Macau online sports betting laws
Macau is now the richest casino destination in the world. In 2013, their 35 casinos (with 8 more casinos on its way) generated USD $45 billion (HKD $348.9 billion) in gross gambling wins. This is more than every casino in the entire United States combined.
The gambling laws of Macau are rather complex but only for those in the gambling business. In short, as a player – all you really need to know is locals must be age 21 to gamble in casinos, age 18 for other forms of gambling, and cheating is a serious crime. Other than that, not much is illegal here as a player.
We have casino, horse race betting, greyhounds, sports betting, lottery and poker rooms and even prostitution is allowed. Another interesting fact is in 2011 the government acknowledged Macau has no online gambling laws. It is in no way illegal to use websites such as www.bet365.com from your Macau residence or hotel room to play online poker, casino games, bet sports or races.
As China Gambling Law, Hong Kong Gambling Law, and Taiwan Gambling Law prohibit most forms of online gambling this is good information to know. If you live in one of these places, you can open a Bet365 account at home and during your trips to Macau you can do online gambling 100% legally.
Getting back on the topic, Wikipedia Entry: Macau Gambling Law explains that our gaming law is not a branch of law but rather a large collection of legal topics related to gambling that include constitutional law, administrative law, tax law, company law, contract law and criminal law. Most of what we have is gaming regulations such as: what games casinos can offer, their guidelines, tax rates, licensing, and complaint resolution. Our criminal law covers cheating, money laundering, and running non-licensed gambling houses. Our civil laws deals with contracts and it does state gambling debt is enforceable.
This is a huge topic that Macau University offers a Bachelor’s degree course on. If you have a sincere interest their course overview contains a list of laws you can research. Many laws are also referenced in this 13 Page Macau Casino Law Report. The actual laws themselves can be found by market segment on this page of DIJC’s website. DICJ is Direcção de Inspecção e Coordenação de Jogos which is Portuguese for Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. They are our industry’s regulator and the laws are only available in Chinese and Portuguese. After reading the rest of this article you might better understand why.
An important thing to understand is nowhere else did two vastly different cultures co-mingle longer than in Macau. Sanedo Square is a 2km walk from major casinos Grand Lisboa and Wynn Macau. Along the way you’ll find both low-end and high-end shopping and food ranging from noodle vendors to Asian street food and western fast food to both Portuguese and Chinese fine dining.
Sanedo Square is one of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Macau. If you didn’t know otherwise (and other than the fact most everyone is Chinese) standing here – you could easily convince yourself that you were in Europe. If you walk upwards you will find the amazing ruins of St. Paul also shown in the photos and a historic museum. Between all this are Asian shops selling beef jerky, street food vendors and all sorts of things that are clearly Chinese.
This all explained by the fact Macau was the oldest and last European colony in Asia. Settlers came here as early as 1513, and beginning in 1557 this was a trade-port city leased by the Chinese empire to Portugal. In 1887 we became a Portuguese colony. During this era we operated similar to being our own country and in 1906 began printing the Macanese Pataca (MOP) which is still the currency used today.
On 20 December 1999 Macau sovereignty was transferred to China. Today we are a special administrative region (SAR) of China with our own passports, currency, government, laws and courts. While considered “technically” the same country, residents of Mainland China need a visa to visit Macau – something not required for visitors from Hong Kong or Taiwan.
The facts we border Mainland China’s most populated province Guangdong (广东省), are accessible by the South China Sea, and are a short boat ferry ride from Hong Kong, and have legal gambling, prostitution, and many attractions – then and still today – has Macau as the hottest spot to visit in the region.
Our history with gambling dates to the very early days of Portuguese rule. In the sixteenth century gambling was popular with workers emigrant from Mainland China. As there were no laws to prohibit them, gambling stalls were available all over the streets, and some were even ran by major bankers. The games played were exclusively fantan (番攤) and Pai Gow (牌九). By the 1800s Cussec (CLU-CLU) which is a variation of what the west knows as Sic bo (骰寶) and is also known as tai sai (大細) and dai siu (大小) became one of the most popular games played in the streets.
Gambling here was tax free and unregulated until the British gained control of Hong Kong in 1842. The fact this nearby seaport was British ruled meant Macau’s long dominance as the place connecting the Far East and the West was nearly diminished. To rebound, our Portuguese government declared all games of chance legal in 1847. This was a period where much the rest of the world (both Asia and Europe) were passing laws to prohibit the same. This kept Macau highly relevant and stabilized the economy.
In 1877 the government moved to tax gambling. They declared fantan a tax free game, but required the highest bidder wishing to control the industry pay tax to the Public Treasury. The first year the winning bid amount was 120,000 patacas. From this period on, taxing gambling operators became the Macau government’s primary income.
The next segment of gambling issued a monopoly was horse racing. While races existed here since 1842, it was only in 1927 that Club Internacional de Recreio e Corridas de Macau, Limitada who had just been granted the monopoly held their first organized race at the newly built racecourse Areia Preta. Shortly later, in 1932 what is now Yat Yuen Canidrome was built to host greyhound racing organized by an alliance of Chinese and Americans who would later create Macao Canine Club.
The introduction of roulette clubs in the 1910s brought tension. While all games of chance were legal in Macau, these clubs were competing against the forms of gambling the government taxed. This is was a topic of on and off dispute. Over a period of two decades some roulette clubs shutdown due to pressure from concession holders and police. In 1934 the matter was settled when all games of chances were placed into a single monopoly. The highest bids were 1.9 million patacas in 1935 and 2.5 million patacas in 1936.
In 1937 the Second Sino-Japanese War (which in part led to World War II) caused a decline in gambling. To secure immediate funds a multiple year casino concession was awarded to Tai Heng Company. They would control gambling in Macau from March 1936 to March 1962. During their era a new casino at Hotel Central became the most popular in Macau.
After Mainland China banned gambling in 1949, business spiked and Tai Heng Company added western games such as baccarat and boule (a variant of roulette). While casino continued, horse racing and greyhound industry was suspended entirely due to World War II.
Macau’s rebound, from tough conditions the war had left the region in, came in February 1961. This is when the governor declared Macau a permanent gaming region. From this point on Macau became a low-tax region that considered gaming and tourism its primary economic activity.
While it is easy to credit the change to Chinese sovereignty and the breakup of the monopoly system for Macau’s success of the millennium decade, much credit goes to Stanley Ho who age 91 is still a major force in Macau gambling. In 1961 he formed a company with then Hong Kong tycoon Henry Fok, renowned gambler Yip Hon and his brother-in-law Teddy Yip (who was married Stanley Ho’s sister Susie Ho) called Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau (STDM). They outbid Tai Heng Company and gained the casino monopoly concession. Due to three concession renewals they controlled the Macau gambling industry from 30 March 1962 to 8 March 2000. They still to this day own the most casinos in Macau.
Much of STDM 1960s operations have only limited remains. Their first casino opened in 1962 and was where the rundown Hotel Estoril in Macau City now stands. This casino closed in 1975. If you are into casino history here is a must view post; to read it: use Google Translate Portuguese to English.
In 1963 STDM opened the once famous Macau Palace (Floating Casino) which is where the 1974 James Bond film – the Man with a Golden Gun -was filmed. It should not be confused with the current Macau Palace. The old one was towed away in 2007. What is still operational is their built 1963 casino dedicated to Chinese games, Kaem Pek Casino.
Visible all over Macau is the Stanley Ho efforts of 1970 and beyond. While building began in 1964, it was 1970 that Casino Lisboa first opened. This was the nicest hotel in Macau for three decades. While today there are multi-billion dollar casinos decorating Macau Peninsula and Cotai Strip including the world’s largest casino and a second with a similar name (Grand Lisboa opened 11 February 2007), the old Lisboa is still standing and relevant. Today it might be known as where the hookers hang out, but the taxes this single casino paid during the 1990s decade was one-quarter of all the tax the Macau government collected from any source and accounted for one-sixth of the total GDP.
In 1975 Jai Alai casino was built to replace Casino Estoril. In 1984 STDM opened a fifth casino which today is known as Grand Lapa. Between 1985 and 1996 the casinos still open today of Diamond Casino at the Holiday Inn, Kingsway Casino and the private Legends Club all opened. Also during this period Victoria and Marina casinos opened which were later closed or renamed. There was also a casino in what is now Regency Hotel (Taipa) bringing the 1996 count to nine casinos in Macau all operated by Stanley Ho’s STDM.
The primary focus of STDM was of course to attract gamblers from the region. They made great contributions to upgrading marine travel. They did however give some focus to attracting players from other Asian countries. Stanley Ho himself invested in airline companies. Also in the 1970s they expanded the games offered by introducing western-style slots machines and in the 1980s added Pachinko – the most popular form of gambling in Japan. By the 1990’s tourists from Thailand, Japan, Korea and India were also aware of Macau as one of the top sin cities of the region.
While Macau is mostly known for casinos, we do have many forms of legal gambling and most tie to era of the STDM gambling monopoly. As mentioned horse racing existed here in 1842, but was first organized in 1927 and then suspended in 1942 due to World War II. This restarted in 1980 when famous gambler Yip Hon got the license to operate Harness Racing. As you might recall he was a partner in STDM at their start – in 1982 he sold his shares over a public falling out with Stanley Ho.
Yip Hon was not successful because Harness Racing never really caught on. In 1988 the turnover was so small he had to stop. His business was bought the same year by Taiwan Investment and Development Co., Ltd. They changed the grounds to a flat course and began races in September 1989. They also struggled and the year following STDM bought out the track and their concession. They resumed races in January 1991 and have run them ever since. Today this is a successful business that had 2012 profits of MOP 365 million.
Greyhound racing is also popular in Macau and had 2012 profit of MOP 205 million. This restarted when in 1962 an Indonesian businessman was given a land concession to rebuild Macau’s Yat Yuen Canidrome (逸園賽狗場) which had previously run races from 1932 to 1942. Races resumed 28 September 1963 originally ran by Yi Park. 8 years later this was taken over by a Stanley Ho backed group. Today there are 16 races per night beginning at 5PM and the cost to enter is MOP10 which can be used as betting credit. It is also possible to bet dog races at off-course betting centres located in the Hotel Lisboa, Jai-Alai Palace and Kam Pek Casino. Vast information about the races, dogs and how to bet online can be found in Chinese at macauyydog.com.
Other gambling business of the Ho family is Macau lottery. In 1984 STDM was given the concession for Instant Lottery and started the subsidiary Macau SLOT. Due to technical issues and lack of demand this was abandoned a few years later. In 1987, STDM convinced the government sports betting was a form of lottery. Macau SLOT then launched football betting just prior to the start of the 1988 World Cup. On 29 December 2000 they became the first legitimate company in Asia to offer NBA betting. Their online betting site macau-slot.com opened in 2002. Today, there are 12 Macau SLOT betting shops as well as online betting and telebet and 2012 net win was MOP 418 million.
Another of STDM’s subsidiaries Wing Hing gained concession for the monopoly on Bái gē piào (白鴿票) often written by westerners as Pa Ka Pio or Pacapio in 1990. This is the Chinese version of Keno and has draws every 15 minutes. The Wizard of Macau covers how to play Pacapio and even lists the odds and theoretic holds. Since 2010, Wing Hing has renewed this concession one year at a time. The most recent contract runs to 30 March 2014. The revenue is not as large as the other forms of gambling in Macau but in 2012 still exceeded MOP 6 million in profit.
If studying Macau Gambling Law it is important to understand two-thirds of gambling revenue here comes from junket operators bringing VIP clients. Their need arises from tight restrictions of moving money out of various countries. For example, Chinese are restricted from moving more than 20,000 yuan ($3180 USD) per day out of China without very difficult to obtain permission. Under Taiwanese law moving more than the equivalent of US$10,000 (80,000 patacas) requires special declaration.
As many VIP gamblers have no available means to wire large amounts across the border, and the amount of paper currency that can be taken legally out of the country is far smaller, this is where junket operators play a roll. They target the richest gamblers from the region, offer them concierge service, VIP treatment and more importantly credit betting. They collect the losses back in the gambler’s home country.
During the late 1990’s Macau was preparing for transfer from Portugal to China and the resources to stop crime were minimal. During this time gangs known as triads were in a constant battle with each other and police for the junket operation. There were bombings, murders and other sorts of terror. As reported in 1998 by the economist, violence was so widespread Macau’s security chief was reassuring scared tourists not to worry as “hitmen never missed their mark”. However, his own chauffeur was later shot in the head at close range. It was a very violent time in Macau history.
Improvement happened quickly after Macau transferred to Chinese sovereignty on 20 December 1999. Although we retained independence in nearly all matters and function much the same as being our own country, we did get urgent help from Mainland China. They provided military for the purpose of ridding the triad from Macau. While an impossible task to do in full, many arrests were made, violence was greatly reduced, and casino revenue quickly increased 42%.
Today, junket and credit operations are regulated by Administrative Regulation 6/2002 while Law 5/2004 provides the legal frame work for casino credit operations. Though major casinos now have licensed junkets there are still legal issues in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China as to how they operate. As a result organised crime is still involved and arrests do happen. For example: in summer 2012, 150 were arrested with help from Hong Kong Police and more recently Crown Casino had US$100 million cashed frozen by Taiwanese authorities. Still this something most tourists need be concerned with. Macau is the richest casino destination in the world and relies on tourism. As a SAR of China, Macau has the infrastructure and resources to keep criminal activity from becoming a safety threat. The United States has a Macau Safety Report that confirms everything here is relatively safe.
The STDM monopoly was still under contract when Macau SAR was established in December 1999. To prepare for the change in August 2001 Law No. 16/2001 stipulated that once STDM’s contract expired gambling would open for bid including to international companies. This was supplemented by Law No. 26/2001.
In 8 October 2011 bids from 8 companies were taken and exactly four month later it was announced the original “STDM” now named “SJM”, Galaxy and Wynn had won the bids. In time sub-concessions and modifications were made. Venetian was allowed to operate under Galaxy. SJM and Wynn allowed MGM to enter the market via a company half-owned by Stanley Ho’s daughter, and Australia’s Crown Limited via partnership in which his son is the chairmen.
Today there 35 casinos in Macau of which SJM (owned 80% by STDM) owns 20. As for the rest, plenty of information on today’s Macau is widely available searching the web. If you’re thinking of taking a trip here I suggest WikiTravel Macau for information and booking hotels through www.macau.com/en/. The purpose of this article was not for those topics but was rather to discuss Macau Gambling Law, our unique culture and history. For that, this article took days of research, writing and editing and I hope you feel all is covered well and accurately and have enjoyed the time spent reading this page.