What’s the one thing you will soon find all over Macau casinos that you won’t find in Las Vegas for love nor money? Nope, it’s not corrupt Communist party officials making whoopee. In fact, the answer may be staring right at you, down there in bottom right corner of your screen.
Yes, it’s clocks. Specifically, clocks on slots.
Clocks have always been absent from Las Vegas casinos because of their inconvenient ability to convey time and to disrupt the dreamlike compulsion loop in the human mind.
Macau casinos have always followed the same school of thought, gleefully spurning horological devices, until now.
Clock is Ticking
On Monday, Macau gaming regulator DICJ confirmed to GGRAsia it had informed its operators that by the end of 2024 all slots in the gambling hub must be fitted with intermittently flashing clocks showing the local time.
That means all existing machines must be retrofitted with an appropriate timekeeper by the end of the grace period.
The clocks will flash up at the beginning of play and at every ten minutes thereafter, according to the regulator.
“The purpose of a clock on the gaming machine is for the promotion of responsible gaming,” DICJ explained.
It’s a progressive move from a jurisdiction that is seldom held up as a beacon of responsible gaming. In fact, Macau lacks the kind of robust corporate and social responsibility framework for its casinos that’s almost always present in jurisdictions in the US and Europe.
This probably has something to do with the casino industry’s powerful influence within the special administrative region’s (SAR) highly corporatized political system. Although that’s not to say DICJ hasn’t initiated sporadic social responsibility drives before.
In 2012, it issued a set of “Responsible Gambling Principles,” which required casinos to implement measures such as publicizing gaming odds and information about the risks of gambling. It also established a problem gambling hotline and required operators to establish counselling kiosks.
Meanwhile, the lighting inside windowless casinos was required to mirror natural daytime and night-time cycles (remember those?) – another one Macau has on Las Vegas.
Further measures were introduced in 2016, accompanied by stricter anti-money laundering controls.
But there’s a big question mark over how significant the new measure will be to a gaming industry that’s far less reliant on spinning reels than we are in the US.
Clocks on slots would be a huge deal in Las Vegas, for example. In 2020, there were 213,000 slot machines in the city. That’s in comparison to the 90,000 slots in Macau.
In the six months to July 2021, in the whole of Nevada, where the slots positions outnumber the population, revenue from the machines came in at $4.6 billion. That’s just under 70 percent of the $6.6 billion total gaming haul.
While we don’t have a comparative breakdown for Macau, slots are far less popular in the SAR, where, culturally, table games are king. But Macau’s casinos aren’t required to put a clock within shooting distance of a table game, or even an electronic table game, under the new rules.
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