Macau casinos withhold 133 slot machine payouts claiming wins were due to 'mechanical errors'
The Macau government has brushed off calls for tighter casino controls, amid accusations that operators in the world's gaming capital are unfairly withholding prize money from winners.
The casinos have reportedly refused 133 gamblers their winnings, claiming that their wins are the result of "mechanical errors" - a practice critics say will deal a blow to Macau's tourism image.
In one case, Ip Choi-peng, 51, said he spent more than four million patacas on slot machines at MGM and The Venetian in April, but did not receive winnings totalling 20 million patacas, the Legislative Assembly heard.
"A layman wins but waits for three hours before he is told he won't get any money," lawmaker Jose Pereira Coutinho said yesterday.
"This is damaging to Macau's reputation."
Fellow legislator Au Kam-san argued that gamblers could not know if a machine was technically reliable before playing it.
Au called for a rewriting of laws governing the circumstances in which casinos could refuse payment.
But Manuel Joaquim das Neves, director of the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, assured lawmakers that Macau's gaming machines were all from qualified manufacturers.
"There are minor abnormalities, but it is very rare for flaws to be found on gaming machines," das Neves said.
He disagreed with Coutinho's suggestion that the city set up its own laboratories to check malfunctioning machines. The labs hired by the casinos were reputable, he said.
Das Neves also noted that legal provisions ensured travellers could be reimbursed if they had to overstay or make an extra trip to deal with such disputes.
Ip, who said he had not been refunded his 4 million patacas, attended the lawmakers' meeting but said he was dissatisfied with das Neves' answers.
"It seems the officials are acting in favour of casinos," he said. "These casinos are hurting the image of Macau. It's like these casinos are cheating … me."
He had been in negotiations with MGM and the Venetian, which were willing to pay compensation of only 10 per cent of the jackpot.
"That is … not even enough to cover my principal," he said.
The Venetian, whose holding company is Sands, said it had received the bureau's notification concluding his complaint could not be proven.
"Sands China will comply with the notification and the respective legislating of the Macau SAR," a spokesman for the company said.
MGM did not respond to the South China Morning Post's request for comment.
Additional reporting by Shirley Zhao