The deputy chairman of Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd, Francis Lui Yiu Tung, says the planned introduction of new customer verification technology at local automated teller machines (ATMs) is part of a wider trend in Macau’s gaming sector for increased regulation and transparency.
Holders of Chinese mainland-issued China UnionPay Co Ltd cards that wish to use them for cash withdrawal at Macau ATMs will soon have to present their identity card and pass a facial recognition scan, it was announced on May 8. Mainland China is the main source of gamblers to Macau’s casino industry.
“This is [part of] a continuous effort by the [Macau] government to make sure casinos are regulated and transparent,” Mr Lui (pictured in a file photo) told reporters during a Tuesday group interview on the sidelines of the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Asia trade show and conference. “I think it is a matter of getting used to it,” he added.
Mr Lui’s delivered a keynote address at the start of G2E Asia at the Venetian Macao resort hotel on Tuesday.
Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lionel Leong Vai Tac, has admitted that the city’s casino earnings might be negatively affected by the new technology, as it might have some influence on visitor behaviour, particularly regarding their spending in casinos. Mr Leong also confirmed that the primary phase of the scheme would cover ATMs in or near casinos.
In his Tuesday comments, Mr Lui said casino operators in Macau needed to “embrace” the regulatory changes being introduced to the market.
“If you don’t really embrace the change, you shouldn’t be in Macau because it is very clear [that] what the [Chinese] central government wants and the [Macau] government wants is to have more regulation, is to have more transparency in the industry. They want to see a more healthy … entertainment industry,” he said.
“We are all for it. This is the way we feel comfortable,” Mr Lui added.
The Macau government has been in recent years tightening regulation covering several areas connected to casino gaming. These include a closer monitoring of financial accounts of junket operators and new rules banning use of telephones by gamblers while at the city’s gaming tables.
Eye on Japan
Galaxy Entertainment is among the many casino operators that have recently stated their interest in a casino licence in Japan. Mr Lui said he had no indication that being a Chinese company could hurt Galaxy Entertainment’s aspirations of winning a casino licence in Japan, despite heightened political tensions between the two countries.
The executive said the casino licence granting process was a “commercial” decision. Mr Lui said he expected decision makers in Japan to consider several factors – not just the size of the proposed investment – while assessing casino licence bids.
“Galaxy has one of the strongest balance sheets in the industry in the world. But having said that, I still think there are many other factors such as responsible gaming in which we have to do well to make sure that we win the heart of the Japanese government,” he added.
The Galaxy Entertainment deputy chairman also noted that operators needed to get more information first before being able to come up with proposals for casino resorts in Japan.
“It is a little bit too early for us to say too much now because we don’t know the details,” Mr Lui said. “Once we have that, I am sure that we should be able to estimate how much money is needed to be successful [in Japan].”
Legislation making casino gambling legal in that country came officially into effect on December 26.
Casino legalisation in Japan is a two-statute process. After approval of the enabling bill legalising casino resorts at the conceptual level, a second piece of legislation – known as implementation bill – has now to be passed, detailing the specifics, including how casinos are administered and regulated.
Mr Lui noted that decision makers in Japan should understand the importance of gaming as a financial pillar to support non-gaming elements in a casino resort. “For an integrated resort to be successful, gaming is a major part of it; it is not the only part of it, but has to be a major part of it, because some of these non-gaming [segments] probably take time to mature,” he said.
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”Continued negative coverage of the Abe administration, coupled with political losses for the Liberal Democratic Party ... may reduce support for the gaming agenda, which already has only limited public support”
Analyst at brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein