Macau’s casino junket sector is seeking clarity from the government on its proposal for criminal penalties against what the authorities term illegal taking of deposits from the public, says Kwok Chi Chung (pictured in a file photo), president of a local junket trade body, the Macau Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters.
The deposit topic is in the public consultation document setting out the city’s proposals for revising Macau’s gaming law.
Mr Kwok said the trade body planned to submit this month its thoughts – and in some cases “doubts” – on those parts of the proposals that relate to the VIP junket segment.
Junkets would like clarity on what counts as an illegal act of deposit taking. A person found guilty of such an act, would face up to five years in prison, according to the proposals.
Several Macau-based lawyers specialising in gaming, and a local scholar, recently told GGRAsia that the act of a patron leaving a deposit with a Macau casino, via the respective VIP host or a junket, should still be legitimate, as long as the deposit funds involved were used only for gambling, as that would chime with the spirit of the current rules, and the government-drafted proposal.
“It’d be best to see the authority’s explanation on the subject, as we had seen no guidance at all about that issue in the previous public consultation session,” said Mr Kwok. He was referring to an in-person meeting arranged by the government, with local industry leaders, to discuss the proposals, and which was held on September 20.
The government’s proposals also mentioned an “enhanced threshold” for licensing junket operators.
“We do agree to that direction, in principle, since our discussions with the government on the topic” had begun with the previous Macau government administration, said Mr Kwok.
Junket operators would also like to see details of the “enhanced” requirements.
“Our own consensus is that any newcomers to this [junket] sector should be corporatised, and should be financially sound and able to commit a higher guarantee deposit. They should also have more local residents in the shareholder structure,” said Mr Kwok.
Macau’s junket sector has been shrinking for eight consecutive years. Travel restrictions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, and China’s criminalisation of the organising of “overseas gambling”, have added to headwinds that trouble the city’s junket sector, industry analysts have suggested.
VIP baccarat, which in 2019 represented nearly half of all Macau casino gross gaming revenue, accounted for only 31.8 percent of the city’s casino GGR in the three months to September 30, at MOP5.96 billion (US$744.1 million).
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Macau’s Public Prosecutions Office