The Macau authorities appear to be planning tougher enforcement of provisions in a law that covers the advertising of gaming, but the new guidelines announced this month seem to go further than many in the industry had been expecting, said a note from Macau-based law firm MdME.
MdME said in a gaming regulatory update note written by Rui Pinto Proença, one of the partners, that the guidelines “suggest that authorities may step up supervision and enforcement of the 1989 Advertisement Law.”
The note follows a briefing on June 3, when, according to local media reports, the deputy director of Macau Economic Services, Tai Kin Ip, said most gaming advertisements on buildings and vehicles in Macau were illegal. The government body is responsible for supervision and enforcement of the city’s Advertisement Law, first enacted in 1989.
Mr Tai had said that 316 of the 450 commercial messages the authorities had checked since last July were illegal, mostly because they lacked the required permits. In the case of illegal gaming-related ads, most adverts were by companies from outside of Macau, such as online gaming websites, he added.
The new guidelines from Macau Economic Services contain a list of commercial messages it considers in breach of provisions of the Advertisement Law.
According to MdME’s note, the list includes: adverts displaying gaming iconography (tables, chips, images of gaming floor); adverts that contain tips on how to play a game or information on the odds of a game; ones that promote junket activities with the purpose of fostering participation; websites that publicise the location of VIP rooms and the services provided therein; promotional activities, such as lucky draws or reward point schemes, in which the participation is conditioned to playing games of chance or the purchase of chips; and adverts that promote play by using “ambiguous, covert or implicit forms”.
Mr Proença said that this goes “further in restricting gaming advertising than what most sector players would expect”.
He added: “The guidelines may have an impact not only on gaming sector companies conducting marketing activities in Macau – from casino concessionaires and operators to gaming promoters and electronic gaming machine manufacturers – but also on advertisement agencies and platforms owners (media companies, Internet and social media platforms, outdoor and vehicle owners, etc.).”
Adverts placed in classified lists, commercial directories or other similar publications and references to gaming operators or promoters in the context of sponsorship of charitable initiatives are not considered illegal, added the note.
Mr Proença suggested that “besides taking steps to ensure that current campaigns do not represent any misconduct in the face of the guidelines, companies should increase their internal marketing compliance to prevent future breaches.”
Companies that are deemed to have breached the Advertisement Law can be subjected to fines ranging from MOP5,000 (US$626) to MOP28,000. These amounts could double in cases of repeated infringements.
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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