Under the current legal and regulatory framework, there are four types of permitted gaming in the Macau Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (hereinafter, Macau or MSAR):
- games of chance, defined as ‘those in which the result is contingent because it depends exclusively or mainly on the luck of the player’;
- pari-mutuel (animal racing – horse and greyhound only), defined as a ‘system of betting on animal racing or a sporting event in which the winners split the total amount bet, after deduction of commissions, fees and taxes in proportion to the amount individually bet’;
- operations offered to the public, defined as ‘those in which the hope of winning resides solely on luck, such as lotteries,2 raffles, tombola and sweepstakes’; and
- interactive gaming, defined as ‘games of chance in which (a) a prize in cash or other value is offered or may be won under the respective rules, (b) a player enters or participates in the game by means of telecommunication, namely by means of telephone, telefaxes, internet access, data networks, transmission of video signals or digital data, and to do so, either agrees to make payments in cash or any other value, and (c) the game is also offered or approved as a game of chance or through an electronic or mechanical gaming machine in casinos’.
Gaming promoters (also known as junkets) are defined as ‘casino games of chance promoters who operate by providing facilities to players, in particular with regard to transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment, receiving a commission or other remuneration paid by a concessionaire’.
Gaming machines are defined as ‘any device, including gaming programs and associated software, memory compartment, random number generator and storage media for the gaming programs operated wholly or partially by electrical, electronic or mechanical means and designed, adapted or programmed to: (1) the practice of a game, the outcome of which depends solely or mainly on luck; (2) payment, as a result of a bet placed on a gaming machine, of a cash prize, gaming chips, tickets redeemable for cash or goods convertible to gaming chips, cash or cash equivalents’.
Extension of credit for casino gaming is defined as ‘the transmission of the ownership of casino gaming chips from a credit provider to a third party without the immediate payment in cash or equivalent of such transmission’.
ii Gambling policy
Macau law departs from a principle of prohibition: if a type of gaming is not permitted, then it is prohibited.
Public policy in relation to gaming is defined in Article 1 of Law No. 16/2001 of 24 September 2001 (the Gaming Law), and aims to ensure:
- the adequate operation of casino games of chance;
- those involved in the supervision, management and operation of casino games of chance are suitable for the performance of these functions and assumption of these responsibilities;
- the casino games of chance operate and function in a fair, honest manner and free from criminal influence;
- the interests of the MSAR in collecting taxes from casino operations are duly protected; and
- tourism, social stability and economic development are promoted in the MSAR.
In January 2022, the government submitted a draft law proposal to the Legislative Assembly to amend the Gaming Law, which was approved at the first reading. Under draft law proposal, the ‘new’ public policy aims to ensure:
- the function and operation of casino games of chance are conducted under the premise of safeguarding national security and the security of the MSAR;
- the promotion of adequate diversification and sustainable development of the economy of Macau;
- casino games of chance operate and function in a fair and honest manner, and are free from criminal influence;
- the function and operation of casino games of chance is in accordance with the policies and mechanisms of the MSAR with regard to combating illegal cross-border capital flows and preventing money laundering;
- the dimension and operation of casino games of chance, the practice of games of chance and the entry into casinos are subject to legal restrictions;
- those involved in monitoring, managing and operating casino games of chance are suitable for the performance of these functions; and
- the interests of the MSAR in collecting taxes from the casino operations are duly protected.
Under Macau law, although being an activity reserved for the MSAR, the operation of gaming by an entity other than the MSAR is subject to a prior concession being granted by the MSAR. A public tender is required only for casino gaming. Exceptions for interactive gaming (for which no concession was ever granted), pari-mutuels and operations offered to the public were granted in exclusivity to a single entity. In the 2021 amendment to the instant lotteries’ concession contract (under which sports lottery is offered, i.e., for football and basketball), the exclusivity was removed.
Pursuant to the Gaming Law, the MSAR is precluded from granting more than three casino gaming concessions3 (the draft law proposal raises the maximum number of concessions to six). Notwithstanding this, the Macau government has authorised three casino gaming sub-concessions, permitting each of the casino gaming concessionaires to enter into a sub-concession (the draft law proposal prohibits the sub-concessions).
The MSAR is a permanent gaming zone, thus casinos shall be open 24/7, notwithstanding the right of casino operators to establish daily operation hours that shall be notified three business days in advance to the gaming regulator – Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ). The suspension of the operation of a casino can only occur in very exceptional circumstances and, as a general rule, is subject to prior authorisation from the government.
The minimum age for entering, playing, and working in casinos is 21 years old. Restrictions to casino entry apply to certain categories of casino operator employees. The minimum age for participating in pari-mutuel and operations offered to the public is 18 years old, Macau’s legal age.
A complete ban on smoking inside casinos has been in force since 1 January 2019.
Casino gaming operators can only operate the games of chance listed in the Gaming Law (baccarat, baccarat chemin de fer, blackjack or 21, boule, craps, cussec (sic bo), 12 numbers, fantan, Chinese dice game, fish-prawn-crab dice game, 13-card game, mahjong, mahjong-baccarat, mahjong-pai kao, pachinko, pai kao, pai kao of two stones, three-card poker, five-card poker, roulette, sap-i-chi or 12-card game, super pan 9, Taiwan-pai kao and three-card baccarat game), or approved by order of the Secretary for Economy and Finance by request of one or more casino operators and after an opinion from the DICJ (casino challenge, dragon/phoenix, football poker, fortune 8, makccarat, Omaha poker, Q poker, stud poker, Texas holdem poker, three-card fortune poker and wheel of fortune).
The rules of games of chance are approved by order of the Secretary for Economy and Finance following a proposal from the DICJ, and published in the Macau Official Gazette.
As to horse racing, the following pari-mutuels in relation to horse-racing results are permitted: pari-mutuel winner, pari-mutuel places, quinella, forecast, double win, double quinella, trio, trifecta, triplo vencedor, quarteto and six up. Also, regarding horse-racing results, the following lotteries are permitted: cash sweep (ordinary and special), winner sweep and places sweep.
According to the respective concession contract, the rules for pari-mutuels authorised by the concession contract in relation to horse racing are approved by the Chief Executive after a proposal from the operator. The rules are published in the Macau Official Gazette.
As to sports lotteries, only bets on football and basketball are permitted.
If an operator requests authorisation to operate new lotteries, it shall enclose with the authorisation request a draft of the rules for the DICJ’s approval. The rules are published in the Macau Official Gazette.
As to Chinese lotteries, only pacapio and chumpapiu lotteries can be offered.
According to the respective concession contract, the rules of the Chinese lotteries authorised by the concession contract are approved by the Chief Executive after a proposal from the operator. If the operator requests authorisation to operate new lotteries, it should enclose with the authorisation request a draft of the rules for the DICJ’s approval. The rules are published in the Macau Official Gazette.
Casino gaming is under continuous and permanent supervision from the DICJ through a team of inspectors on site.
The First Division of the DICJ’s Games Inspection Department is charged with the competence to supervise and monitor casino frequency and operations, and to ensure the performance of all legal, regulatory and contractual precepts related to games of chance.
As to pari-mutuels and operations offered to the public, the Second Division of DICJ’s Games Inspection Department is charged with the competence to supervise and monitor all non-casino gaming operations. Moreover, the non-casino gaming operators have a government-appointed delegate to follow the operator activities.
Pursuant to Macau law, only casino operators and gaming promoters may, as credit providers, extend credit to players. Issuance of credit is restricted to casino games of chance.
The transfer to a third party of the operation of the concession or, in the case of the casino gaming concessions, of legal or contractual obligations impending to the casino operators is null and void except if authorised by the Macau government; the transfer of shares to third parties in a gaming concessionaire is null and void except if authorised by the MSAR.
The MSAR may:
- sequester a concession when an unjustified suspension occurs or is imminent, or serious deficiencies in the organisation of the concessionaire or in the general condition of the premises or material used for the operation of the concession are verified;
- redeem a concession before its term by compensating the concessionaire;
- unilaterally terminate the concession due to the failure by the concessionaire to comply with fundamental (legal or contractual) obligations; and
- unilaterally terminate the concession due to public interest reasons by paying the concessionaire a fair compensation, which takes into consideration in particular the remaining time of the concession, and the amount devoted to the main investment included in the investment plan annexed to the concession contract.
Under the draft law proposal, the Chief Executive may also ‘annul’ the gaming concession based upon:
- threat to national security and the security of the MSAR;
- agreement with the concessionaire;
- public interest; and
- lack of concessionaire’s suitability.
All casinos (not exempted under the concession contract terms) and gaming equipment and utensils (including those outside the casino premises) are to revert to the MSAR by the term of the concession (or on the date referred to in the concession contract, whichever is the earlier). The reversion is automatic and without entitlement to any compensation to the casino operator. The enjoyment, fruition and use of the assets reverted may be temporarily transferred to be used in gaming operations by the same or different casino operators, in exchange for a remuneration as prescribed by the concession contract of those assets. As to the horse racing concession, all premises (except the electrical station, totaliser and all movable assets the horse-racing operator decides to remove within 60 days following the reversion) revert to the MSAR without compensation by the term of the concession.
Gaming machines (including electronic table games) can only be operated by casino operators and shall comply with the Macau Technical Standards (on electronic gaming machines and electronic table games, for accumulated prizes in gaming machines and for dealer-operated electronic table games, all approved by DICJ instructions), and be certified by an authorised gaming testing laboratory. The supply of gaming machines in Macau can only be conducted by licensed manufacturers or distributors authorised by the DICJ.
The greyhound racing concession expired in 2018 and, to date, the government has not granted any new concession for operating greyhound racing, nor has it revoked its legal framework.
Nevertheless, it seems to be public policy not to award a concession for this type of gaming anywhere in the future.
iii State control and private enterprise
Gaming, in all forms, is a highly regulated activity in Macau and the supervision of gaming activities relies primarily on the DICJ.
Pursuant to Macau law, the commercial operation of gaming is reserved to the MSAR and can only be granted to private entities by means of a concession through an administrative contract. Macau utilises a concession system (not a licensing system), and the current situation is of monopoly for horse racing and lotteries (which include sports lotteries), and of oligopoly (restricted to six operators) for casino games of chance.
As to casino gaming, operators are required to be incorporated in the MSAR as limited liability companies and requirements regarding, among others, its share capital, business scope and managing director apply.
iv Territorial issues
Macau is the only jurisdiction in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) where casino gaming is lawful.
Article 118 of the Macau Basic Law states that the Macau Special Administrative Region is responsible for determining ‘at its own initiative and in line with general local interests, the policy for the tourism and entertainment industry’.
Hence, gambling is regulated at the level of the MSAR which, under the Macau Basic Law, exercises a high degree of autonomy, pursuant to an authorisation of the National People’s Congress of the PRC, enjoying executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final appeal.4
v Offshore gambling
Offshore gambling involving sectors such as online casinos and multiplayer online gaming is not permitted in Macau.
Placing bets over the phone or online is regulated for horse racing, greyhound racing and sports lottery.
There have been some reports on international cooperation over offering online gaming to the Macau market, but it is debatable whether the betting on foreign offshore gambling platforms by Macau residents is an unlawful activity under the laws and regulations in force in Macau, as there are no grounds for acting against foreign operators when the placement of bets or wagers is made from a cross-border basis.
Legal and regulatory framework
i Legislation and jurisprudence
The main legal and regulatory framework for casino gaming, pari-mutuels and operations offered to the public comprises the following.
Games of chance
- Law No. 8/96/M of 22 July 1996 (illegal gambling);
- Law No. 16/2001 of 24 July 2001 (Macau Gaming Law);
- Administrative Regulation No. 26/2001 of 29 October 2001 (public tender regulation);
- Administrative Regulation No. 6/2002 of 1 April 2002 (gaming promotion activity), amended by Administrative Regulation No. 27/2009 of 10 August 2009, which established a new set of requirements for the payment of commissions or other types of remuneration due to gaming promoters;
- Law No. 5/2004 of 14 June 2004 (extension of credit for casino gaming);
- Law No. 10/2012 of 27 August 2012 (entry, work and gaming restrictions in casinos), amended by Law No. 17/2018 of 27 December 2018;
- Administrative Regulation No. 26/2012 of 26 November 2012 (gaming machines regulation);
- Governmental Guidelines – in particular from the DICJ that occasionally releases instructions on certain specific issues related to casino operations. The DICJ has released guidelines on topics such as anti-money laundering, responsible gaming, gaming promoters’ commission cap and accounting requirements, technical specifications of gaming machines and casino internal control rules. These instructions and guidelines, not always published, are mandatory and applicable to all gaming operators in Macau and, despite the fact that they do not carry the same weight as applicable laws, penalties may be enforced if they are infringed. The main guidelines include:
- Instruction 1/2006 – Minimum Internal Control Rules;
- Instruction 2/2014 – Macau ETG Technical Standards Version 1.0;
- Instruction 2/2016 – Macau Jackpot Technical Standards Version 1.0 and Macau CMS Technical Standards Version 1.0;
- Instruction 1/2017 – Dealer-Operated Electronic Table Game Technical Standards Version 1.0;
- Instruction 1/2019 – Preventive Measures Against Crimes of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing;
- Instruction 5/2019 – Macau Electronic Card Shufflers and Electronic Card Shoes (ECS2) Technical Standards;
- Instruction 1/2020 – Macau Gaming Certificate Format (MGCF) Version 1.0; and
- Instruction 1/2021 – Macau EGM Technical Standards Version 2.0; and
- casino gaming concession contracts (signed with Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, SA, Wynn Resorts (Macau), SA and Galaxy Casino, SA), and casino gaming sub-concession contracts (authorised by the Macau government and entered into by and between Galaxy Casino, SA and Venetian Macau, SA, Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, SA and MGM Grand Paradise, SA, and Wynn Resorts (Macau), SA and Melco Resorts (Macau), SA), all currently due to expire on 26 June 2022,5 which detail the rights and obligations of the casino operators in accordance with the applicable legal and regulatory framework. One of the most relevant clauses established in the contracts is that all legal disputes arising from the contracts shall be exclusively governed and resolved under Macau law and in Macau courts; the Macau legal system cannot be bypassed by the laws and courts of other jurisdictions.
Pursuant to the Gaming Law, the Chief Executive, by means of an administrative Regulation, determines the rules and specific conditions under which the operation of games of chance is permitted outside casinos (aboard vessels and aircrafts and, restricted to gaming machines, in Macau International Airport). However, no administrative Regulation has been enacted, nor has the MSAR authorised any operation of games of chance outside casinos.
- Executive Order No. 163/90/M of 27 August 1990 (horse racing and pari-mutuels), as amended;
- Law No. 9/96/M of 22 July 1996 (criminal offences related to animal racing);
- Decree Order No. 12/98/M of 9 February 1998 (triple-winner, double-quinela, double-trio and six-up betting);
- Executive Order No. 22/2000 of 3 April 2000 (classified quinela betting);
- Executive Order No. 47/2001 of 30 October 2001 (triple-trio betting);
- Order of the Secretary for Economy and Finance No. 63/2003 of 15 August 2003 (horse racing betting via the internet); and
- Concession contract signed with Macau Horse Race Company Limited, dated 4 August 1995, as amended from time to time, currently extended to 31 August 2042.
- Decree Order No. 7611 of 26 August 1964 (regulation for greyhound racing, the totaliser and Cash Sweep lotteries), as amended from time to time;
- Decree Order No. 151/91/M of 12 August 1991 (double-trifecta betting);
- Decree Order No. 132/94/M of 24 May 1994 (all-up quinella betting);
- Decree Order No. 93/97/M of 5 May 1997 (triple-trio betting);
- Executive Order No. 53/2000 of 17 August 2000 (classified quinela betting);
- Order of the Secretary for Economy and Finance No. 64/2003 of 15 August 2003 (greyhound racing betting via the internet); and
- Order of the Secretary for Economy and Finance No. 75/2009 of 14 July 2009 (odd or even number betting).
Although no greyhound racing concession is currently awarded (the last expired on 20 July 2018) the above-mentioned legislation is still in force.
Operations offered to the publicChinese lotteries (Chimpupio and Pacapio)
- Executive Order No. 8/2004 of 3 March 2004 (official Pacapio lottery regulation); and
- Concession contract signed with Sociedade de Lotarias Wing Hing, Limitada, dated 24 August 1990, as amended from time to time, currently extended to 31 December 2022.
Instant lottery (which includes sports lottery)
- Executive Order No. 27/86/M of 1 February 1986 (instant lottery regulation);
- Law No. 12/87/M of 17 August 1987 (instant lottery operation);
- Executive Order No. 20/2005 of 27 May 2005 (sports lottery – basketball);
- Executive Order No. 67/2018 of 20 April 2018 (sports lottery – football); and
- Concession contract signed with SLOT – Sociedade de Lotarias e Apostas Mútuas Limitada, dated 21 February 1989, as amended from time to time, currently extended to 5 June 2024.
No legal framework has ever been enacted.
Other relevant legislation
- Administrative Regulation No. 19/2021 of 21 June 2021 (DICJ Statutes); and
- Order of the Chief Executive No. 38/2010 of 10 February 2010 (Macau Gaming Commission).
ii The regulator
The Chief Executive has the highest executive power in relation to gaming matters, which can also be exercised by the Secretary for Economy and Finance, either directly or pursuant to a delegation of powers, and the DICJ.
The oversight of gaming is, prima facie, the responsibility of the DICJ, the regulatory authority of all types of permitted gaming, a department within the government structure and under the Secretariat for Economy and Finance, entrusted with the responsibility of assisting in the definition of the public policy of the gaming sector and its execution, as well as for the regulation, supervision and coordination of the operation and gaming activities.
The DICJ’s main powers (as established by Administrative Regulation No. 19/2021 of 21 June 2021), include:
- assisting in the definition and coordination of public policy for the gaming sector, implementing its execution;
- ensuring that the activities of the gaming concessionaires, its management companies, gaming promoters, and other individuals or entities subject to the gaming laws, as well as the relationship between them and the public, are compliant with the general interests and the Macau law;
- assisting in the drafting and improvement of the rules under their powers, as well as to issue instructions to the concessionaires, their management companies, gaming promoters and other individuals or entities subject to the gaming laws;
- supervising the activities of the gaming concessionaires, their management companies, gaming promoters and other individuals or entities subject to the gaming laws, namely regarding their compliance with legal and contractual obligations, as well as with the instructions issued by DICJ;
- supervising the suitability and financial capacity of the gaming concessionaires, their management companies, gaming promoters and other individuals or entities subject to the gaming laws;
- supervising the different gaming activities;
- supervising the compliance with the gaming laws;
- supervising gaming revenues, namely the gross gaming revenues and other revenues stated in the law and in the concession contracts;
- conducting investigation works concerning gaming;
- issuing licences for gaming promotion activity;
- regulating the supply and inspecting the gaming machines and the respective equipment and systems;
- approving the equipment, system and utensils allocated by the concessionaires to the operation of the respective concessions;
- promoting the involvement of the concessionaires, their management companies and the gaming promoters in the government’s policies and the compliance with corporate social responsibilities;
- promoting, coordinating and executing responsible gaming activities; and
- pursuing other duties legally entrusted.
Other government entities
The Macau Gaming Commission is a consultative body of, and presided over by, the Chief Executive with the responsibility of formulating policies and facilitating the development of Macau’s casino gaming and relevant regulatory framework. It is expected that its role be more active when the amendments to the Gaming Law are enacted.
The Financial Services Bureau, under the Secretariat for Economy and Finance, is also vested with regulatory powers concerning, in particular, the accounting of gaming operators and gaming promoters. Concurrently with the DICJ, it may determine an extraordinary audit to a casino gaming operator or a gaming promoter.
The Judiciary Police, under the Secretariat for Security, has a special unit with exclusive powers to investigate gaming-related crimes committed in casinos or other gaming venues or their surroundings.
The Financial Intelligence Office, under the Secretariat for Security, created to collect, analyse and disseminate information to the relevant authorities concerning AML & CTF, is responsible for receiving and processing suspicious transactions reports filed by gaming operators and gaming promoters.
The Social Welfare Bureau and the Health Bureau, both under the Secretariat for Social Affairs and Culture, handle problem gambling issues and supervises the casino smoking ban, respectively.
iii Remote and land-based gambling
To date no laws or regulations on the operation of interactive gaming have been enacted. As several times announced by the government, interactive gaming seems to not be a topic on the table for consideration any time soon, in part due to the sensitive political issues it raises.
iv Land-based gambling
Casinos are defined under the Gaming Law as places and premises authorised and classified as such by the government. The use of ‘casino’ is reserved for casino operators, which can only, in accordance with the draft law proposal, operate casino games of chance in properties wholly and directly owned by them.
Also under the draft law proposal, all casinos must identify and clearly demarcate the following areas:
- the gaming floor;
- the treasury (cage);
- surveillance of casinos and ancillary areas;
- transport, deposit, storage and custody of gaming chips and cash;
- count rooms for gaming chips and cash;
- electromechanical, water supply and similar facilities;
- sanitary facilities; and
- other logistic services areas.
Exceptionally, casino gaming operators may be authorised to explore operations offered to the public.
Although against the principle of games of chance confined to casinos, the gaming machines regulation allows for casino operators to open slot machines centres.6
v Remote gambling
Private entities may be granted a concession for the operation of interactive gaming.
Casino gaming operators cannot operate any interactive games and the interactive gaming concessions are by law autonomous and separated from the casino gaming concessions.
As yet, no regulation on interactive gaming has been enacted, and public policy tends not to encourage this type of gaming.
These restrictions do not prevent Macau residents from registering on online gaming platforms or websites located overseas. To the best of our knowledge, no plans to implement measures to curb residents’ access to such platforms or websites exist.
vi Ancillary matters
The Gaming Machines Regulation establishes the legal regime for supply of gaming machines, as well as the requisites for gaming machines and equipment and the gaming systems.
Gaming machines, equipment and systems to be installed in Macau casinos are subject to a technical assessment by the DICJ under the requirements established by the Regulation. In addition, several instructions with technical standards have been issued on electronic gaming machines (EGMs), card shufflers and shoes, dealer-operated ETG, jackpot and CMS, and ETG.
The latest EGM technical standards (version 2.0) state:
which enter[ed] into effect on September 1, 2021, seek to update the technical requirements for the approval of EGMs by the DICJ. A transition period of 16 months until December 31, 2022 is in place for authorized EGM manufacturers to adapt to and be fully compliant with the new rules and, starting on December 31, 2022 and until 31 December 2024, all casino concessionaires and sub-concessionaires must also submit a biannual report detailing their progress in decommissioning or converting outdated EGMs to fully compliant status with Standards 2.0. Any EGM which is non-compliant with Standards 2.0 by noon of December 21, 2024 must be switched off and withdrawn permanently from the operation. . . . One of the most notable material changes to the previous EGM technical standards is that Standards 2.0 now determine that coin input/output systems are prohibited from using in Macau gaming floors. Likewise, all references to coin-based hardware (i.e., coin validators, coin acceptor requirements and error conditions, diverter, coin hoppers, and error conditions, drop boxes, etc.) are removed from Standards 2.0, as coin acceptors and coin hoppers are no longer foreseen, and gaming software shall also be updated under these changes.7
Manufacturers of gaming machines, equipment and systems must be licensed, and suppliers must obtain authorisation from the DICJ to conduct their business in Macau. Manufacturers and their qualified shareholders (holding 5 per cent or more of the share capital) and directors are subject to a suitability assessment process by the DICJ. Manufacturers licensed in certain major gaming jurisdictions (Nevada, New Jersey, Mississippi, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Singapore) may submit a formal request to waive this procedure.
Qualified shareholders (holding 5 per cent or more of the share capital) of the applicants to a gaming concession, as well as their respective directors and key employees, shall be found suitable under a suitability assessment process. Casino operators must remain suitable during the concession period.
Suitability requirements are also applicable to gaming promoters and their qualified shareholders (holding 5 per cent or more of the share capital), directors and key employees.
However, as to key employees (casino and gaming promoters), no order of the Secretary for Economy and Finance to determine the relevant functions for the purpose of ascertaining who should fall under that category was ever enacted. Nonetheless, the draft law proposal defines as key employees the members of the board of directors, other governing bodies, company secretaries, employees who practice, through a power of attorney, acts on behalf of the companies, and other employees with powers related to management of human resources, finance and business.
vii Financial payment mechanisms
No legislation regarding financial payment mechanisms in the gaming sector has been enacted.
Moreover, the use of cryptocurrencies, and bitcoin in particular, have been strongly and expressly discouraged by the local authorities.
There have been discussions on the possibility of the digital (Chinese) yuan being used in the Macau casinos.8