A prominent member of the Macau Legislative Council and president of the Macau Gaming Industry called on the Chinese government to consider proposals to enhance internal security in the city’s exclusive casinos, on its gaming floors, and within its hotels.
Leong Sun Lok filed a written request to the Chinese government dated September 7th, encouraging the nation’s leaders to weigh up the prospect of implementing facial recognition technology to guard against the influx of blacklisted tourists to the area. Mr. Lok also believes the same technology could be used to meet the practical needs of an approved bill designed to thwart Macau’s casino workers from entering the casino floors outside of their working hours, helping to curb problem gambling in the process.
Robbery in Macau Casinos Up 50% Year-on-Year
The need for heightened security in Macau’s casinos also results for an alarming rise in the number of reported crimes in the city in the first six months of 2018. Robberies committed within Macau’s casino resorts were up 50 percent year-on-year, according to data from the Office of the Secretary for Security. Admittedly, the figures are at a low base, with four reported robberies on casino floors in the first half of 2017 compared with six reported robberies in the first half of 2018.
Although a separate set of data from the Macanese government found that gaming-linked crimes in the city fell 3 percent year-on-year to 840 cases, it wasn’t clear whether this figure included robberies.
In early autumn 2018, at a casino resort in Cotai, two Chinese visitors from the mainland on business alleged being robbed en route to their hotel rooms. Mr. Lok believes that these incidents in Macau’s most prestigious locations have a “severe impact on Macau’s tourism image.”
There are examples of where Macau’s casinos already successfully installed facial recognition technology. More than three years ago, casino operator Melco Crown Entertainment announced the installation of the technology developed by German-based Cognitec Systems GmbH. The FaceVACS facial recognition technology was the “first system of its kind in the casino market,” according to Cognitec’s Stephen Meltz. The technology alerts security staff of banned or blacklisted individuals and turns them away before gaining access to the casino floor or hotel.
Macau Still Streets Ahead as the World’s No. 1 Gambling Resort
Caption: The magnificent Macau skyline at dusk.
There’s no doubt that Macau’s casino scene is very much alive and kicking. In August 2018, Macau’s gaming revenue grew 17 percent year-on-year, according to new data from Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. Almost 90 percent of Macau’s gaming revenue continues to come from the table game of baccarat, which attracts millions of visitors from Mainland China every year. One of the main reasons that baccarat is such a popular card game, both in Macau and around the world, is its simplistic gameplay. Specifically, there are only two decisions for players to make in any round: the position believed to win the next hand and the amount you wish to wager. The simplicity of baccarat also makes it a prime candidate for those wishing to play casino table games online on the move. Whether it’s on the early morning commute to pass the time or in the living room after a busy day at work, more people than ever look to play baccarat online on smartphone and tablet devices, as opposed to trekking to the nearest brick-and-mortar casino.
In 2017, gross gaming revenues in Macau totaled $33 billion — almost five times that of Las Vegas ($7.09 billion), so it is clear to see that Macau still reigns supreme as the world’s out-and-out gambling capital. ValueWalk.com’s recent infographic displays the clear bias toward the game of baccarat in Macau, generating $29.2 billion of the total $33 billion revenue last year. What’s even more impressive about Macau’s gross gaming revenue is that it has 50 percent fewer casino resorts in operation than in Las Vegas. And as of last year, there were 40 casinos open for business in Macau compared with 60 in Sin City.
Most high-profile operators within Macau’s casino industry agree that the key to continued growth in the sector is the development of Macau’s mass market. For many years now, Macau relied heavily upon its VIP customer base, with high rollers from Mainland China flying in to sit down at the high-stakes baccarat tables. However, question marks linger over the sustainability of its VIP customers, and the Chinese government is working hard to encourage Macau to evolve its reputation as a more well-rounded tourist destination. That alone would encourage mass market interest, with visitors happy to spend on big-ticket items, such as hotel rooms and restaurant meals.
Macau’s Tech Scene Also at the Heart of China’s Tech Ambitions
As part of the Chinese government’s plans for diversification in the city of Macau, the “Vegas of the Far East” enjoys significant state funding to play a leading role in helping Beijing to rival the United States in the technological superiority stakes. Look a little closer through the glitz and the glamor of Macau’s neon lights, and you will see laboratories in action with one common goal: to minimize China’s reliance on overseas technology.
Rui Martins, vice-rector for research at the University of Macau, said that although the city is “best known for its casino chips,” it is fast becoming recognized for its “electronics chips.” A new project is well underway to develop an innovative microchip that can enable smartphone devices to recharge batteries housed within other gadgets. Already, Macau’s two top State Key Laboratories have been utilized to conduct scientific research that is crucial to this project and various other national developments. Meanwhile, Beijing continues to rock the world of social media this year, with the success of Tik Tok — a social streaming app forecast to eclipse both Instagram and Snapchat in the near future.
Two additional state-funded laboratories could pop up in Macau by the end of the year, with Beijing all set to approve proposals for a “Smart Cities and the Internet of Things” laboratory at the University of Macau as well as a laboratory focused on Planetary Science.