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MACAU BUSINESS


Macau is doing well in the prevention of cases in this new


corona virus situation, but it’s not up to us alone. Above all, we need Mainland China’s situation to improve, so that their tourists may come here. That’s the most important thing.


When the SARS crisis hit the economy, telephone betting was allowed to offset the consequences of that crisis, allowing more money to roll in. Taking that crisis and the need to diversify the industry, some industry groups are lobbying for online gaming. Do you think that will happen any time soon? P. M.C. - I can share my personal opinion on this topic, since I’m not DICJ’s director anymore. We faced many problems like money laundering and cheating. I remember that, when I was appointed, we issued an instruction that forbade people from using their phones near the gaming tables. That was in May 2016, two days before the interim review on the gaming industry was published. It was a very important decision and the entire government was involved. After that happened, the new law that regulated the entrance and permanence inside casinos, prohibited casino workers from entering casinos during their leisure times and also forbade phone use near gaming areas. So, it was no longer just an instruction, but a legal norm. I believe it was a good development. Currently, we are facing difficulties that might be temporary. Sooner or later, the pandemic will end. At this stage, I don’t think it’s necessary to change something that will build up and that entails a high risk of certain irregularities. I think it’s a door we should not open.


“The general feeling is that we should have diversification in the local economy and within the gaming sector itself”


What is the extent of side betting? Do you have any way of knowing? Over the years, we heard allegations that side betting involved enormous amounts of money. What have you found about this? P. M.C. - Side betting is a criminal offense, so we require the intervention of the police department. If memory serves me well, the pertinent law is 8/96/M, about illegal gambling. It clearly says that gambling in an illegal place is illegal gambling, which means that it’s illegal to use the results from a legal table for a side betting. We always paid a lot of attention to this issue but, as you know, it was not our specific competence, because it’s a criminal offense. Also, it was not easy to find out about it, because we just did not have enough staff to keep an eye on everyone gambling.


You took office in late 2015 and, a few months before, we had the Dore scandal. When you took over, you still had to handle this. Are we free from these large-scale frauds ever happening again? How are we better protected against it? P. M.C. - Not an easy question. One of the reasons why we reduced the number of junkets, was because some junkets were not really operating, but using their licenses to carry out illegal practices. Every year, we conduct many audits of the junkets’


operations. We can’t say that every single risk has been eliminated, but it did not happen again since then and that is a good sign. The junkets treasure a lot their licenses and they’ll try to do something safer.


That particular case highlighted an important question, which was the co-responsibility of the casinos in the bets. If that was ever proven in court, it would open a real wasps’ nest. As far as you know, is that situation in the past or anything lingering until today? P. M.C. - As far as I know, there are still more than ten cases in court. A few reached the second instance court already and, in one case, the court decided that the concessionaire is also responsible. There is now an appeal pending in the Court of Final Appeal. We don’t have a decision yet, but this case will be very important for the whole sector. If the concessionaire is found to be responsible, they will be very careful regarding the junkets and, in addition, the relationship with the junkets will also change. It all depends on the decision of the Court of Final Appeal.


That would raise other questions regarding the relationship between the concessionaires and the junkets, because some of the concessionaires don’t even enter the physical space provided to the junkets inside the casinos. How is any control possible under such circumstances? P. M.C. - Well, if the license is yours, the problem is yours. You have to find a way to control, according to the contract between the junket and the concessionaire. So, if one day, the court decides that the concessionaire is also responsible, the gaming operator will have to be more careful when selecting the junket or they’ll have to manage VIP gaming by themselves.


One can argue that it’s also a good reason for the government and the regulator to do better. To increase the transparency of the regulatory legislation and prevent these kinds of situations that, ultimately, affect the entire image of Macau. P. M.C. - Exactly. There’s not a lot more I can tell you about the new laws, but I would like people to know that the new legislation about junket promoters includes a specific type of criminal offense to handle this kind of situations. The illegal raising of funds by junkets, which is more serious than the illegal raise of funds in the general financial system.


Is that a new chapter in the new law? P. M.C. - Yes, in the proposed draft for the new law.


Despite the consolidation and transformation that we are witnessing in the junket industry, the existing perception is that junkets are still too powerful, when compared to the other players in the gaming industry, including the concessionaires. Is that the case? P. M.C. - I think there is a reason for the existence of junkets and concessionaires are not stupid. They sign a contract with a junket, because they feel they have a need that only a junket can satisfy. It’s the market working and we operate in a free economy. As long as no one is committing any irregularities, the watchdog is fine with it.


AUGUST 2020 21


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