Macau Pivot Results in Chinese Casino Enclave Turning to Sports

Posted on: July 4, 2023, 09:25h. 

Last updated on: July 4, 2023, 10:22h.

Macau is amid a renaissance after China President Xi Jinping forced out the junket groups that made the casino enclave the richest gambling market in the world before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Macau sports casino operators China
The 2016 Macau Grand Prix was sponsored by SJM Resorts and other casino operators in the region. Macau is encouraging its six casino operators to partner with sports events in an attempt to diversify the region’s tourism market. (Image: Red Bull Content Pool)

With junket groups and the mainland VIP players that the touring companies brought to town no more — and Macau ordering its six casino operators to collectively invest $13.5 billion into nongaming projects during the life of their recently issued 10-year concession extensions —  the Chinese Special Administrative Region is laboring to find its new identity.

Gambling will continue to reign supreme, as the multibillion-dollar integrated casino resorts aren’t going anywhere. But the companies that own such lavish properties are developing ways to keep their rooms occupied and gaming floors busy in the post-junket era.

Referral Initiative

The Macau government, while issuing new licenses to its six casino operators — Sands, MGM, Wynn, Melco, Galaxy, and SJM — encouraged the concessionaires to consider investments in amenities and family-friendly attractions, with one possibility being sports. The government this week announced a new scheme that it believes will help develop the region as a sports destination.

Macau’s Cultural Affairs Bureau and Sports Bureau today debuted a referral program. That will see the government involve the casinos in responding to inquiries from cultural and sports interests. If an organizer or entity reaches out to the Macau government to consider hosting a cultural or sports event, the Cultural and Sports bureaus will extend the inquiry to the casinos to gauge their interest in partnering with the event.

To promote the development of Macau’s moderate economic diversification and to actively encourage integrated resort and leisure enterprises to support the development of Macau’s cultural and sporting industries, the government will establish a referral mechanism for cultural and sporting projects with immediate effect,” a statement from the bureaus explained.

Macau government officials said sports leagues, teams, and cultural organizations are invited to submit project proposals. The relevant bureau will review the matter before determining whether it’s a candidate for consideration before the casinos.

“The SAR government hopes that the new referral mechanism will provide more opportunities for the sectors to get in touch with various social resources,” the government statement added.

Sports Town

Macau and sports don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. But the Chinese region does have some iconic annual events. Macau’s sports world is highlighted by its annual Macau Grand Prix and Dragon Boat Festival.

The Macau Grand Prix is a motorsport road race with the distinction of being the only street circuit in the world in which race cars and motorcycles participate. The Dragon Boat races are held in the Pearl River Delta and feature teams consisting of 20 paddlers, a steerer, and a caller racing against other boats.

The Macau Open golf tournament is also returning this October following a five-year hiatus. Set to be hosted at Macau Golf and Country Club, SJM Resorts has already signed on as the title sponsor.

SJM is the oldest gaming operator in Macau, and owns and operates such resorts as Grand Lisboa downtown, Hotel Lisboa, and Grand Lisboa Palace on the Cotai Strip. The SJM Macau Open is part of the Asian Tour and will feature a $1 million purse.