Date
23 September 2017
Manuel Joaquim das Neves oversaw Macau's transformation from a gaming monopoly to an open market rivaling Las Vegas. It's now the world's biggest gaming hub. Photo: worldfolio
Manuel Joaquim das Neves oversaw Macau's transformation from a gaming monopoly to an open market rivaling Las Vegas. It's now the world's biggest gaming hub. Photo: worldfolio

Macau casino regulator cashes in his chips

Macau’s top casino watchdog is retiring in November after almost two decades during which he oversaw the rise of the world’s largest gaming industry, made many Chinese rich, and watched a crackdown whittle away those gains.

Manuel Joaquim das Neves, director of the Macau Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ), will step down on Nov. 25 after working as a civil servant for more than 30 years, according to an official statement cited by Bloomberg.

DICJ spokeswoman Wendy Wong said Das Neves’ replacement has not been named.

Das Neves, who has led the regulator for 18 years, will focus on his family after retirement, local broadcaster Teledifusao de Macau reports.

During his tenure, Macau’s gaming revenue had climbed more than sevenfold in a decade until last year when Chinese President Xi Jinping launched an anti-coruption campaign that kept away high rollers.

And in the past two years, the Macau government imposed travel restrictions on mainlanders, banned smoking in casinos and tightened regulations over junket operators, the middlemen who bring in the big players.

Macau casino shares have fallen 39 percent year to date compared with the benchmark Hang Seng index’s 3.3 percent decline.

Das Neves, 56, oversaw the casino industry’s transformation in the former Portuguese colony from a four-decade monopoly held by tycoon Stanley Ho to its liberalization since 2001 when the market opened up to foreign operators including Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn.

“In the context of Beijing seemingly pledging its support to Macau and to the gaming industry, we would not expect the transition to a new head of the gaming regulatory body to result in tougher times ahead” for the casino companies, said Grant Govertsen, an analyst at Union Gaming Group.

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