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Macau’s Casino Restrictions Silently Disappear

After being elected almost three years ago Macau’s Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on said that he was in favour of “orderly development” of the casino industry. Since then a number of methods, such as restrictions on work permits, limits on developments and a rumoured table cap, have been used to slow down the development of the casino industry.

As the casino industry in Macau continues to grow it seems that government restrictions are silently being removed

However, it seems that the idea of “orderly development” may have been dropped. Despite all these restrictions Macau’s gaming revenue grew from 119.4 billion Patacas in 2009 to 267.9 billion Patacas last year.

Furthermore, it seems as if the table cap is a myth. At present the cap is set at 5,500 until 2013 with annual growth limited to 3% for the next ten years. However, the last remaining 200 table spaces were taken by the opening of the Himalaya phase of Sands Cotai Central and the Pacifica phase will take a further 200 table spaces when it opens in September. The new Wynn casino due to open in 2016 will have 500 tables and there are four other casino projects in development which means that there is no chance of the cap being obeyed.

Despite this Macau’s Secretary for Economic Affairs and Finance, Francis Tam, is insisting that the cap will remain in place without adjustments. This has led to some interesting theories on how the tables are being counted. For instance the Special Administrative Region decided to count multiple poker tables as one baccarat table. Another question is whether a table counts as a table when it isn’t operating, if not then 6,500 open tables on weekends and 4,500 tables open on weekdays averages out to the cap figure of 5,500.

It appears that Chui’s government is changing policy but without publicly stating so. With so much money being invested into casinos in Macau it would certainly be surprising if the cap and other restrictions were suddenly enforced.

OCA News Editor

Jenny McKinnley is OCA’s financial correspondent. After spending years on the trading floor in both NY and London, she offers insight from the inside out on world financial news and events.

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