Welcome to the seventh in a series of about 10 articles on the Macau gaming law IAG is publishing throughout the month of March:
Article 48F(2) of the new Macau gaming law reads, “Concessionaires are jointly and severally liable for the liability of their gaming promoters arising from carrying out gaming promotion activities in its casinos …”
This is nothing new. Being aware of this potential liability, concessionaires have carried out their own due diligence process before entering into formal written agreements with gaming promoters. They have also been able to take some comfort in the knowledge that these gaming promoters – more commonly known as junkets – go through an annual DICJ review, with new licences issued each January 1.
Junkets have been a hot topic in the Macau gaming industry in recent months. On 26 November 2021 the Wenzhou Public Security Bureau announced it had been granted approval by the People’s Procuratorate of Wenzhou to issue an arrest warrant for Alvin Chau, the CEO of Macau largest junket operator, Suncity Group. This led to a cascade of events, including the Macau arrest and detention awaiting trial of Mr Chau and Levo Chan, the Chairman and CEO of Macau’s historically second largest junket operator, Tak Chun.
Ultimately, the junket industry as we have known it for the past decade or so ended with the demise of dedicated junket rooms, the closure of Suncity and Tak Chun, and the announcement by various Macau concessionaires of the cessation of the operating relationships with major junket operators.
The prevailing wisdom around town is that junkets will carry on, but in a vastly diminished form to their prior incarnations. Under the new proposed Article 23(2), each gaming promoter may only work with one concessionaire, and under the new Article 23(4), gaming promoters may no longer have dedicated junket rooms nor participate in revenue sharing arrangement with concessionaires. This will see gaming promoters devolve towards to their original form, as in the pre-liberalization days, when they received a commission on rolling and acted more akin to glorified travel agents rather than the pseudo-operators which they became throughout much of the last decade.
The President of the Macau Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters, Kwok Chi Chung, confirmed as much when he spoke with Inside Asian Gaming last month, acknowledging that junkets would likely need to revert to their original “commission on rolling” business model. Kwok told IAG, “Promoters have existed since before the liberalization of the gaming industry and have been expanding during these past 20 years … This [new] direction is just ‘back to the starting point,’ because before the handover [of Macau back to China in 1999], in the beginning, we were already working in that direction … I am very confident about the future of promoters because we used to work like that.”
While it is understandable that concessionaires are liable for promotional activities of the junkets they engage with, there is a provision in the new gaming law which will be of more concern to Macau’s gaming operators. Article 48F(3) provides that concessionaires will be “jointly and severally liable for the liability of members of administrative organs, employees, and collaborators of their gaming promoters arising from carrying out gaming promotion activities in its casinos …”
Collaborators are defined in Article 2(11) as “natural persons selected by gaming promoters to assist in their engagement in games promotion operations …” While such people are authorized by the DICJ in accordance with Article 23A, it is merely because of gaming promoters “submitting a list of collaborators that it intends to select or replace” to the DICJ.
In other words, the concessionaires do not choose the collaborators, the junkets do. Collaborators are “friends of friends” of the concessionaires, so to speak. While you can choose your friends, you can’t choose who your friends choose as friends! There is no contractual or legal relationship between the concessionaire and the collaborators, and the concessionaire has no power to dismiss or censure a collaborator.
Further, collaborators can work with multiple junkets and concessionaires, and introduce players who play at many different casinos in Macau – so at any given moment it may be difficult to know precisely which junket a collaborator is working with, and therefore which concessionaire would be liable for the collaborator’s actions.
There is a very large network of collaborators in Macau. At any given moment, a concessionaire may not be precisely aware who is and who is not operating as a collaborator in their casino – and which junket operator they are collaborating with. Here’s another issue: what happens if a collaborator meets and does business with a junket operator on the site of a casino that the particular junket operator is not working with? Which concessionaire is liable? The one working with the collaborator, or the one which operates the casino the meeting is held in?
Frankly, it’s potentially very confusing and while it’s reasonable that concessionaires be liable for the actions of contractually-engaged junkets on their premises, it seems a stretch to burden the concessionaire with responsibility for the actions of any number of potentially “lone wolf” collaborators wandering their casino floors.
The eighth article in this series will be published next week.