With the hard cap of 5,500 table games in Macau expiring next year, the government had announced that it would permit only a 3 percent increase in the number of games going forward. When you do the numbers, that would never have kept up with the new resorts scheduled to open over the next 10 years. But gaming executives hinted—with a wink and a nod—that the percentage was a moving target.
Last month, the Office of the Secretary for Economy and Finance told the Portuguese-language newspaper Ponto Final that the percentage is indeed flexible. The official said the total number of tables set to be in play by 2023—around 1,650 new games—wouldn’t be calculated each year, but over the 10-year life of the regulations. Therefore, there would be no hindrance to the debut of new tables in that period.
While Secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam Pak Yuen said there was little room for negotiation next year—when no new casinos will open—there will be more flexibility beyond that stage.
The one casino that the 2013 cap might impact would be stage 2 of Sands Cotai, which wants to open a second casino with approximately 200 tables. Since the 2013 cap has already been reached, it’s uncertain where those tables will come from.
Meanwhile, Macau’s casino industry may add around 2,000 more electronic table game seats in the next five years, according to projections released by equities analyst Union Gaming Research Macau.
The sharp increase estimated for the next five years is related to the government’s cap on the number of live games. Unlike a table, however, an electronic table game “seat” is counted as a slot machine and therefore does not count against the cap, and so the number of seats can vary significantly.
Union Gaming Group estimates there are currently around 3,500 electronic table game seats in Macau.