Cloee Chao, co-founder of Macau Gaming Industry Frontline Workers' UnionAt the end of August, casino employees in Macau protested to demand wage increases and more benefits and also better working conditions. Macau, which has replaced Las Vegas as the world’s foremost gaming capital, is the only area in China where gambling is legal. Casinos licensed in Macau and operated by SJM Holdings, Wynn Macau, MGM China, Sands China, Melco Crown Entertainment and Galaxy Entertainment Group were the target of earlier protests by disgruntled workers, who visited the casinos en masse to protest.

Protests stepped up

When the initial protests didn’t lead to the hoped for demands from casino workers the movement was stepped up by the casino workers’ trade union, The Forefront of Macau Gaming. The latest protest targeted the Grand Lisboa Casino Resort operated by SJM Holdings. SJM Holdings is the only casino operator licensed in the territory that has its origins in Macau. The company is owned by the Ho family, which under Stanley Ho had a decades long monopoly on gambling in Macau. In the first half of this year, the Grand Lisboa provided over a third of all of Macau’s income from gambling. About a thousand dealers refused to deal cards in the recent protest in the Grand Lisboa but the action was not the complete disaster that had been expected as the company managed to bring in workers from its other casinos and it also announced that those employees who did work as normal would be given a bonus of up to almost 2 month’s salary. A dealer’s average salary is $2 200 and The Forefront of Macau Gaming is demanding a 10 per cent salary increase for dealers and all casino employees.

Some progress

While talks are still ongoing after the recent protests, there has been some movement by some of Macau’s casino operators to try to calm workers’ unrest. Wynn Macau is to give its employees shares in the company and it raised their salaries by 5 per cent. Sands China has given its workers an amount equal to an extra month’s salary. Employees of the Galaxy Entertainment Group are to receive an extra month’s salary and also shares in the company. SJM Holdings has said that it would offer its casino staff cost of living allowances worth up to one and a half to two months of their current salaries. However, these measures are not considered to be enough by the casino workers’ union and the protests will continue.