The number of people gambling in Macau dipped to a record low in 2019, according to a survey commissioned by the Social Welfare Bureau, with the number of people identifying as problem gamblers also falling sharply.
Based on the answers from 2,003 respondents, the report from the University of Macau estimates that 40.9% of people in the Chinese administrative region gambled in 2019, down from 51.5% in 2016 and the lowest rate ever recorded in similar studies.
Some 36.2% of respondents had taken part in commercial gambling during the past 12 months, compared to 44.6% in 2016, while the median spend among gamblers dropped 16.7% from MOP100 (£9.53/€11.11/$13.38) in 2016 to MOP83.3.
The Mark Six Lottery game was the most popular form of gambling in the past 12 months with 26.5% of respondents taking part, while social gambling ranked second on 12.6%. Casino gambling had a 9.4% share, ahead of football and basketball betting with 7.6% and slot machine parlours on 4.8%.
Betting on football and basketball, and the amount of people playing Chinese lottery, both increased, but there were drops elsewhere. Participation in lottery games, social gambling, slot machine parlour, casinos and horse racing betting all saw declines. Online gambling participation, meanwhile, remained unchanged, having been described as rising in the 2016 edition of the survey, though no percentages were provided in either year.
Arcade gaming, with tokens or points that can be converted into money, was included in the survey for the first time and saw a participation rate of 0.7%.
In terms of problem gambling, just 16 of the 2,003 respondents, or 0.8% of those who took part, classified as being “probable disordered gamblers”, down from a share of 2.5% of respondents in 2016.
However, while 73.7% said that they had heard of the local gambling disorder prevention and treatment centres, this was down from 78.3% in 2016 and 83.0% in 2013. Of those who had heard of such facilities, 30.9% were able to name the centres, a decline on 32.3% in 2016 but much higher than 17.4% in 2013.
Reflecting on the findings, the University said that football and basketball betting replaced slot machine parlours as the fourth most popular form of gambling for the first time in 2019. This was boosted by increased activity around the 2018 Fifa World Cup, but the University noted that this dipped significantly after the tournament ended.
The University also called for further efforts from both the government and non-government organisations to tackle problem gambling, citing one particular case when an individual highlighted arcade games as the main cause of his gambling disorder.
“Even with such a low participation rate (0.7%), there recorded one probable disordered gambler engaging in this activity,” the university said. “This finding is worthy of attention; residents can participate in this kind of gambling activity in Arcade Game Centres, which can easily be located in the community.
“As such, it is expected that its participation is not only convenient but is also hidden under arcade games. It is suggested that government and non-government gambling disorder prevention and treatment centres promote and educate the public on the characteristics and the differences between games and gambling so as to reduce the incidence of gambling disorder arising from arcade games.”
In the university also flagged that casino gambling was the most popular type of gambling associated with problem behaviour. However, it noted that none of those who took part in the study were classed as having a severe problem, while just six people identified as having a moderate problem.
Image: Brenden Brain