A warning on nine “bad behaviours” that Chinese tourists should avoid engaging in – when they are travelling either domestically or abroad – has been issued by the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) and includes a warning against ‘gambling’.
The warning didn’t clarify whether that was a reference to unregulated, unlicensed gambling. GGRAsia contacted the CNTA by telephone in an attempt to resolve that question but no one from the body was available for comment.
“It is hard to reconcile Beijing’s support for its Special Administrative Regions [Macau and Hong Kong] – including the diversification efforts ongoing in Macau to make it a much more mass-market centric [tourism] destination – with the CNTA’s warning against gambling while on vacation,” said a note issued on Friday by brokerage Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd.
Macau is the only place in the People’s Republic of China where casino gambling is legal.
Grant Govertsen, an analyst at the brokerage, noted that the CNTA’s warning on a whole range of “bad behaviours” was a reiteration of notices issued by the body last year, and was – with regard to gambling – similar in tone to previous comments attributed to mainland officials.
“At the time, these officials specifically called out the VIP-centric destinations of [South] Korea, Vietnam and Laos as problem spots for Chinese gamblers,” stated Mr Govertsen’s Friday note.
In February 2015, Hua Jingfeng, a deputy director at China’s Ministry of Public Security, had announced a crackdown on casino operators from neighbouring countries that had set up offices in China “to attract and recruit Chinese citizens” to gamble abroad.
In October 2015, Chinese state television reported police were investigating “criminal gangs” who had allegedly “enticed” Chinese to South Korean casinos with free tours, free hotels and sexual services.
Mr Govertsen added: “We suspect the CNTA has not compiled this [bad behaviours] list based on direct orders from Beijing to try and hamper the nascent mass market growth story in Macau. Rather, we suspect the CNTA is just doing its part to talk tough as it relates to the ongoing anti-corruption/anti-extravagance campaigns…”
Union Gaming added: “Other than the occasional arrests of [South] Korean casino marketing agents inside of mainland China we are unaware of any enforcement actions taken related to overseas gambling, and we would be surprised if there were any negative ramifications going forward following this year’s publication [of CNTA's warning].”
The CNTA notice – reported by Xinhua, an official Chinese news agency – also cautioned against tourists engaging in: prostitution; drug taking; damaging cultural relics; disorderly conduct on public transportation; unhygienic activity when in public; violating social customs; endangering themselves and others; and damaging ecological environments.
The CNTA notice said persons found to be in violation of those rules of conduct could be investigated by officials in their home provinces with the possibility of facing some kind of sanction.
Union Gaming’s Friday note said that could potentially be linked to a “social credit” rating system said to be in operation in China.
Such a rating system – outlined by the State Council in 2014 according to a Xinhua report in June that year – is said to seek to score citizens in four areas: administrative affairs; commercial activities; social behaviour; and interaction with the judicial system.
“We have not heard of any visitor to Macau ending up on the aforementioned black book as a result of coming to Macau (or even [for] going elsewhere for that matter) to gamble,” noted Mr Govertsen of Union Gaming.
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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