SJM Holdings Co-Chairman and Executive Director Angela Leong says Macau’s operators must change their way of thinking, including reducing distinctions between VIP and mass gaming as well as a greater focus on non-gaming attractions, if they are to expedite recovery from COVID-19.
Her comments to media attending a seminar organized by the Macao Association of Young Employees in the Gaming Industry on Tuesday come in the wake of a slower than expected increase in tourist arrivals to Macau following reimplementation of the Individual Visit Scheme for all of mainland China in September.
“We’re now seeing a certain increase in gambling revenue but under the current circumstances we can’t expect too much other than to strive for stability,” Leong said.
“I believe that all concessionaires are now thinking about switching their current development methods to strengthen the development of non-gaming elements. Some [gaming] measures also need to be changed.”
Expanding on such measures, Leong suggested downplaying the distinction between VIP and mass market players.
“Every guest is our VIP,” she said, “I believe in the future, no matter how much a guest spends, he or she should be treated as our VIP from the moment they enter our integrated resorts.
“In terms of non-gaming elements, we need to think about how to match the current development of the country, especially the development of the Greater Bay Area.
“We need to think about how to increase our tourists, and what they expect to enjoy when they arrive. In addition to the gaming industry, is there any other better environment to increase the number of tourists coming to Macau and spending more? That’s what our current strategy focuses on.”
Leong said this strategy should also be employed as a means of responding to recent reports of a crackdown on cross-border gambling by mainland China.
“We must change our way of thinking,” she continued. “Instead of worrying about the visitors not coming, we’d better think how to bring them back. We all need to discuss how to develop in the future. That’s why we’re having today’s seminar, with scholars from mainland China discussing issues with us. We need to think outside the box.”
Asked about the re-tendering process for Macau gaming licenses – with those of all six gaming concessionaires due to expire in June 2022 – Leong said she hopes new gaming regulations can be promulgated soon. However, she also understands that the government is under considerable pressure in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wang Changbin, director of the Centre for Gaming and Tourism Studies at Macao Polytechnic Institute, said, “I believe the government has been making continuous preparations for amendments to the gaming law – it’s just that some matters involve important issues, so we are waiting for decision-making.
“There is not a complete lack of time. The law allows for one or more extensions in exceptional circumstances, but no more than five years. If something as big as this pandemic happens, there is still room for delay, but it really depends on the government’s decision.”