Legislators are one step closer to approving new rules on the junkets which have long been a mainstay of the city’s gaming industry.
Lawmaker-cum-restaurateur Andrew Chan Chak Mo, who chairs the Legislative Assembly’s 2nd Standing Committee, said yesterday that the committee expects to receive the revised wording of the gaming bill from the government this week so that the separately drafted junket bill, which aims to regulate the city’s junkets – officially known as gaming promoters – can be further reviewed by the committee based on the latest version of the gaming bill.
Speaking after a closed-door meeting reviewing the government-initiated junket bill, Chan said that the bill was “not too complicated”, adding that the committee expected to pass the bill within the current legislative session, which is scheduled to end on 15 August.
The meeting was attended by the committee and the government’s group of legal advisors. According to Chan, the members of the committee and the government’s legal advisor will readjust the provisions duplicated in the two bills.
The bill is based on the existing by-law governing the city’s junket operators. If passed by the legislature, the bill will elevate the administrative regulation to a law.
While government-drafted laws need to be passed by the legislature, the government can enact administrative regulations without the legislature’s involvement.
According to Chan, the bill proposes the new offence of illegal deposit-taking where a junket operator, management company or their collaborators request, solicit or accept a deposit in cash or gaming chips from others with the intention of obtaining benefits from casino gaming.
According to Chan, who cited the current wording of the junket bill, the offence will be punishable by two to five years’ imprisonment, while there are already administrative penalties in place to punish illegal deposit-taking. Some committee members said they would like the government to clearly define the circumstances of the offence, and which circumstances would be punishable.
According to the bill, the capital of a junket operator, which always must be a company, will be increased by 100 times, from MOP 100,000 to MOP 10 million, and some committee members said they would like the government to explain why there will be such a big increase, Chan said.
The bill also proposes that if the authorities believe that a junket operator no longer has “appropriate financial capacity”, the Secretary for Economy and Finance could order the operator to provide a guarantee on the matter. Chan said the committee would like the government to define the proposed “appropriate financial capacity”.
The bill also proposes that the granting or renewal of a junket operator licence should take into account the size of the city’s junket sector at that time. Chan said that some committee members were concerned that this could result in some of the licences not being renewed, The Macau Post Daily reported.