Photo by NG+ Media

Govt being “evasive” and “ambiguous” about the fate of junket sector – Rep

A veteran Macau junket investor and representative lamented that the government is holding an “ambiguous” stance in regards to questions about the future of the segment and whether they could maintain legal status in the SAR.

Luiz Lam Kai Kuong made such remarks today (Wednesday) in response to the high-profile arrest of junket boss Alvin Chau Cheok Wa, as well as recent reports that some gaming operators in the city would cease cooperation with junket operators before the end of 2021.

“The government has so far not provided any concrete answers about what is happening and what is going to happen,” Lam told MNA. “It has left everyone — including both gaming operators and us [junket operators] — in confusion and fear.”

Locally licensed junket operator Sun City Gaming Promotion Company Limited (SCGPCL) — the major gaming arm of Suncity Group, which was often referred to as the city’s largest junket operator by analysts — announced last Friday it had officially ceased operation, following the closure of all its VIP rooms in Macau in December and the pre-trial detention of its boss, Alvin Chau, here over alleged charges of money laundering and running illicit gambling activities.

Amid the latest development of the sector, it has also been reported that at least three local gaming operators — Wynn Macau, Sands China and Melco Resorts — were planning to close all their VIP rooms run by junkets before the end of this month. On the other hand, SJM Resorts and Galaxy Entertainment Group (GEG) are believed to maintain their current cooperation agreements with junket operators for now.

Enquired by the local media on a public occasion on Monday about the latest development of the junket sector, Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai Nong only said the city is facing challenges but the local gaming industry remains committed to the “healthy and sustainable development”.

Acknowledging the closure of SCGPCL and some other VIP rooms in the city would impact the local employment, the top official only added on Monday everyone should have faith in overcoming challenges.

“Come clean”

“What the government should do is to come clean about what junket operators are allowed to do and what activities are deemed illegal,” Lam said today. “The government now is just being evasive and ambiguous.”

“With their licenses up for renewal [in June 2022], as well as the dismal performance of the VIP sector in the past two years over the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s not difficult to understand why some gaming operators have decided to cease operation with junket operators to just be safe,” he continued.

Meanwhile, the local licenses of junket operators, or also known as “gaming promoters” in official terms, are assessed and renewed each year by the authorities with an updated list published by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) every January.

The latest figures from DICJ show there were only 85 licensed gaming promoters here in January 2021, declining by 10.5 per cent year-on-year and extending the annual losing streak to the eighth consecutive year from the peak of 235 licensed junkets in 2013.

Asked about whether the sector is worried that no license would be approved next year, Lam said: “We don’t know what we could expect. Even though we have our licenses renewed, what’s the point of having a license if no gaming operators would cooperate with us.”

“I don’t want to make any speculation on whether the authorities want to put an end to the junket model here,” he said. “But it’s certain that they are making our life more and more difficult.”