Macau casinos reported nearly equal growth in both VIP and mass market gaming in the first quarter of 2018, putting the market on solid footing for further growth this year.
Figures released Monday by Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) show total casino gaming revenue of MOP 76.5b (US$9.46b) in the three months ending March 31. That’s 20.5% higher than the same period last year, and nearly 6% higher than the MOP 72.3b recorded in the fourth quarter of 2017.
VIP gaming revenue was up 21% to just under MOP 43b, representing a 52.6% share of the overall market, roughly on par with Q417’s share. Overall mass market revenue (counting slot machines) was up 19.9% year-on-year to MOP 33.5b.
Union Gaming analyst Grant Govertsen called the figures “good news on dual fronts,” noting that VIP growth “remains strong yet not sky high,” which he said was both more sustainable from a business perspective and less likely to attract unwanted political attention from the inquiring minds in Beijing.
LOAN-SHARKING BUST SNARES CROOKED COP
Meanwhile, Macau’s Judiciary Police (PJ) has broken up a loan sharking operation targeting casino gamblers. Working with their mainland counterparts in the city of Zhuhai and Guangdong province, the PJ arrested 15 mainland Chinese, including three who were accused of detaining a Chinese couple in a hotel room at an undisclosed property in Macau’s Cotai region.
GGRAsia quoted PJ spokesman Choi Ian Fai saying the loan sharks had been plying their illegal trade for over a year, during which time they are believed to have issued loans totaling RMB 8m ($1.3m). Gamblers who couldn’t immediately repay their loans, like the aforementioned Chinese couple, were detained against their will until they could arrange payment.
Police received a tip-off about the gang’s activities in January and they were forced to admit that one of their own officers was guilty of “accepting benefits and providing police information” to the gang’s organizers to help them evade detection and arrest. The officer was identified after attempting to log into the police computer files on the suspected loan sharking operation without the necessary authorization.
The offending officer confessed to his involvement and has been charged with practicing personal favoritism by a civil servant, improper access to computer systems and improper procurement of computer data.
Illegal detentions related to loan sharking activities are somewhat commonplace in Macau, although the official 2017 stats show gaming-related detentions falling 7.8% to 464 cases, while loan-sharking cases fell by 2.9% to 428.