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Meeting in Macau

Michael Lee, Executive Director of Casino Regulatory and Compliance, Venetian Macao

Meeting in Macau

When Michael Lee completed law school at Singapore Management University in his native Singapore, he had no idea how many lawyers were in the marketplace. 

“The legal industry in Singapore was facing an unprecedented glut in lawyers at the time I graduated,” Lee says. “I found work as a lawyer, but I was not being intellectually stimulated in this role.” 

Lee stumbled across a job posting for a slot compliance manager at Marina Bay Sands. He didn’t know much about slots or compliance. But he got the job anyway. “The rest is history,” he says.  

He must have learned a lot in a short time, because one of the senior HR execs offered Lee a chance at the Venetian Macao. 

“I had been to Macau only once, but I knew the tremendous scale of the gaming industry there, which brought with it unparalleled learning opportunities at the first integrated resort on the Cotai Strip and one that was a leader in bringing non-gaming attractions to Macau,” Lee says. 

He accepted their offer within the hour. 

Lee now runs the gaming compliance and responsible gaming departments at the Venetian. For the former, he deals with the “analysis, negotiation and implementation of regulations, standards, and operational guidelines by the regulator.”

“The unstructured and more challenging part of this role involves ad-hoc requests and guidelines,” Lee says. “The responsible gaming department ensures that we are in compliance with the prevailing government regulations on responsible gaming.” 

He also works with non-government organizations to promote responsible gaming to society at large. The Macau government is putting in an incredible amount of effort to grow and develop the responsible gaming framework locally, Lee says. 

“The role captured my attention because it allowed you to witness firsthand, and indeed potentially work on the actual solutions that a company had to implement. I have been very involved across all levels of operations.” 

Part of his job description involved implementation of Covid-19 pandemic steps like social distancing and casino closures. “These practices were a first for the resort,” Lee says. 

The pandemic had an impact on the Venetian as it did everywhere. “We have had to juggle an incredible amount of changes from a regulatory perspective primarily due to the policies on pandemic controls which sometimes feel like building a house on shifting sand,” Lee says. “But it is a most welcome challenge as it keeps us all active and hones our situational awareness and capacity for making measured changes under an inordinate amount of time pressure.” 

While most executive teams found a way to work remotely from home, for Lee that was a non-starter. 

“This role requires that I be very involved in all aspects of the business, which is not something that I could do remotely, even if I had an opportunity to,” says Lee, who relaxes by watching the sunset with his 1-year-old daughter. 

Lee sees the industry in Asia strengthening with the growth of integrated resorts on a regional basis. He also sees the stigma attached to gambling disappearing. 

“The younger generation is able to distinguish between unhealthy obsessions and healthy consumption, which really is what gaming can be, given the appropriate parameters including being aware of your spending limits, as you would when engaging in any other forms of entertainment.” 

Lee has advice for those following in his footsteps: “Be laser-focused on what they want out of the gaming industry as a career, and then start to work toward that goal right from the beginning.”

Bill Sokolic is a veteran journalist who has covered gaming and tourism for more than 25 years as a staff writer and freelancer with various publications and wire services. He's also written stories for news, entertainment, features, and business. He co-authored Atlantic City Revisited, a pictorial history of the resort.

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