Macau’s casino industry has been badly impacted by the global coronavirus pandemic. Even though casino operators have reopened their premises, Chinese gamblers are not keen on traveling due to the pandemic.
Macau’s casinos are expected to have a 70 percent decline in gross gaming revenues (GGR) in Jan 2021 when compared to Jan 2020. Casino operators are not the only ones to suffer but junket operators have also been hit hard.
Junket operators are middlemen that connect casino operators to VIP gamblers in China. They help casino operators by putting them in touch with VIP gamblers who often spend millions of dollars on each trip to Macau as well as overseas casinos.
These junket operators also help players move funds between different accounts and evade the watchful eye of the authorities.
Macau had a total of 235 licensed junket operators in 2013. However, a number of junket operators have been forced to shut down due to a number of different reasons. Macau had only 95 licensed junket operators in Jan 2020 and that number has further fallen to 85 licensed operators in Jan 2021. This is a decline of 10.5 percent and Macau could lose more junket operators in the next 12 months.
This data was published by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau in Macau but no explanation was given as to why the number of licensed junket operators has dropped so badly.
Crackdown Hurting Junket Operations
Macau which is the biggest gambling hub in the world had a thriving casino market. However, things started going south in 2016 when Beijing launched a huge anti-corruption drive that targeted VIP gamblers and Macau casinos. This anti-corruption drive lasted for close to two years and scared VIP gamblers away.
The anti-corruption drive was launched as Beijing suspected that VIP gamblers were using black money to gamble at the casinos and junket operators were helping them wash their money at Macau casinos. The crackdown forced a number of junkets to take the decision to win up operations – especially the smaller operators.
Macau eased up on the crackdown by 2018 but the damage was done. Beijing has continued to target Macau casinos and junket operators. China has passed a new law that makes it a criminal offense to take money out of China for gambling related purposes. This directly targets junket operators who now run the risk of being criminally prosecuted. Expect the number of junket operators to continue to drop in 2021.