Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lionel Leong Vai Tac, says the city’s authorities are working to enforce strictly a ban on mobile telephone use by customers at casino VIP gaming tables.
The measure has been seen by the industry as a de facto ban on proxy betting.
The Macau government was additionally analysing what action it might take in relation to any ‘proxy’ service that might be offered by a Macau junket seeking to enable its gambling clients to make bets via casinos overseas, Mr Leong (pictured) told reporters on Tuesday.
“If such services were found to contravene the laws of Macau, the government would take firm enforcement measures against such activities,” he said, quoted in a government release.
Mr Leong stressed that the ban on mobile telephone use at casino gaming tables was not targeted at hurting gaming revenue.
Regarding potential new rules for the junket sector, Mr Leong said strengthening supervision of junkets and increasing the financial threshold for companies interested in entering the sector were the likely major directions for any revision in regulation.
The Secretary also said the government was keeping an eye on technology trends, and how they could affect the operations of the local gaming industry.
On May 6, the Macau government announced that the use of telephones by those sitting at VIP gambling tables would be banned with effect from May 9.
Use of telephones at tableside can facilitate what is known in the industry as “proxy betting” whereby a gambler not physically present in the gaming room can communicate via telephone or other digital device to instruct a “proxy” sitting at the table – usually a junket representative – to make a bet on the person’s behalf.
In a note on May 16, brokerage Daiwa Securities Group Inc said it estimated that proxy betting’s contribution to overall Macau VIP betting volume had grown year-on-year in 2015.
Daiwa said at the time that – based on conversations with junkets and other industry participants – it thought phone betting had grown about 15 percent year-on-year in 2015, to account for approximately 20 percent of junket gaming volume in Macau that year, compared to 8 percent to 10 percent in 2014.
In comments to GGRAsia published on May 10, Kwok Chi Chung, president of the Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters of Macau, said that the de facto proxy betting ban would translate into a 10 percent year-on-year decline regarding sector-wide monthly turnover for junkets in Macau.
Paulo Martins Chan, the director of the city’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, on May 18 provided some commentary on the implementation of the ban on use of telephones at VIP gaming tables.
Mr Chan said at the time there had been some cases of people not complying with the new policy, but he stated the number of violations was “under control”. He added that the feedback the gaming regulator was getting from casino operators and junkets showed the ban was not having a big impact on business.
The head of the casino regulator also confirmed in those comments that – for the time being – there were no penalties for players caught using their phone at a VIP gaming table. He stated that, if needed, operators could however ban the player from the gaming room.
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