“At least one” of the two Macau casino operators that had previously banned telephone betting “has recently begun to allow this activity on premise”, claims a note issued on Thursday by Daiwa Securities Inc.
“Since October 2014, we have seen VIP market-share movement shift away from the operators that have banned this activity; its resumption may have an influence over VIP market share in the coming months,” stated the note from Jamie Soo and Adrian Chan.
They estimate telephone betting has accounted in recent times for 8 percent of annual VIP betting in Macau. Players wishing to use such a service in Macau casinos are required “to commit a minimum of HKD1 million [US$129,000] to HKD3 million in gaming capital”, added the duo.
On October 29, GGRAsia broke the news that Sands China Ltd had decided to ban junket operators from running telephone betting in VIP rooms in its Macau properties. GGRAsia subsequently heard from industry sources that at least one other Macau casino operator had taken similar action.
Sands China said in an emailed statement on Friday: “Sands China’s policy on restriction of use of electronic device at the gaming table remains in place.”
Daiwa’s Thursday note mentions Wynn Macau Ltd as the other Macau operator known to have banned telephone betting.
GGRAsia also approached Wynn Macau to see if it had any comment on Daiwa’s note, but no reply was received at the time this story went online.
An industry source told GGRAsia that one concern about telephone betting – which in the Macau context occurs in VIP rooms and involves a representative of a junket taking bets over the phone on behalf of a player not physically present in the room – is that it potentially breaks the “know your customer” protocol. Such a protocol is encouraged under best international practices for tackling the threat of money laundering.
Two gaming lawyers have separately told GGRAsia that while under Macau law 16/2001 there is a prohibition on interactive gaming, the definition of such activity – “entering in and participating in a game using a telecommunications device” – is open to permissive interpretation locally, because the customer on the end of the phone is not technically participating in the game.
A source close to Sands China had described its autumn 2014 decision to order an end to telephone betting in Macau as “a continuation of Las Vegas Sands [Corp] and [subsidiary] Sands China expanding their leadership role on compliance-related matters in general.”
(Updated at 5.30pm)
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”The Macau government is not aiming to trivialise or drive out the junket sector, but to regulate the sector so that it would not hurt Macau’s reputation”
Alvin Chau Cheok Wa
Chief executive of privately-held VIP junket business Suncity Group