The Macau government secretary in charge of the city’s casino industry stressed in Thursday comments that Macau would “observe” mainland China law as a “must”.
Lei Wai Nong (pictured), Secretary for Economy and Finance, made the remarks on the sidelines of an event at the Wynn Macau casino resort.
His response came after the official was asked about China’s recently-approved new criminal penalties for the organising of mainland Chinese for the purpose of “overseas” gambling. They take effect on March 1, and could cover anyone organising trips for gambling in Macau – such as via junkets – as well as trips to foreign countries, a scholar and a lawyer have previously told GGRAsia.
Mr Lei stated: “I believe that we have to observe the mainland China law as well as Macau’s gaming law and the relevant gaming regulations. That is a must.”
“We have been making adjustments to our gaming law… and on our anti-money laundering standards,” Mr Lei added. “We will continue to work well on those aspects so that our gaming industry can sustain a healthy development.”
When asked by GGRAsia whether mainland China’s legal amendments on overseas gambling offences could impact the city’s regulations for junket operators, Mr Lei said: “For any legal amendment to take place, we have to balance the interests in the society…we will aim for such amendment to be adapted to the social trend here, and ultimately, it should help the development of the gaming industry here to be healthy.”
The secretary declined to reveal the government’s intended changes to Macau regulations as applicable to junket brands – referred to in the Macau market as gaming promoters – who traditionally have brought VIP players to the city.
The likelihood of such changes to regulations applicable to junkets had been mentioned in the government’s Policy Address for the Fiscal Year 2021 – published in November – as part of its to-do list for the coming 12 months.
Secretary Lei also said in his Thursday remarks that the Macau government was for now maintaining its estimate of MOP130 billion (US$16.28 billion) in casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) for 2021, as it believed that local casino resort earnings would improve amid an increase in inbound tourism.
“Our thoughts [on the GGR trend this year] are that it is going stable, and it will improve,” he stated.
He added: “We are working on spending-stimulus measures to attract more visitors. So what we want to achieve is that; even though we are not seeing much of a further increase in the number of tourists, their stay in Macau will become longer so that their consumption here will also be greater.”
The Secretary also noted that the city’s visitor volume had seen a “steady rise” since mainland China had in late September reinstated the Individual Visit Scheme nationwide for mainland residents wishing to visit Macau.
Macau could receive “14 million” tourist arrivals from mainland China and Hong Kong in 2021, a figure that the government used in its forecast for 2021 GGR.
“For this estimated MOP130 billion GGR figure that I’ve introduced to the Legislative Assembly, we are maintaining it for now. We will continue to keep a close watch on any market changes,” Mr Lei said.