The recently-announced change in the leadership of Macau’s casino regulator whereby the current director is being replaced by someone who has been most recently an advisor to the city’s Secretary for Security, should not be read as a sign that in future casino oversight will focus overwhelmingly on security rather than economic matters.
So said local lawyers with specialist knowledge of Macau gaming law and Macau regulatory matters, in commentary released to GGRAsia.
“This change of leadership at DICJ [Macau's Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau] will not bring many changes in regards to new regulations. Although probably different in style, both [men] have a strong legal background,” said Macau-based lawyer and consultant Carlos Lobo. He was referring latterly to the incumbent director Paulo Martins Chan, an assistant public prosecutor-general in Macau, and the new boss coming in on June 10, Adriano Marques Ho.
The Office of the Secretary for Economy and Finance, the government department that has oversight of the casino industry and of the DICJ, confirmed on May 12 the planned change. Mr Ho has been an advisor to the city’s Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak. Mr Chan will go back to working as a public prosecutor.
Speaking to local media on Saturday, Mr Chan thanked the Macau government for its “support and trust” during his five-year tenure as head of the local gaming regulator, a role he described as a “challenging” experience. Mr Chan also remarked that he believed his replacement Mr Ho would be “capable” as the new director.
Lawyer Mr Lobo told GGRAsia: “Mr Adriano Ho’s background in the police force does give him some advantage in regards to practical issues as I’m sure he would have been aware of potential areas for improvement on coordination with not only other law enforcement agencies, but also with other jurisdictions.”
He added: “This clearly plays well into a significant improvement on government control and coordination in a key area like gaming.”
In terms of the anticipated public retender for Macau casino rights linked to the expiry in June 2022 of the current six concessions and sub-concessions, Mr Lobo said the role of the DICJ would be to handle aspects of the rebidding process that might have an impact on casino operations, while he expected that the Secretary for Economy and Finance would play the lead role on other matters.
Mr Lobo added referring to the incoming head of DICJ: “I have little doubt that he will be the point person of the government to work out things with other government departments and to iron out non-political issues with applicants.” The appointee was “a clear choice for head of DICJ for years to come,” he added.
Economics, security, casinos
Pedro Cortés, a senior partner at local law practice Rato, Ling, Lei and Cortés, said in commentary on the topic provided to the International Association of Gaming Advisors (IAGA), that the change in the DICJ’s leadership could be read as a sign that the city’s gaming regulatory affairs would in future have a closer relationship to the security sphere.
He wrote: “We may speculate that the Macau government may be considering to change the entire gaming industry regulatory and inspection affairs from the supervision of… the Economy and Finance [portfolio] into… Security [portfolio].” Though Mr Cortés said this was not unusual viewed from an international context.
A security function within gaming regulatory bodies does “not seem to be new in the gaming industry worldwide,” noted Mr Cortés, citing the regulatory powers available in Nevada, in the United States, as an example. These included “regulatory enforcement, dispute investigations, intelligence investigations and analysis, as well as employee investigation,” stated the lawyer.
Lau Peet Meng, earlier an assistant commissioner of police in Singapore, held the job of chief executive of the Casino Regulatory Authority in that city-state from June 2011 until January 2014, according to press releases issued by the authority. He later returned to work for the Singapore Police Force.
Mr Cortés noted that in Macau, the supervision of the city’s financial watchdog, the Financial Intelligence Office, had been shifted from the Secretary for Economy and Finance to the Secretary for Security in 2018. The move had followed a recommendation given in the Macau SAR Mutual Evaluation Report 2017 issued by the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering.
“It is also possible that the inspection part of the current bureau [DICJ] be the one to move to the leadership of the Secretary for Security,” keeping matters of coordination and regulation in the hands of Macau’s gaming commission, which had been ” re(created) in 2010 although yet to have a stronger role,” said Mr Cortés.
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