Gaming operators to control expansion

Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Issue 842, Page 1 & 3
Word count: 997
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

At times when the Macau government started to report growth in gaming revenue almost a year after the financial crisis hit the world, the six local gaming operators decided to take the opportunity to control the industry scale by taking into account the limited resources of Macau.

The heads or senior executives from the six gaming concessionaires or sub-concessionaires held a closed door meeting at the World Trade Centre yesterday, which was chaired by Secretary of Economy and Finance Francis Tam Pak Yuen and director of the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau Manuel Neves.

Since Dr. Stanley Ho, president of the Chamber of Macau Gaming Operators, is still being hospitalised in Hong Kong, director of Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (SJM) Dr. Ambrose So was sent to attend yesterday’s meeting.

According to Secretary Tam after the meeting, the gaming revenue in August, September and the first 10 days of this month was “ideal”, adding that an increase was reported when compared to the same period of 2008.

“The gaming revenue for the third quarter of this year saw a double digit or some 10 percent of growth in contrast to the same quarter of last year,” he added.

However, the Secretary told the reporters the SAR government will retain the previous speculation of a single-digit negative growth in the overall GDP of 2009.

On the other hand, Secretary Tam said consensus was obtained among the six gaming operators regarding the direction of the industry’s future development.

In early this year when Macau started to feel the pain brought by the global economic downturn, some gaming companies introduced temporary cost control plans on their employees.

The Secretary said since it “has been felt” that the impact of the financial turmoil on Macau was minimising, and the tourism and entertainment industries saw signs of recovery recently, the gaming operators agreed that it is time to review the cost control plans and may lift the measures before the deadline.

The companies also unanimously promised to give local residents priority for employment over non locals especially when they open new properties in the future, as well as to offer local employees “sufficient opportunities” for promotion, Secretary Tam said.

“I didn’t hear any of the operators having lay-off plans, but they are happy to secure local workers’ employment rights as they feel the importance of corporate social responsibility,” the economy and finance secretary said.

“Some of the gaming companies may be able to resume the original remuneration of their staff prior to the deadline while some cannot. Yet the operators’ attitude today [yesterday] was positive and they all agreed that it’s time to review the [cost control] plans,” he added.

In addition, Secretary Tam said the six parties came to a consensus that the gaming industry could not be expanded endlessly without taking into consideration Macau’s very own resources.

The operators deemed that the government should continue to keep an eye on the industry scale and the government also promised to carry out a scientific study such as on the number of gaming tables in order to set regulations accordingly.

The Secretary said after opinions have been collected from society and the industry, it will be the right time to conclude the whole scientific research and then present concrete suggestions to regulate the scale of the gaming sector.

Slot machines, casinos’ entry limit

Secretary Tam told the gaming operators during the meeting in the next two to three months, the government will finish drafting an administrative regulation to reinforce management of slot machine establishments, as well as a bill concerning the age requirement to enter casinos.

He said that the administrative regulation will include relocating slot machine establishments from residential areas to either inside casinos or “traditional” commercial or tourism areas.

A transition period will be proposed so that the company will be given a deadline for the relocation. All expenses occur will be covered by the operator itself.

In regard to the bill the Secretary said it will be presented to the Legislative Assembly “in the next few months” for discussions.

The bill proposes to lift the minimum age to enter casinos to 21.

Secretary Tam said the current draft of the bill applies the age requirement on both players and staff members in casinos.

Yet, he added that a three-year transition period will be proposed so that existing employees under 21 years of age can still work there after the bill comes into effect.

“The government will look into the future supply of human resources, but if at the same time the gaming industry is going to scale down, there should be no problem in the balance and coordination within the human resources market,” Secretary Tam said.

“We’re not concerned at all about gaming companies not being able to hire people,” he added.

Venetian Parcels 5 & 6

The Secretary said he did not have any news regarding the resumption of the Parcels 5 & 6 construction projects on the Cotai Strip.

He said that the duration of the suspension “purely depends on the company’s development direction and actual condition”.

According to the sub-concession contract, the Venetian was only required to build a resort hotel on the Cotai Strip. Hence Secretary Tam said the commitment was already fulfilled and the Parcel 5 & 6 projects are beyond what the company had promised the government to do.

On the other hand, the Secretary said the government will closely monitor the execution of the 1.25 percent cap on junket commission and listen to opinions from different sectors including from the junket promoters, so as to regulate the commission more effectively in the future.

Financial Services acting director

Secretary Tam told reporters deputy director of the Financial Services Bureau, Vitória Alice Maria da Conceição, is now the acting director of the bureau after Orieta Lau Ioc Ip was suspended from duty due to misuse of public fund.

He also said that the arrangement will remain based on the “actual condition” in the bureau.

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