Macau Locals Gambling Less

Gambling by Macau residents is down almost 10 percent from three years ago, according to a new survey. The research suggests that local interest has declined as the industry has grown and says low unemployment and responsible gaming programs have also played a part.

A University of Macau survey commissioned by the government says residents of the territory are gambling less.

The study attributes the decline, tracked over the last three years, to a combination of factors, including loss of interest, a low unemployment rate and more policies geared to promoting responsible gaming.

More than 3,000 locals were interviewed for the research, which found the gaming participation rate of Macau residents aged 15 to 64 was 49.5 percent last year, down from 55.9 percent in 2010 and 59.2 percent in 2007.

The median gaming spend in 2013 of those polled was 505 patacas (US$63) a month.

“As the gaming sector has been liberalized for so many years, some residents have lost the sense of freshness and curiosity towards casinos which drew them in in the beginning,” said Davis Fong, director of the university’s Institute for the Study of Commercial Gaming, which conducted the study. “The rate was higher when there were a bunch of new resorts opening in 2007 and 2008, but residents have been getting used to them.”

The study estimates the proportion of residents showing mild signs of pathological gambling at 1.9 percent last year, down from 2.8 percent three years earlier. The rate for residents with strong signs of pathological gambling registered 0.9 percent, down from 2.8 percent in 2010.

Fong cautioned, however, that casino employees are at greater risk for problem gambling and called on the government and the public to seek solutions ahead of the opening of six new megaresorts on Cotai over the next few years.

“Right now, there are 70,000 or 80,000 people in the gaming industry, but the figure will surely go over 100,000 after 2017,” he said. “(The gambling participation of gaming employees) is kind of like a time bomb; we don’t know when or whether it will detonate.”

He said he supports a ban on casino employees gambling in casinos. Casino executive and lawmaker Angela Leong also has asked the government to consider a blanket ban.