Siu: 'Macau and Las Vegas, two different ways of being casino world capitals'

30 May 2023 - 13:20

Professor Ricardo Siu analyzes the world gaming market for, and focuses on Italy too.

Written by Amr
@ foto tratta da Umagazine

@ foto tratta da Umagazine

Macau is the gambling capital of Asia. How does Macau and its casinos look like and differ from Las Vegas and Nevada city casinos?

We asked Ricardo Siu, associate professor of business administration at the Department of Finance and Business Administration at the Department of Business Administration at the University of Macau. Siu participated as a speaker at the 18th International Conference on Gambling & Risk Taking, held in Las Vegas in the past few days and his speech focused on "Back to the future: making Macao a world-class tourist destination, under the new gaming laws".

“As compared to LV, while exteriors of some casinos established in the integrated resorts (IRs) like Wynn, Venetian and MGM are actually reproduced from their designs in LV, others possess their own features like Galaxy, Melco, etc.

A major difference between the casinos is that Macao is a table game market (table game contributed to over 95% of Macao’s Ggr) while LV is a slot machine market (table game only accounts for less than 40%)”.

In the European and Italian collective imagination, the world capital of gambling remains Las Vegas. Do you think this perception will change in the future?

“Could be but may not necessarily be in the coming few years. A major reason is that in terms of non-gaming facilities/events and outdoor activities, LV could be more attractive to European. However, as Macao is going to develop more comprehensive non-gaming facilities and attraction in the coming decade, its image may change”.

How has Macau changed since the casino market opened up to foreign operators as well?

“World renowned IR operators like Venetian, MGM and Wynn, other newly established operators like Galaxy and Melco, and the local operator (SJM) contributed a lot to re-shape Macao’s image from a gambling city to a world-class casino tourism destination. As compared to the era before 2002 when Macao’s casino gaming was under the monopoly structure, huge amount of capital investment had been spent by the six IR operators. A key landmark is the development of the Macao Cotia Strip which provides much larger capacity for the progress of Macao casino tourism instead of simply gambling as before”.

The new Macao gaming law requires the six concessionaires to also invest in activities not related to gaming in the strict sense. Could this provision change the city and its offer also from a tourist point of view?

“Sure. Largely, the further investment in non-gaming facilities would be more concentrated on the mass market instead of the VIP segment. In addition, part of the investment may also link up with the city’s local tourism sector instead of just within the IR properties. This may help to elevate the attractions of Macao’s cultural tourism, heritage tourism, maritime tourism, etc.”

Macau casinos are among those that have suffered the most from the consequences of the pandemic and in particular of the zero Covid policy adopted by the Beijing government, a policy abandoned only last January. How long will it take to return to full normality and will there be long-term consequences, perhaps from an employment point of view?

“After the abandon of the travel restriction policy from January this year (2023), Macao’s gaming and tourism have rebound quite reasonable (GGR in the first 4 months was closed to 50% yoy of that in 2019). Considering that fact that the long-existing third-part operated business model has been removed under the new gaming laws, Macao will gain the continuous support from the Chinese government. Thus, its recovery is on the right track.

Considering the changing structure of the industry from VIP to mass market and more non-gaming facilities, structural unemployment or job mis-matching issues may likely to rise in the coming 1 to 2 years. However, the Macao SAR government is taking different policies to support the retaining and re-employment of the local workforce. Hence, related issues should be fairly resolved in Macao”.

In the past months there have been scandals and judicial events related to the arrest of some junkets operators in Macao. Has this damaged the image of the city and its casinos?

“No. Resolving the problems of the questionable key junket operators actually help to improve Macao’s image as a well-regulated and transparent casino gaming market”.

In Italy the advertising of gaming is totally forbidden. What do you think of this arrangement? How is the regulatory situation in Macao?

“This is totally dependent on the laws of a country or region. For example, no casino (from Macao or Las Vegas) is allowed to advertise casino gaming in the Mainland China. However, to the laws and culture in Macao and a large part in Asia, it is okay. To standpoint, as long as a government is taking proactive actions for responsible gaming program, it is okay”.

In a city so full of casinos like Macao, what are the measures taken to protect residents and tourists from the risk of gambling addiction?

“Actually, the Macao government is assuming more active role to promote various responsible gaming programs. Also, under the new gaming law, irregular third-party operated businesses are largely removed. Thus, the risk could be further lowered”.


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