None of the original 18 individuals linked to Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd that were reportedly detained in mainland China a fortnight ago in connection with alleged “gambling crimes” were thought to be people from Macau, said the head of the city’s gaming regulator, Paulo Martins Chan (pictured), speaking on the sidelines of an event in the city on Thursday.
But Mr Chan was not asked whether 10 other individuals said to have been detained on the mainland subsequently – and described in an Australian media report on Wednesday as “Chinese organisers of junkets” – had Macau connections.
“From what we understood, none of the 18 detained in mainland China were employees from Macau. And the gaming companies here reported to us that they had always been abiding by the laws in mainland China,” said Mr Chan.
The Macau government has already sought to distance the city from a suggestion that any clampdown on casino marketing activities in mainland China might have an impact on the Macau industry.
The city’s Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lionel Leong Vai Tac, said on October 20 – commenting on the original 18 detentions – that they should not have any direct bearing on gaming firms operating in Macau. He added however that Mr Chan’s department, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau – also known by its Portuguese acronym DICJ – had held a meeting with the city’s six gaming operators, to remind them of the need strictly to abide by local laws in Macau and elsewhere.
Mr Chan noted on Thursday, speaking during a break in a casino industry forum on corporate social responsibility that was held at the Banyan Tree Macau: “So far we don’t see any impact on Macau [from the detentions]. On the contrary, this case is a reminder for the gaming companies here: when they are conducting their marketing activities in mainland China, they have to have a clear understanding of its laws and abide by them.”
He added, in response to a reporter from Chinese-language media asking whether the Crown Resorts detentions were a signal that Chinese high rollers should curb any casino gambling conducted beyond Macau’s borders: “As to how this case is being handled on the mainland, we’re not very clear about the details… but at least we see no signs that this action is meant to target the casino operators here.”
Senior Chinese official
Yao Jian, deputy director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Macau, spoke at the same event.
Asked about the detentions of Crown Resorts staff, Mr Yao stated: “I don’t have much comment on this case. But what needs more attention is the improvement of the laws regulating Macau’s gaming industry, especially the casinos’ internal controls: it is very important for the healthy, sustainable development of the industry and also the society.”
The senior Chinese official added: “The most obvious thing about Macau’s economy – and which we think marks a turning point – is that we see the city [Macau casino sector] transforming into an integrated resort model from the traditional gaming model. This carries a significant meaning for Macau’s society and economy at large.”
Mr Yao added: “We encourage all these positive changes that surface amid the adjustment in the gaming industry including: the stable development of the mass gaming segment; the enhancement of training of local workers and the increase of their salary; and that each of the gaming operators have a heightened emphasis on developing more diversified projects.”
The Liaison Office – the contact point between the central government in Beijing and the city’s administration – has had regular meetings in the course of this year with a trade association representing Macau’s gaming promoters, stated Tony Tong, a founder of Hong Kong-based risk management firm Pacific Financial Services, in comments to GGRAsia made separately from Thursday’s event.
The gaming promoters – also commonly referred to as junkets – are the people that organise the recruitment of high value casino players, mostly from China, via a network of agents and sub agents, and also organise credit issuance for gambling and arrange for collection on gambling losses.
Mr Tong is also vice president of the trade body involved – the Macau Gaming Information Association. He said one of the concerns raised by Beijing was the potential for illicit flows of money via the casino industry, and that high net worth Chinese players were being helped to gamble large amounts on credit overseas.
“For more than a year, they [the Liaison Office] have already noted several times that China is strengthening the anti-corruption campaign,” Mr Tong told us.
“All these [gambling] activities that involve underground banking would be affected. And now we do see that the Chinese government is still reinforcing [its] law enforcement in this regard,” Mr Tong added.
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"The [Macau] government has a lead in this subject in regards to what should be done after the [gaming] concessions expire. We will be first listening to what the government will say”
Ambrose So Shu Fai
Vice-chairman and chief executive at Macau casino operator SJM Holdings