services at luxury properties across Macau.

All six companies in the world’s richest gaming hub, and the only place in China where gambling is permitted, will see their licenses expire in the summer of 2022.

Few Details on License Renewal Process

Hong Kong-based Melco Resorts & Entertainment and Galaxy Entertainment, as well as Macau-based SJM Holdings are the three local companies licensed to operate gambling properties in the city. In addition, subsidiaries of US casino operators Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, and Wynn Resorts run gaming resorts in Macau via sub-concessions.

It is still unknown how exactly next year’s license renewal process would play out. Macau lawmakers continue to work on the re-tender process. They are currently in the middle of a comprehensive review of all aspects of the city’s casino industry as it is much more different from what it was in 2002 when the six licenses were first issued and needs adequate controls and regulations. Officials are also looking to complete a public consultation process by the end of the year.

JPMorgan gaming analysts suggested in April that Macau might not be able to complete the revised gaming regulations by June 2022 when the re-tender process is supposed to be held and that it would not be a surprise if lawmakers postpone said process by a year or even more than a year.

Under Macau’s law, the government is allowed to prolong the six permits up to a maximum of five years, that is to say through June 2027.

The city recorded a 492% jump in revenue in May to $1.3 billion as visitors from mainland China flocked to the enclave during Labor Day Golden Week. The reported figure represented a 24% increase from April. However, gaming revenue was still down 60% from May 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Source: Macau beefs up casino rules, more than doubles number of gaming investigators, Reuters, June 21, 2021

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