Macau casino workers demand bigger share of the winnings

Tue Aug 5, 2014 2:29am EDT
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By Farah Master

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Disgruntled casino workers are becoming a costly thorn in Macau's side.

As the Chinese territory races to build eight new resorts in the next three years, labor strains look set to intensify: workers are demanding higher pay and threatening strikes at a time when operators face a labor shortage.

Las Vegas kingpins Sheldon Adelson at Las Vegas Sands Corp (LVS.N: Quote) and Steve Wynn at Wynn Resorts Ltd (WYNN.O: Quote) together reported unexpected costs of $50 million (£29.6 million)last quarter for labor-related compensation at their Macau casinos.

Casino industry analysts expect the other four licensed operators in the world's biggest gambling hub - Galaxy Entertainment (0027.HK: Quote), MGM Resorts (MGM.N: Quote), SJM Holdings (0880.HK: Quote) and Melco Crown Entertainment 6883.HK - to announce similar cost pressures when they post earnings this month.

Located on China's south coast, Macau is the only place in the country where casino gambling is legal. The special administrative region boasts 35 casinos and relies on gaming taxes for more than 80 percent of government revenues.

Home to a population of just over 500,000 people, the former Portuguese colony has one of the world's lowest jobless rates at 1.7 percent. Rigid labor regulations that prohibit foreigners from working at the gaming tables mean casino operators have little choice but to raise wages to attract and retain staff.

Workers at Galaxy were planning a protest for Tuesday at the company's flagship golden-turreted resort after a Macau trade union last week submitted a petition alleging its salaries were "disrespectful" to some employees.

More than 1,000 workers protested last week outside Adelson's showpiece Venetian, accusing the company of poor wages and unfair promotions. Both Galaxy and Sands China (1928.HK: Quote) have expressed concern and vowed to resolve the problem.   Continued...

A croupier sits in front of a gaming table inside a casino on the opening day of Sheraton Macao hotel at Sands Cotai Central in Macau in this September 20, 2012 file photo.  REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/Files