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Free casino food does not mean that visitors are spending less in restaurants, official says

The deputy head of the Macao Government Tourism Office says that non-gaming visitor spending remains high for key markets such as mainland China and Korea
  • The comments come amid reports that the government is pressuring the concessionaires to end the practice over concerns that it impacts local restaurants

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UPDATED: 13 Jun 2024, 5:39 pm

The free food and drinks being offered by the casinos in Macao are not having an adverse impact on visitor spending, according to the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) deputy chief Cheng Wai Tong, who spoke yesterday during TDM’s radio show Macau Forum

Commenting on the trend of “zero-dollar tourism” – when tourists visit Macao and enjoy the free food and transport offered by the casinos, without spending a cent – Cheng said that visitors overall have actually been spending more than before. 

He noted that non-gaming spending in 2023, as well as in the first quarter of 2024, were both higher than the figures in 2019. He added that the per capita spending of tourists had also been on the rise.

Cheng said this meant that “apart from eating the free food” visitors were “engaged in other additional types of consumption in Macau.” 

[See more: Is this the end of free food at Macao’s casinos? Unconfirmed reports say the government wants it to end]

The MGTO official also cited data from the Japanese and Korean markets, noting that spending per capita for the former had increased by 21 percent in comparison to 2019.

The topic of free food in Macao’s casino has come under greater scrutiny after reports claimed that the concessionaires were being asked by the government to stop the freebies. Concerns have been raised by those who believe the practice is reducing business volume in local stores and eateries. 

According to gaming industry publication, Asia Gaming Brief (AGB), discussions are already underway between the government and concessionaires to put an end to complimentary food. The government, however, has not yet made any official announcements. 

The casino operators are currently still offering free food and drinks in the gaming areas, including Häagen-Dazs ice cream, bubble tea, egg tarts and dim sum.

UPDATED: 13 Jun 2024, 5:39 pm

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