Despite telling Bloomberg earlier this week that it had “started the procedures of an investigation” into the Kazuo Okada v. Wynn Resorts feud, the Macau Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau now claims it likely won’t be involving itself in the high-profile executive squabble. Local Portuguese-language newspaper Jornal Tribuna de Macau quoted the Macau regulator’s head man, Manuel Joaquim das Neves, describing the likelihood of his outfit launching such an investigation as “slim.”
The Macau regulator is also not looking into recent allegations of ‘unsuitability’ leveled at junket operators Neptune Group by the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). The IUOE made the allegations via the recently-launched CasinoLeaks-Macau website and in a letter sent to Nevada regulators, asking them to investigate the relationships between Neptune and the US casino companies doing business in Macau. Quoth the succinct Mr. Neves: “In Macau, there is no investigation into Neptune Group.”
One of those US casino companies doing business in Macau, MGM Resorts International, released a statement saying the IUOE’s allegations were “baseless and reflect a complete lack of understanding of MGM’s extremely robust policies and procedures for evaluating the suitability of its gaming room operations in Macau. Our extensive vetting process for gaming room operators is led by independent compliance committees at both the parent company and MGM Grand Macau.”
Jeff Fiedler, the IUOE’s director of special projects and the point person for the CasinoLeaks-Macau site, has yet to offer a compelling explanation as to why the IUOE’s US-based membership should be concerned with activities on the other side of the globe. Fiedler told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he merely wanted Nevada regulators “to do a thorough job looking into Neptune … People look to Nevada as the premier regulator … I’m not sure that’s justified anymore.”
If anyone wants to play wild conspiracy theorist, Fiedler also occupies a seat on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, and was appointed to that post by House minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). At least two of the casino bosses doing business in Macau – Steve Wynn and Las Vegas Sands’ Sheldon Adelson – have made enough public comments to lead one to assume they probably wouldn’t piss on President Obama if he were on fire. Payback time? We realize Obama has far bigger arrows in his quiver if he really wanted to make a statement, but perhaps the Predator drones were all busy over Yemen or something.
Getting back to Macau, Deutsche Bank analysts Carolo Santarelli and Kelly Knybel issued an investor’s note on Thursday saying Macau’s mass market continues to grow at a faster rate than the VIP market (from which Neptune makes its bones). While VIPs still account for almost three-quarters of Macau’s overall market, the first quarter of 2012 will likely be the third consecutive quarter in which mass market growth outstripped the VIP market. In February, mass market tables and slots grew 27.9% over 2011, compared to VIP growth of 20.2%. Add in January’s numbers and 2012 mass market growth is 36.3% v. 25.3% for the VIP market. As recent figures from Hong Kong demonstrate, Macau does have broad-based appeal with both men and women, and as incomes in China rise, the mass market will increasingly make its voice (and its wallet) heard.