Macau’s Secretary for Administration and Justice, Mr André Cheong Weng Chon, has announced that amendments to the Macau gaming law will see the end of dedicated junket rooms in Macau’s casinos and revenue share arrangements between junkets and Macau’s casino concessionaires.
The announcement, made late on Friday at a press conference providing the media with many details of the highly anticipated gaming law amendments, puts an end to such arrangements which have been standard operating procedure in Macau for over three decades.
The first seeds of Macau’s junket industry sprouted nearly 100 years ago in the 1930s when then-monopoly concessionaire Tai Heng Company employed Jin-Ke (literally “recruit customer”) agents to organize trips to Macau from surrounding areas.
But it was Macau gaming legend Dr Stanley Ho who took junkets to a whole new level in the 1970s when he negotiated agreements with Daa Maa Zai (chip rollers), offering them 0.7% commission on rolling in returns for the chip rollers facilitating the safe passage of mostly Hong Kong-based visitors to his gleaming new Casino Lisboa.
This was followed in 1986 by the opening of the famous “Diamond Room” at Casino Lisboa, a casino-within-a-casino which established the model for VIP Clubs operated by junkets right up to December last year. The influence of junkets grew post-liberalization, with junkets arguably becoming pseudo-operators in their own right, a reality acknowledged when the term “gaming promoters” wound its way into the 2001 Macau gaming law. This was followed by the Gaming Promoters’ Regulation in 2002, which provided for annual licensing of junkets by Macau’s gaming regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (known as the DICJ).
Junkets suffered an existential crisis in the final five weeks of 2021 when an arrest warrant for Alvin Chau, the CEO of Macau’s leading junket operator Suncity, was issued by the Wenzhou Public Security Bureau. Chau was arrested by Macau authorities the next day and detained without bail, leading to the cessation of all Suncity junket operations and the closure of all junkets rooms in Macau’s six concessionaires.
The upcoming changes announced by Cheong leave the door open for junkets and VIP play to continue in a vastly reduced role, still receiving commission on turnover in arrangements like those seen in Singapore and Australia but would see junkets as mere shadows of their former selves.