It is a rough figure, but so far the only available: phone betting may account for 10 percent of overall Macau VIP casino gross gaming revenue, estimates Tony Tong (pictured), principal investment director of junket operator Hengsheng Group.
VIP casino gross gaming revenue in Macau hit MOP238.5 billion (US$29.9 billion) last year. Mr Tong’s estimate would mean phone betting accounted for almost MOP24 billion of that amount. Overall casino gross gaming for last year was MOP360.7 billion.
This type of proxy betting takes place regularly at VIP rooms in Macau, Mr Tong told a conference session at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Asia 2014, which ended today. Clients outside of Macau phone a junket agent who places the bet on their behalf and then relays the game outcome to the client, also over the phone.
The customer may authorise the agent to use funds of a personal account, if it has one with that junket operator. But most of the times bets are placed using the agent’s account, Mr Tong said.
He said phone betting is not illegal in Macau. Mr Tong said the gaming regulator is aware it is happening, but does not oppose it as long as no video streaming is involved.
He said phone betting serves players for whom, for one reason or another, coming to Macau is inconvenient – most of the cases is due to visa restrictions. Mr Tong said phone betting works and is big in Macau’s VIP rooms because players “trust the integrity of the casino system”.
Mr Tong admitted phone betting makes it easier for side betting to occur because agents may want to earn more. But he said side betting has risks for players, including having enough guarantees they are paid in case of a win.
Side betting means agents taking bets “off the table”, and away from inclusion in casino concessionaires’ gross gaming revenue. For example, the agent and the player may agree that while play against the house is denominated and recorded in Hong Kong dollars, they will side bet as if that play had been in U.S. dollars. The agent assumes the operational risk or expense of the house in case the player wins, and collects the money in case he or she loses.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China