Boosting the region’s regulator
The Macau authorities are looking to make numerous changes to increase the supervision of casino operators, including shaking up the region’s gaming regulator. The number of gaming inspectors is more than doubling and many departments are also undergoing restructuring in the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.
total number of active inspectors will rise from 192 to 459
Macau’s Executive Council, which advises the region’s chief executive, has announced the proposals that will drive internal changes at the gaming regulator. The total number of active inspectors will rise from 192 to 459, while there will also be new internal director-level job created at the regulator. A key reason behind the creation of the new role is to help coordinate the bureau’s divisions.
In a statement on Friday, the council said that these new changes will go into effect as soon as the city’s official gazette publishes them. According to local media, this could happen in the next few weeks. Executive Council spokesperson André Cheong Weng Chon said that the new amendments should help to enhance “the strength of regulation.”
Upcoming license expiration
These new changes to the Macau gambling sector come not long before major casino licenses in the region expire. Galaxy Entertainment, Melco Resorts, SJM Holdings, MGM China, Wynn Macau, and Sands China will have to reapply to get new gaming concessions. Their current arrangements are set to expire in June 2022.
The Macau authorities do have the ability to enact a one-time license extension which would allow the permits to stay active for up to five years. This would be possible “under a justified decision of the Macau chief executive.”
authorities have been going after illegal cash transfers and underground lending
As Macau is a special administrative region of China, the Chinese authorities have been cracking down on any illicit flows of capital from the mainland to the gambling hub in recent years. In particular, the authorities have been going after illegal cash transfers and underground lending.
A slow recovery
Macau as a whole has also been struggling since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While casinos only shut down for 15 days in February 2020 before reopening, significant travel restrictions were in place. This meant that visitor numbers were at rock bottom lows for some time.
Certain COVID-19 restrictions are still in place on travelers from particular regions following recent outbreaks in the likes of Guangdong province and Hong Kong.
Gaming revenues in Macau have been starting to rise over the past few months, but they are still significantly below pre-pandemic levels. For the first five months of 2021, gross gaming revenue was 66% lower than the same period in 2019. Analysts also expect that the emergence of more COVID-19 cases across China could derail the recovery over the coming months.