Macau Casinos Halt Free Drinks and Snacks on Government Orders

Macau casinos halting free drinks and snacks
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Macau casinos were recently ordered to scale back how many complimentary snacks and beverages they hand out to casino patrons. The reduced freebies have not had a material negative impact on their businesses, according to the local government. Macau’s Government Tourism Office (MGTO) monitors the flow of people in and out of the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR). MGTO Deputy Director Ricky Hoi provided an update on how the rescinding of free snacks and drinks from the casino floors has impacted traffic.

“The number of tourists who visited Macau last weekend reached 110,000 and 120,000, respectively, and I believe that the main purpose of tourists coming to Macau is not for free snacks at the casinos,” Hoi said tongue in cheek. “We don’t see any impact on the number of tourists for the time being. When compared with the past weekends, we didn’t notice any drop in terms of the number of tourists,” Hoi added.

Freebies Had Risen

Free drinks, inclusive of alcohol, are commonplace on most casino floors in the U.S., especially in major markets like Las Vegas and Atlantic City. But in China’s Macau, complimentary beverages hadn’t always been the norm.

Macau casinos had only recently increased free drinks to gamblers and began providing snacks as the resorts refocused their marketing efforts on the mass market.

The Macau SAR Government during the COVID-19 pandemic forced out most VIP junket operators at the direction of Beijing. That resulted in far fewer high rollers being in town, prompting the six casino operators to pivot to the general public to keep their slots spinning and table games active.

Local businesses, especially downtown near Senado Square in the many alleys that branch from the piazza, rely heavily on tourists to keep their hole-in-the-wall restaurants and convenience stores profitable. Those business owners complained to the government that the casinos’ handouts had poached revenue from their storefronts.

Instead of stopping in a store for a bottle of water and a bag of chips, a tourist could drop in a casino, bet $5 on a slot, grab a drink and snack for free, and possibly win a jackpot.

Along with small businesses tipping off the Macau SAR Government about the increase in handouts at the casinos, social media influencers were blamed for the removal of the freebies.

In recent months, numerous videos have been posted on WeChat, TikTok, and Weibo showing people how to visit Macau on the cheap. The clips from the influencers demonstrated how one can spend a day in the Chinese casino hub and eat and drink for nearly free.

Visitor Traffic Rebounding

Macau welcomed about 28.2 million visitors last year, by far its most traffic since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Last year’s visitor haul, however, remained only 72% of the more than 39.4 million people the enclave welcomed in pre-pandemic 2019.

Gaming revenue has also remained below 2019 levels. The six casinos last year won a combined $22.7 billion in the region’s first full year completely free of pandemic restrictions. The $22.7 billion represented only 63% of the $36.3 billion that the gaming operators won in 2019.

For Macau to return to 2019 gaming numbers, the casinos need robust visitation and a strengthened Chinese economy, which continues to show signs of weakening amid a manufacturing slowdown.