Macao Magazine: How long did you work at TDM and then as a prosecutor before joining the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ)?
PAULO CHAN: I started working at Ou Mun Tin Toi [TDM] radio station in 1981 where I worked as a part-time employee of the station for 15 years. During that time, I worked mainly as an interpreter and translator.
It was a very important experience for me. I was able to accompany undersecretaries and the governor, as well as the president and prime minister of Portugal, and saw how people interacted, how the leaders presented themselves. I also had the opportunity to learn much about Macao society and attended the legislative assembly for the governor’s consultative council meetings.
In 1997, I became a prosecutor for 17 years before I joined the DICJ last year.
MM: What experiences working as a prosecutor helped shape your approach to management and your present role at the DICJ?
PC: Knowledge of the law is very important. Knowing the law, I’m confident in answering questions and confident about making decisions. And in judicial work, for better or for worse, we must have the courage to make decisions. We also have to be able to handle the pressure, because every time you make a decision involving two opposing parties, one party will be unhappy.
MM: What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities of your current role? What are the priorities?
PC: A number of issues have accumulated as a result of very rapid development in the past 15 years, which didn’t allow for time to troubleshoot issues that arose. We really have to change that; for me, this is a priority.
Additionally, the decline in gross gaming revenue poses a challenge, but that depends more on external factors than on our efforts. We are trying to build up the gaming industry with integrity and quality, but this will not solve our revenue problem immediately. Change will happen step by step as we try to build something different.
MM: Please elaborate on one of the issues that has accumulated over the past 15 years.
PC: Take, for instance, the junkets. Macao’s gross gaming revenue depends upon the VIP market, but there are issues related to the gaming promoters. On one hand, we have to cater to the VIP clientele, but on the other hand, we have to regulate the junkets. Finding a regulated balance will be difficult.
MM: The gaming industry employs a large percentage of Macao’s workforce. How many people does the DICJ employ and is there sufficient staff to support the industry?
PC: We employ roughly 400 staff members, but we are planning on recruiting more: 50 inspectors and 20 surveillance staff. Hopefully, we can also expand the audit team because it plays a very important role in the gaming industry. We want to maximise the capacity of our staff through continuous training programs. Recently, in May and also early June, we organised two seminar series for our inspectors on the importance of integrity, which were held by the Commission Against Corruption.
I think it is very important to fortify and improve both the integrity and quality of our gaming industry. This will be a major goal for us in the coming years.
MM: Does the DICJ possess the in-house skills and experience to execute your vision or will it need to train and/or hire instructors from other jurisdictions?
PC: The realities between Macao’s gaming industry and that of other destinations, particularly Las Vegas and Singapore, are quite different. Geographically, we are very close to China, and most of our clients are from China, so we have particularities and specifications, which are different from any other jurisdiction. This means we have to create our own system, including proprietary legal regulations.
MM: What is your vision for the role the DICJ will play in shaping Macao’s future?
PC: In the past, we have concentrated too much solely on the gaming industry and probably overlooked the development of other economic activities. I think it is very important that we now reflect upon the past decade and try to develop and diversify other economic activities as well.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we are going to give up on the gaming industry. It will still be a very important economic sector for Macao, and we will continue to keep VIP gaming clients who fiscally support and diversify our economy, but it is risky for us to depend on one niche market for so long, and we really cannot rely on it alone. We have to develop other industries too, for example, non-gaming activities that many operators are now promoting.
MM: How can Macao differentiate itself from competition that has been growing throughout the region? What competitive advantage do we have and how do we maintain it?
PC: First of all, our integrity and quality are unparalleled. In some places, you may feel rather unsafe, but Macao offers a secure environment.
Additionally, our industry is very mature with more than 50 years of experience. Geographically, we are easily accessible from mainland China and other Asian countries. We have the best hotels and the best casinos. Games are fair and safe and free of corruption and criminal ties, which is paramount. We’ve worked hard for decades to create and uphold this international image.
We have to maintain these advantages and ensure that Macao remains a family-friendly international city of fun and leisure.
MM: The final phases of construction on Cotai will be completed within the next few years. Will its completion bring a halt to Macao’s economy and industry?
PC: I firmly believe that entrepreneurs will always come up with new innovative projects. Even small changes can make big waves; so as long as there’s profit to be made, there will always be new projects and new facilities to promote despite our limited real estate.
MM: And is Macao open to those new ideas?
PC: So long as they are good ideas and comply with the laws and regulations, yes. I’m quite confident that there will always be new innovations that will benefit Macao.
MM: Would you say the government is working hand in hand with the gaming industry to promote Macao?
PC: Our department, the DICJ, is the inspection and coordination department. We have very close contact with all the operators as well as the junkets. If there are any issues, we work closely hand in hand with them. Coordinating is our main task after all. I always say that we do not have a hierarchy: we are partners.
MM: You’ve been in office for seven months now. What are your general impressions so far?
PC: It’s very exciting! I am very satisfied with the job: I work with a lot of people; I solve issues; and I have insight into the glamour of the gaming industry which I did not before. It is really something new for me, and I am very pleased and honoured to be in this position. I am also glad to have a lot of support from my superiors and my team members in the DICJ.
MM: What advice would you give Macao’s youth regarding how to improve and inspire themselves and move Macao forward?
PC: I think that Macao’s current success has not come easily. The young generation should not take it for granted; we really have to treasure the success we enjoy today.
For example, our unemployment rate is 1.8 per cent: that is a very enviable and rare statistic globally. Citizens of Macao enjoy job security and social benefits. We really have to treasure this and continue to maintain this prosperity. It’s hard work!
Photos Cheong Kam Ka