Macau ups the ante with latest gaming sector reform
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Macau ups the ante with latest gaming sector reform

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Bruno Almeida and Kimberley Cheong of Riquito Advogados summarise Macau’s new legal initiatives to tackle illegal gaming as the city strives to become one of Asia’s leading tourism, cultural, and leisure spots

More than two years after the announcement of the arrest of the leader of the largest junket group in Macau SAR, and two high-profile criminal cases related to the prosecution of illegal gaming activities, one can be sure that there is no tolerance in the city for such activities and that the government is committed to promoting a lawful gaming environment.

Further to the gazetting in December 2022 of Law 16/2022, which reformed the Legal Regime for Operating Games of Chance in Casinos, together with the gazetting of its respective regulation through Administrative Regulation 55/2022, the Macau Legislative Council (the LegCo) members passed the Legal Regime for the Grant of Credit for Games of Chance (Law 7/2024), which revoked Law 5/2004, with the intention of aligning the regime with the overall strategy of legal reform in the gaming sector.

Under the new regime, only the concessionaires (or gaming promoters with an exclusive contract with a specific concessionaire where such activity is expressly delegated) can provide credit for games of chance. Hence, such is excluded from the roles of casino management companies. The new regime establishes more supervision duties, authority powers, and obligations for the concessionaires (and gaming promoters), enhancing the sanctions that may be imposed for breaches thereto. Law 7/2024 was gazetted on April 22 2024 and will enter into force on August 1.

Furthermore, a first reading has already been granted by the Macau LegCo of a draft bill named the Illegal Gaming Law, which will revoke and substitute Law 8/96/M. The draft bill has various lines of action:

  • The stipulation of new gaming-related crimes such as the operation of online gaming platforms;

  • Clarification of the relevant criminal elements of certain practices, such as ‘side betting’, a secondary wager placed aside from the main offering;

  • Enhancing the penalties and ancillary sanctions (e.g., one who offers online betting can be imprisoned for up to eight years, and one who offers illegal gaming activities without permission from the government can also be imprisoned for up to eight years);

  • Strengthening the criminal investigation means; and

  • Enhancing certain provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, such as an increase of the maximum term for a preventative arrest in the course of an investigation of illegal gaming activities.

All these legal reforms – on top of the amendment in 2022, prior to the launch of the new concessions tender, of 16/2001 (the Macau Gaming Law) – give form to the Macau government’s objective of promoting a sustainable and healthy gaming environment, with increased supervision and accountability, while minimising the side effects of the sector.

At the same time, the concessionaires are called to play a (big) social role, by improving and fulfilling their corporate social responsibility and ESG standards, while keeping up with the investment commitments undertaken in their concession contracts. Macau aims to boost its position as a leading tourism, cultural, and leisure spot in Asia – by staging conventions, concerts, cultural and art exhibitions, and through capitalising on its status as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy – to attract more international visitors and achieve economic diversification.

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