Early 2023 witnessed the lifting of the travel and border restrictions adopted to combat the COVID-19 pandemic which severely impacted the Macau gaming industry for the preceding three years. The eagerly expected reopen of Macau’s borders set in motion the recovery trajectory that the industry is presently experiencing. While visitation and gross gaming revenue may still lag pre-pandemic levels, Macau is poised to close 2023 having regained its position as the most successful gaming destination in the world.
For the six gaming concessionaires licensed to operate in Macau, the year 2023 marks a reset, in more ways than one. Each of the six incumbent operators was granted a new ten-year concession contract, valid from 1 January 2023, awarded by the Macau government following the public tender conducted throughout the second half of 2022.
The new concessions came to life, however, in a changed regulatory environment, which brought along an enhanced set of obligations for the gaming concessionaires, including new investment commitments, particularly in non-gaming amenities and attractions. The policy changes introduced include a notable concern with diversification from gaming, together with a policy drive to attract visitors from markets other than Mainland China.
The post-pandemic period has shown, at the same time, certain fundamental market-shifts, including the near-total disappearance of the traditional junket industry, and the growing importance of the premium mass segment, a key driver of the recovery in course.
The first day of January 2023 marked the initial term of the six new concession contracts awarded at the outcome of the 2022 public tender. Ahead of the tender, or in close connection with it, the Macau government implemented several legislative initiatives that reshaped the legal framework governing the casino gaming industry.
The Macau Gaming Law (Law 16/2001), which had been mostly left unchanged since its original enactment in 2001, was substantially amended. The Amendment to the Gaming Law (Law 7/2022), published in the official gazette on 22 June 2022, entered into force the following day. A consolidated version of the Macau Gaming Law (as amended) was fully republished pursuant to the Dispatch of the Chief Executive 121/2022, published in the official gazette on 18 July 2022.
The amended Macau Gaming Law sets out new policy goals for the industry, addresses concerns raised at the national level with matters such as national security and cross-border capital flows, and introduces a series of new provisions aimed at regulating the size and development of the industry – most notably, prohibition of sub-concessions, limitations on the number of tables and slots, mandatory junket exclusivity to one concessionaire, phasing out of the satellite casinos, and prohibition of revenue share with third parties.
The Public Tender Regulation for the award of casino concession contracts (Regulation 26/2001), initially enacted for the 2001 public tender, was also amended. Regulation 28/2022 (the Amendment to the Public Tender Regulation), published in the official gazette on 5 July 2022, entered into force the following day. The amended Public Tender Regulation paved the way for the opening of the 2022 public tender.
The 2022 legislative initiatives further included the enactment of a separate law, in addition to the Macau Gaming Law and the Public Tender Regulation, entitled the “Legal Framework for Operating Games of Chance in Casinos” (Law 16/2022). Law 16/2022 consolidates, amends, and newly adopts provisions governing the activity of those involved in the operation of casino games of chance, including concessionaires, gaming promoters (also known as “junkets”, formerly subject to the provisions of Administrative Regulation 6/2002, now revoked), collaborators (sub-agents), and casino management companies. It also includes provisions addressing the joint and several liability of casino concessionaires for the compliance of certain obligations by gaming promoters and other industry players.
With the purpose of implementing Law 16/2022, the Macau government enacted Administrative Regulation 55/2022, which lays down provisions governing in more detail the licensing process for junkets and the authorisation process for the engagement of collaborators and of management companies (including provisions relating to the probity review procedures such entities are subject to).
Other ancillary acts or regulations were adopted as a sequence or in complement to the key initiatives described above. For example:
On 19 November 2021, the Macau Court of Final Appeal (TUI) issued a ruling, which confirmed the decision upheld by the Macau Second Instance Court (TSI) that a casino concessionaire is jointly liable for certain obligations of a gaming promoter or junket vis-à-vis a player.
Following this decision, in 2022, TUI issued similar rulings in several court cases related to the deposit of gaming chips, involving junkets and casino operators and determining that the casino operators are jointly and severally liable for certain activities performed by the gaming promoters in their casino’s premises. These decisions established an important legal precedent since they have determined the liability of a casino operator over the activities pursued by junkets.
The enactment of Law 16/2022 has provided legislative guidance on this topic, considering the controversy caused by said court decisions. Its Article 33 now provides explicitly the casino operator’s joint and several liability over the activities pursued by junkets and collaborators. However, liability may be excluded if the casino operator successfully demonstrates that it complied in a responsible manner with its supervision duties (having in consideration, for this purpose, the supervision mechanisms adopted and the preventative measures taken against illicit conduct). This new mechanism for exclusion of liability will potentially influence the direction of future court decisions in disputes of the same nature.
Another recent TSI ruling determined that the casino operators’ joint and several liability is subject to a three-year statute of limitations, as opposed to the general 15-year statute of limitations (the one that the junket’s primary responsibility is subject to, regardless). In the specific case in question, this period had elapsed by the time the lawsuit had been initially filed, leading to the exclusion of the casino operator’s liability. Casino operators had previously filed appeals against adverse court decisions on these grounds, but unsuccessfully. If the reasoning behind the TSI’s ruling is upheld, the same outcome is likely to be delivered in other cases.
There are no recent updates relevant to social gaming.
E-sports have been gaining a growing presence in Macau. Some existing gaming operators have partnered with third parties to organise e-sports events. Wagering in e-sports is not authorised.
There are no recent updates relevant to fantasy sports.
There are no recent updates relevant to skill gaming.
Blockchain and cryptocurrency technology are not specifically regulated in Macau. Consequently, there are no relevant recent legal trends.
Online gaming referred to as “interactive gaming” under the Gaming Law, can only be operated commercially by private entities that have entered into a concession contract with the Macau government to that effect.
However, the Macau government has never issued regulations governing the concession and operation of online gaming (and has not launched a tender to grant these concessions). Additionally, concessionaires of casino games of chance cannot operate interactive games.
The limitations listed are applicable to all forms of gaming identified in 3.2 Definition of Gambling.
The exclusive operator of horse racing wagering (Macau Horse Racing Company Limited, or MJC) and the current operator of sports betting (Sociedade de Lotarias e Apostas Mútuas de Macau, or SLOT) can offer online wagering limited to the land-based competitions they already offer.
The commercial operation of casino gambling in Macau is statutorily reserved for the Macau government and may only be pursued by privately owned entities that have been granted a concession to that effect, by entering into a contract with the Macau government.
Macau allows betting on horse races. This activity may only be operated by entities that have been previously granted a concession to that effect. Their licensing and operations are governed by several executive orders issued by the CE and by the relevant concession contract. This activity has been historically carried out on an exclusive basis by only one operator, the MJC.
Macau also allows the placing of bets in sports competitions, namely in football (soccer) and basketball. Sports betting has been historically undertaken on an exclusive basis by only one operator, SLOT. However, SLOT’s concession contract was amended, and since 1 June 2021 the conducting of sports betting operations is no longer exclusive.
Poker qualifies as a game of chance (see the “Casino” section below). The following are the current authorised forms of poker:
Bingo is not currently approved as a game of chance and cannot be offered in Macau casinos or other gaming venues.
Games of chance (either table games or electronic gaming-machines) may only be carried out at casinos (except in the cases described in 5.1 Premises Licensing). Games of chance are defined as those in which the outcome is contingent, as it depends exclusively or predominantly on the player’s luck. A casino concessionaire may only offer games of chance that have been approved by the SEF. The following is the current list of games of chance that may be offered in Macau casinos:
An electronic gaming machine (EGM) is statutorily defined as a device (including the gaming programmes and associated software, the memory compartment, the random generator, and any means of gaming software storage) that is both:
All gaming machines and electronic table games (ETGs) must be authorised by the Gaming Inspection and Co-ordination Bureau, Macau (DICJ). They must also comply with the Macau published standards (including the EGM and ETG Technical Standards) and compliance must be certified by a recognised gaming testing laboratory. Only manufacturers or distributors previously licensed by the DICJ can supply or distribute gaming machines in Macau.
The operation of lotteries in Macau is permitted both in the form of instant lottery and in the form of a Chinese lottery, popularly known as “pacapio”. Instant lotteries are operated on a non-exclusive basis by SLOT. The Chinese lotteries are operated on an exclusive basis by Sociedade de Lotarias Wing Hing, Limitada (“Wing Hing”).
The main legislation regulating land-based gaming in Macau is the Macau Gaming Law (Law 16/2001, as amended by Law 7/2022), which sets out the legal framework for the commercial operation of a variety of gaming products, with a particular focus on the commercial operation of casino games of chance. Furthermore, the “Legal Framework for Operating Games of Chance in Casinos” (Law 16/2022), which governs the activity of those involved in the operation of casino games of chance, including concessionaires, gaming promoters (also known as “junkets”), collaborators (sub-agents), and casino management companies.
Other relevant legislation applicable to land-based gaming includes:
In addition, the DICJ issues instructions (including some that are not publicly available) that are binding on the entities that it supervises, including:
The DICJ’s relevant instructions include those addressing:
Gambling is generally defined by reference to the play of games of chance. These are defined as those games of chance in which the outcome is contingent, as it depends exclusively or predominantly on a player’s luck.
Statutory definitions of other forms of gambling include the following.
There is no statutory definition of land-based gambling. Generally, land-based gambling refers to the commercial operation of casino games of chance (either in the form of table games or electronic gaming machines) or to other legal forms of gaming in which players physically place their bets or wagers in locations previously authorised for this purpose. See 5.1 Premises Licensing.
Online gambling is referred to as “interactive gaming” and defined as the play of games of chance that meet the following criteria:
The Illegal Gaming Law (Law 8/96/M) criminalises the unlicensed supply of games of chance. It prohibits all forms of operation, promotion, or assistance of gaming by unlicensed entities or individuals, or outside the areas that have been approved as casinos or gaming areas, as well as fraudulent gaming in approved areas and the extension of credit to players by unlicensed entities or individuals.
Depending on the nature of the crime, penalties can range from fines to imprisonment for up to eight years. Accessory penalties include prohibition from entering casinos, apprehension, and reversion to Macau of all gaming materials and monies or items of value used in illegal gaming. The Illegal Gaming Law qualifies certain actions and behaviours as misdemeanours, the penalties for which are pecuniary fines that range from MOP300 to MOP10,000 (about USD40 and USD1,240, respectively). Law 9/96/M criminalises offences related to animal races. Depending on the specific crime, penalties vary from fines to imprisonment for up to three years.
There is currently a bill under discussion at the Macau Legislative Assembly entitled the “Law Governing Concession of Credit for Gaming” (“the Bill”).
The Bill aims to replace Law 5/2004 and regulate, in its place, the terms and conditions applicable to the activity of concession of credit for gaming – allowed exclusively to concessionaires, or to junkets pursuant to an authorisation granted by the concessionaires.
The Bill is expected to be enacted before the end of 2023.
The Illegal Gambling Law (Law 8/96/M), which criminalises the unlicensed supply of gambling, is also expected to be amended in the near future.
The CE is the authority that is ultimately responsible for:
The CE is assisted by the Specialised Commission for the Gambling Sector, which is the body responsible for studying the development of the gaming sector and for providing support to the CE in defining gaming policy and regulation and in proposing supervisory measures and other guidelines for the gaming sector.
DICJ is the regulatory body responsible for the oversight of all forms of permitted gambling. It operates under the SEF. DICJ is responsible for the regulation, supervision, and co-ordination of all gambling operations and activities. It is also responsible for assisting in defining and executing economic policies for the gambling industry.
Macau adopts a prescriptive approach to regulation. However, there are specific guidelines issued by the DICJ that adopt a more risk-based approach.
For recent and forthcoming changes, see 1.1 Current Outlook and Recent Changes.
The commercial operation of gambling in Macau is statutorily reserved for the Macau government. To offer any of the legally allowed gambling products in Macau, a private entity must be granted a concession to that effect, by entering a contract with the Macau government.
A concession for the operation of games of chance in a casino may only be awarded following a public tender launched by the CE. In 2022, a public tender was held to award six new ten-year casino gaming concession contracts.
Betting on football (soccer) and basketball is offered, on a non-exclusive basis, by only one operator, SLOT.
Horse Race Betting
Betting on horse races is offered on an exclusive basis by the MJC.
The operation of lotteries in Macau is permitted both in the form of instant lottery and in the form of a Chinese lottery, popularly known as “pacapio”. Instant lotteries are operated on a non-exclusive basis by SLOT. The Chinese lotteries are operated on an exclusive basis by Wing Hing.
Licences are not readily available in Macau. In order to operate any of the legally allowed gaming activities in Macau, an entity must be awarded a concession contract.
A concession for the operation of games of chance in a casino may only be awarded following a public tender launched by the CE. In 2022, a public tender was held to award six new ten-year casino gaming concession contracts, commencing on 1 January 2023 and ending on 31 December 2032.
Pari-mutuel betting and Chinese lotteries are permitted in exclusivity to the MJC and Wing Hing concession contracts. Sports betting is granted on a non-exclusive basis by means of a concession contract with SLOT.
In accordance with the Amendment to the Gaming Law, the maximum duration for casino concession contracts has decreased from 20 years to ten years. The maximum duration of a concession may be extended beyond the ten-year term, one or more times, for a maximum of three years. An extension may only be granted under exceptional circumstances under a justified decision of the CE.
The concession contract for SLOT was renewed in 2021 for a period of three years, ending on 5 June 2024. The MJC concession contract was renewed in 2018 and will end on 31 August 2042. The concession contract for the operation of the Chinese lotteries has been renewed on an annual basis since 2010 with the current term ending on 31 December 2023.
Only joint-stock companies (sociedades anónimas) incorporated under the laws of Macau, with a minimum share capital of MOP5 billion (approximately USD620 million) are eligible for the award of a casino concession contract. At least 15% of the share capital of a casino concessionaire must be held by its managing director (administrador-delegado), who must be a permanent resident of Macau.
A casino concession contract may only be granted to a private entity following a public tender process.
A tender commission, appointed by the CE, is responsible for overseeing the public tender and to produce the final report that will support the CE’s decision on the award of the concession contracts.
The Public Tender Regulation, the tender opening dispatch (issued by the CE) and the tender programme are the key documents that define, amongst others:
In the context of an application, the bidding company, its directors, and key employees, as well as the companies or individuals holding 5% or more of its share capital, are subject to a suitability investigation aimed at assessing their experience, reputation, probity, and financial soundness.
According to the tender programme adopted for the last public tender held (2022), the awarding criteria were the following.
There is no legally specified length for the public tender procedure. The 2022 public tender lasted approximately four months, from the Macau government’s announcement of the opening of the public tender until the announcement of the award of the gaming concessions on 25 November 2022.
The bidders had to provide a security deposit for admission to tender in the minimum amount of MOP10 million (about USD1.24 million). The costs incurred in the probity check and financial background investigations required during the bidding process will be deducted from the security deposit.
Games of Chance
Casino concessionaires are subject to the payment of an annual premium comprising a fixed and a variable portion. The fixed portion is set in the respective concession contracts. The variable portion is set in respect of each concessionaire taking into consideration the number of casinos it operates and its location, the number of tables and of gaming machines and the types of games operated, and other relevant criteria that the Macau government may determine. According to the CE Dispatch 161/2022, the total number of gaming tables and gaming machines in Macau will be limited to 6,000 and 12,000 respectively.
In addition to the annual premium, the latest amendment to the Gaming Law introduced a special premium, based on a minimum annual revenue per each gaming table and each slot machine set at MOP7 million and MOP300,000 respectively (about USD865,790 and USD37,120 respectively), as determined by CE Dispatch 162/2022. The special premium is payable if the average annual gross revenue of a concessionaire per gaming table and per slot machine (calculated based on its maximum number of authorised tables and slots) falls below the minimum annual revenue determined by the CE. The amount of the special premium is the difference between the two figures. Effectively, this amendment establishes a mandatory revenue floor and, consequently, a minimum tax due by each concessionaire.
The annual fee payable by the instant lottery’s operator is levied as a percentage of the total annual revenue with a minimum annual amount of MOP1 million calculated as follows:
The sports betting operator must pay a minimum annual fee of MOP6 million calculated as follows:
The operator of Chinese Lotteries must pay:
The operator of horse race wagering must pay an annual fixed amount of MOP15 million and a variable amount of tax levied on the total annual amount of the bets registered in the “totaliser” calculated as follows:
The operation of casino games of chance may only take place within premises authorised as casinos by the CE, after hearing the Specialised Commission for the Gaming Sector. There are some exceptions to this rule, notably the slot-machine parlours known as “Mocha Clubs”.
The Gaming Law defines a “casino” as a place authorised by the CE for gambling purposes. For this effect, the CE will take into consideration criteria such as the urban planning of Macau and its impact to the community to classify and authorise any given premises as a casino. These specific places may be located within a resort, hotel or other multipurpose location. However, there are some specific conditions under which gaming may be permitted outside casinos, for example, in vessels, aircrafts, and at the Macau International Airport.
The operation of gaming tables and machines within casinos are limited to the areas for gambling. Within those gambling areas there is the possibility of reserving sections for certain players only.
See 1.1 Current Outlook and Recent Changes.
Issues around B2C licences do not arise in Macau as no concessions for online gaming have been granted; see 2.1 Online.
Issues around B2B licences do not arise in Macau as no concessions for online gaming have been granted; see 2.1 Online.
Issues around the regulation of affiliates do not arise in Macau as no concessions for online gaming have been granted; see 2.1 Online.
Issues around the licensing and regulatory requirements applying to white-label providers do not arise in Macau as no concessions for online gaming have been granted; see 2.1 Online.
There are no expected changes to the online gaming regime in Macau.
Issues around technical measures to protect consumers from unlicensed operators do not arise in Macau as no concessions for online gaming have been granted; see 2.1 Online.
The Gaming Participation Law established the legal framework of the conditions for entering, working in, and playing at a casino, by:
It also prescribes that the employees of a casino concessionaire, when off duty, are prevented from entering casinos. This restriction extends to certain employees not directly involved with gaming operations, such as food and beverage outlet workers, and cleaning and surveillance personnel.
Pursuant to the Amendment to the Gaming Law and to the DICJ Instruction adopted specifically with respect to the topic, casino concessionaires must develop their own responsible gaming programme and periodically revise and improve it. These responsible gaming programmes must include measures to promote responsible gaming behaviours, to assure compliance with exclusion measures, to set up a working group to provide support to problem gamblers, and to promote training and support to employees.
Casino concessionaires must set up adequate control procedures to ensure compliance with the statutory restrictions on participation, while the DICJ has implemented self-exclusion and third-party exclusion procedures.
The current anti-money laundering regime was introduced by Law 2/2006 (amended by Law 3/2017) and further complemented by Regulation 7/2006 (amended by Regulation 17/2017). This legislation is further complemented by DICJ Instruction 1/2016 (subsequently amended by DICJ Instruction 1/2019).
The Amendment to the Gaming Law introduced as a policy goal that the operation of casino gaming is conducted in compliance with the policies and mechanisms for curbing illegal cross-border capital flows and for preventing money laundering and terrorism financing. This goal directly addresses the concerns, expressed at National level, with the outbound flow of funds for gaming purposes, in breach of Mainland China’s capital controls (estimated at USD150 billion a year), and the raise of such concerns to a level of national security. New regulations and AML guidelines are expected to achieve this goal.
Under the applicable anti-money laundering regulations, the casino concessionaires, gaming promoters, and other gaming concessionaires must comply with a comprehensive set of obligations aimed at preventing money laundering activities within the gaming sector. These include:
The Macau Financial Intelligence Office is the entity responsible for receiving and processing reports on cash transactions and suspicious transactions. The DICJ is responsible for supervising and enforcing the gaming industry’s compliance with its anti-money laundering obligations.
Macau Economic Services Bureau (MES) is the government agency responsible for supervising and enforcing the Advertisement Law.
“Advertisement” is defined as any marketing activity aimed at promoting the acquisition of goods or services by the public.
In Macau, the Advertising Law (Law 7/89/M) introduced the key legal provisions regulating gambling advertising. The Advertising Law was further complemented by a set of interpretative instructions issued by the MES in respect of the advertisement of gaming.
The Advertising Law prohibits any type of marketing activity that depicts games of chance or their play as the essential elements of the advertisement. In addition, casino concessionaires may only publicise any activities related to the play of games of chance within the gaming areas of casinos.
The prohibition of gaming advertising is complemented by a set of instructions issued by the MES. These instructions are interpretative of the scope and extent of the prohibition. They detail the types of advertising activities that are considered to fall under the prohibition by the MES and provide practical examples of such activities. The prohibition applies to all types of marketing conducted in Macau and encompasses games of chance played both offline and online. However, it does not appear to cover other forms of gambling, such as sports betting and lotteries.
Advertising Law stipulates monetary fines ranging between MOP2,000 and MOP12,000 for individuals (about USD250 and USD1,500) and MOP5,000 and MOP28,000 for corporations (about USD620 and USD3,500).
No information has been provided in this jurisdiction.
A casino concessionaire or a shareholder holding 5% or more of its share capital (a “Qualified Shareholder”) must obtain a pre-authorisation from the SEF for the following:
Furthermore, cross-shareholdings are subject to statutory limitations. A casino concessionaire, as well as a Qualified Shareholder, are prohibited from directly holding any shares of another casino concessionaire, and from indirectly holding 5% or more of the share capital of another casino concessionaire.
A casino concessionaire must also inform DICJ whenever any of its Qualified Shareholders: (i) is, or becomes, publicly listed; and (ii) is, or will be, operating casino games of chance in another jurisdiction.
See 10.1 Disclosure Requirements.
See 10.1 Disclosure Requirements.
The DICJ is the body responsible for the enforcement of laws and regulations governing the activities of gaming concessionaires. In performing such duties, DICJ has public authority powers and may request the support of police agencies and other government bodies. DICJ may open investigations, present charges and apply sanctions to gaming concessionaires, casino management companies, gaming promoters, and other entities and individuals under its supervision, in respect of breaches of their legal and regulatory obligations, including breaches of DICJ’s own instructions and guidelines.
The DICJ may apply monetary fines as well as other ancillary sanctions, such as the temporary closure of gaming areas. DICJ’s decisions are appealable to the SEF. The powers to suspend, terminate, or take over (temporarily or definitively) a gaming concession, including by breach of law or contract, lie solely with the CE.
The following are DICJ key duties and powers:
The DICJ’s director may apply financial penalties as well as other ancillary sanctions, such as the temporary closure of gaming areas. DICJ’s decisions are appealable to the SEF. The powers to suspend, terminate, or take over (temporarily or definitively) a gaming concession, including by breach of law or contract, lie solely with the CE.
Financial penalties range between MOP100,000 (approximately USD12,000) and MOP5 million (approximately USD618,000). The specific amount of the penalty is determined by the type of infringement, its materiality, the damages resulting from the infringement, the culpability of the violator, and the benefits it attained (taking into account its economic situation and prior behaviour).
There are no sanctions personal in nature. Pursuant to the Amendment to the Gaming Law, a Qualified Shareholder of a casino concessionaire is jointly liable for the payment of financial penalties applied to a casino concessionaire in respect of its gaming activities.
Casino concessionaires are subject to a special gaming tax, levied over their gross gaming revenue at a rate of 35%. In addition, casino concessionaires are also subject to the following mandatory contributions:
The Macau government may, on request, reduce or waive the aforesaid mandatory contributions pursuant to a special incentive mechanism based on the concessionaire’s ability to attract patrons from overseas markets (ie, markets other than the People’s Republic of China), pursuant to Regulation 54/2022.
Although casino concessionaires are legally required to pay profit tax (known locally as complementary tax), they have historically been exempted from paying it under CE orders issued under the Gaming Law.
The concessionaires are also subject to the payment of an annual premium and special premium. For more details, please see 4.10 Ongoing Annual Fees.
For expected sector developments, see 1.1 Current Outlook and Recent Changes. For changes in legislation, see 3.7 Recent or Forthcoming Legislative Changes.
Advancing Gaming and Gambling in Macau
The Macau gaming market has long been a global powerhouse, attracting millions of tourists and generating substantial revenue for the region. It is worth reminding the reader that only at the beginning of 2023 were all entry restrictions lifted with the market recovering significantly since then, with special emphasis since the beginning of the second quarter.
At the beginning of 2023, new concession contracts entered into force pursuant to the public tender of 2022. The incumbent concessionaires awarded with casino gaming concessions, MGM Grand Paradise, Galaxy Casino, Venetian Macau, Melco Resorts (Macau), Wynn Resorts (Macau), and SJM Resorts are now in full fledge to comply with the proposals submitted during the tender and with the concession contracts. The six casino gaming concessionaires operating in Macau’s gaming market have pledged a substantial investment of MOP118.8 billion (USD14.9 billion) over the course of their 10-year concession. Out of this total, MOP108.7 billion (USD13.6 billion) will be dedicated to developing foreign visitor markets and non-gaming projects, while MOP10.1 billion (USD1.26 billion) will be allocated specifically for gaming projects. This significant investment underscores the commitment of these concessionaires to diversify Macau’s tourism offerings and enhance its appeal beyond just gambling.
Overall, Macau’s Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) for the first half of 2023 has surged by 205% year-on-year, amounting to MOP80.14 billion (USD9.93 billion). This robust performance indicates a strong recovery for the Macau gaming market, reflecting positive trends and a rebound in visitor numbers.
When we look to the third quarter of 2023, the GGR has increased by 7%, reaching nearly 70% of pre-Covid levels. This indicates a strong recovery for the industry, reflecting positive trends and an uptick in visitor numbers.
The mass-market segment has particularly thrived, with an impressive 11% growth, achieving a remarkable 95% recovery compared to pre-pandemic levels. This surge in the mass-market segment highlights the resilience and appeal of Macau’s gaming offerings to a broader range of visitors.
In addition to the growth in GGR, the sector’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) may have reached USD1.7 billion in the third quarter, which demonstrates the industry’s financial strength and profitability, further solidifying Macau’s position as a leading global gaming destination.
Overall, these positive developments indicate a robust and promising outlook for Macau’s gaming market in the third quarter of 2023. The steady recovery in GGR, particularly in the mass-market segment, coupled with strong EBITDA figures, showcases the resilience and potential of the industry as it continues to rebound from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we look ahead to 2024, several trends and developments are expected to shape the industry, further solidifying Macau’s position as a premier destination for gambling and entertainment.
Macau’s government has been actively promoting the development of Macau as a world-class tourism destination. The integrated resorts (IRs) are part of this strategy that aims to diversify the region’s tourism offerings beyond gambling. In the next couple of years, we can expect to witness the completion of the expansion of the existing IR projects. These resorts will feature a mix of gaming facilities, luxury hotels, retail outlets, entertainment venues, and convention spaces, attracting a broader range of visitors and boosting non-gaming revenue, one of the goals of the government in line with the focus on non-gaming elements by the concessionaires.
The VIP gaming segment has traditionally been a significant driver of Macau’s gaming revenue. However, recent regulatory changes and geopolitical factors have impacted this segment. We may still witness a resurgence in the VIP market as travel restrictions ease and high-net-worth individuals resume their international travel. Macau’s operators will likely focus on enhancing their VIP offerings, providing personalised experiences, and strengthening relationships with key players to regain momentum in this segment, relying less on the gaming promoters and more on international marketing teams.
To reduce reliance on the VIP segment, Macau’s operators have been actively targeting the mass market. This trend is expected to continue in 2023, with operators diversifying their offerings to cater to a broader range of visitors. We can anticipate the introduction of more non-gaming attractions, family-friendly entertainment options, and affordable accommodation choices to attract a wider audience that will stay in Macau for more nights. Additionally, operators will likely invest in marketing campaigns to promote Macau as a destination for leisure and entertainment, beyond just gambling.
As the global focus on sustainability and responsible gaming intensifies, Macau’s gaming industry is also expected to prioritise these aspects. Responsible gaming duties played an important role during the tender after the changes to the Macau Gaming Law (Law 16/2002) introduced during 2022. In accordance with the law, concessionaires shall take into consideration the complexity associated with the operation of casino gaming activities, promoting actions and information within the scope of preventive awareness, developing codes of conduct, and disseminating best practices. It is also within their duties to present annually to the regulator (DICJ) a report of the enforcement of the responsible gaming promotion plans that may comprise stricter responsible gaming measures, including enhanced player protection programmes, self-exclusion options, and initiatives to combat problem gambling. Additionally, sustainability practices such as energy-efficient operations, waste management, and eco-friendly designs may gain prominence in the near future.
Moving forward, the Macau gaming industry will continue to monitor and adapt to changing circumstances, ensuring the satisfaction of visitors while striving for sustainable growth. The positive performance in the first three quarters 2023 provides optimism for the industry’s recovery and potential for continued success in the future.
Casino gaming concessionaires shall align with the government plans for the diversification of the economy, aiming to attract foreign patrons with a strategy to achieve the goal including the non-gaming attractions like entertainment shows, cultural events, shopping experiences, and fine dining to appeal to a broader audience. Marketing campaigns highlight Macau’s unique cultural blend and vibrant experience. VIP programmes and services catering to high-net-worth international individuals should also be part of the plans, offering personalised experiences and exclusive gaming areas.
In light of this, effective from 1 January 2023, a new regulation (Administrative Regulation 54/2022) has been implemented in Macau to outline the factors that will be considered for the reduction or exemption of the 5% contributions from the GGR as stipulated in the Macau Gaming Law. The factors to be evaluated include the expansion of foreign client markets by the casino gaming concessionaires and the negative impact of unforeseen events on the Macau economy and the operation of the concessionaires. The regulation also clarifies that “foreign markets” clients are those who visit Macau for tourism or trading purposes and hold travel documents issued by countries or regions outside of the People’s Republic China. The specific criteria for the reduction or exemption are established in Chief Executive Dispatch 216/2022, which focuses on calculating the GGR generated through the expansion of foreign client sources by the casino gaming concessionaires.
As to the legal landscape, for all aspects of the industry, Macau follows an administrative concession system, under which the government and private entities legally incorporated in Macau enter into a concession contract with Macau SAR. This is the case for the operation of casino games, lotteries (Chinese and sports lotteries), and pari-mutuel (horse racing and greyhound).
It is worth mentioning that despite the commitments of the horse racing concessionaire and the current concession contract, which is effective until 2042, there are indications that 2023 might mark the final year of horse races in Macau. This possibility arises due to various factors and considerations that have emerged during 2023. One significant factor is the declining popularity of horse racing as a form of entertainment and betting activity in Macau. The industry has faced challenges in attracting a younger demographic and competing with other forms of entertainment and gaming options available in the region. This decline in interest has led to a decrease in attendance and wagering, which may make it financially unsustainable to continue operating horse races.
While the current concession contract for horse racing in Macau extends until 2042, the activity faces challenges that may lead to 2023 being the final year of horse races in the region. The aforesaid factors contribute to the uncertainty surrounding the future of this traditional activity in Macau.
Regarding the legal and regulatory outlook for the Macau casino gaming market, there are expectations for changes in both the credit for gaming law and the illegal gambling law.
Specifically, a new credit for casino gaming law is pending final approval in second reading and is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2024.
Proposed changes to the credit for casino gaming law in Macau aim to regulate and enhance the granting of credit within the gaming industry. The changes include requirements for gaming promoters to have contracts with concessionaires, excluding management companies from extending credit. New duties and consequences for credit grantors are introduced to promote responsible lending practices. General provisions related to supervision, authority powers, precautionary measures, and sanctions are also included.
When effective, the new law aims to ensure transparency, fairness, and responsible practices in the extension of credit for casino gaming in Macau.
On 11 December 2023, it was announced that the Macau Executive Council has concluded discussions on the Draft Law Proposal on Combating Illegal Gambling. The rationale behind this draft law is to enhance the legal framework for combating various criminal acts associated with illicit gambling. The existing law on illegal gambling has been in effect for over 20 years, prompting the need for a comprehensive revision. The draft law aligns with recently enacted gaming laws and the ongoing discussion on the “Legal Framework for the Granting of Credit for Casino Gambling”.
The main points of the draft law include clarifying the crime of “side betting” and incorporating it into the illegal operation of games of chance. It also addresses the issue of illegal online gambling by expressly prohibiting its operation, promotion, and organisation, regardless of the location of the computer systems involved. The draft law aims to standardise and co-ordinate statutory rules related to pari-mutuel betting and proposes allowing residential searches during specific hours for certain crimes.
To combat evasion and protect informants, the draft law introduces provisions for undercover agents and establishes a new protection regime for individuals who provide information or co-operate with the police. It also strengthens penalties for offences related to illicit gambling and improves corresponding criminal and procedural rules. Additionally, the draft law aims to enhance the sanctioning regime for administrative offences by increasing fines and improving related provisions.
The full content of the draft law was yet to be released at the date of writing, and it will undergo review by the Legislative Assembly.
In recent developments, the enforcement of justice within the gaming industry has taken significant strides. One notable case involved Alvin Chau, the former influential gaming promoter kingpin and CEO of Suncity Group. After his arrest in late 2021 on charges of organised crime and illegal gaming, Chau’s illicit bets, surpassing HKD823.7 billion, highlighted the extent of his illegal activities. In early 2023, the court reached a verdict, finding him guilty and imposing a substantial 18-year prison sentence. This decision was later confirmed by the Second Instance Court in mid-October, which, while acquitting him of fraud, increased the compensation to be paid to the SAR for money laundering and illicit gaming offences to nearly USD3.1 billion. It is important to note that the decision is still subject to appeal to the Last Instance Court.
Another prominent figure in the gaming industry, Levo Chan, CEO of Tak Chun Group, also faced legal consequences. Alongside other defendants, Chan received a 14-year prison sentence and was ordered to repay a significant sum of HKD553.4 million to Macau SAR and the affected gaming operators. Like the one involving Alvin Chau, the decision on this case is still subject to appeal.
The court’s decisive actions in these cases seems to send a clear message that illegal activities within the gaming industry will not be tolerated. These verdicts mark a significant step towards safeguarding the integrity of the industry and ensuring fair play for all stakeholders involved. By holding individuals accountable for their illicit actions, the enforcement of justice contributes to maintaining a transparent and lawful gaming environment in Macau.
In conclusion, the casino gaming industry in Macau is poised for significant developments over the next couple of years. The region’s casino gaming concessionaires and government are actively working to attract international clients through the development of integrated resorts, non-gaming attractions, targeted marketing campaigns, and exceptional VIP services, with strategies aiming to position Macau as a global gaming hub and entice a broader audience beyond traditional gambling enthusiasts.
Furthermore, commitment to collaboration with tourism boards and continuous promotion of the region as a premier gaming destination will contribute to attracting a wider audience and solidifying the region as a “world-class tourism destination”.
Looking ahead, the gaming industry can expect a comprehensive entertainment experience, strengthened regulatory measures, and a focus on responsible gaming practices. Macau’s efforts to diversify its offerings and cater to the evolving preferences of international clients will drive growth and maintain its position as a leading gaming destination in Asia. The amount of investment committed by the casino gaming operators during the tender of 2022 inked in the concession contracts will also play a very important role in achieving the objectives. The areas of investment that the concessionaires are abided to comprise, among others, conventions and exhibitions (MICE industry), entertainment shows, sporting events, culture and art, health and well-being, themed amusements, city of gastronomy, community, and maritime tourism.
As the next years unfold, it is anticipated that Macau will continue to innovate, adapt, and thrive in the dynamic landscape of the industry, cementing its status as a global powerhouse in the years to come.