egal phone betting in Macau – more on that point below– takes place exclusively in VIP rooms, usually through a junket promoter. A player that can’t go to the casino, say a mainland China high roller waiting to be eligible for the next visa or just has to be elsewhere, can call the VIP room to place phone bets. The practice is also known as telebetting or proxy betting, because betting is done by a proxy in the room, talking by phone with the player, who will already have an account with the room and/or junket promoter, making settlement simple.
Because the proxy needs to talk to the player, the VIP room requires phone bettors to have their own table, often in a side room, to minimize the nuisance for other players. To get a private table, the player (or players on the same call so they know the betting on table) needs to roll at least US$ 385,000 in the session.
As with most regular VIP play in Macau, the game is baccarat. The player tells the proxy their bet(s), chips go on the table, the cards are dealt, the proxy tells the player the cards on the table and the results, then process repeats. Obviously, a trusted proxy is a key link in the chain.
The process would go much more smoothly and likely with far greater bettor confidence if cards were shown live to bettors. But Macau law prohibits broadcast of casino play and results, including streaming via the internet, likely because it doesn’t want to encourage wider remote betting in jurisdictions where it would be illegal. Some VIP rooms have brought the technology into the 1980s with printers and fax machines on the tables, but even then, phone betting in Macau relies on having a proxy the player trusts on the other end.
Junket promoter Jimei Group chairman Jack Lam has attempted to push the envelope. He tried unsuccessfully to get Macau to allow play to be beamed from Jimei’s small casino in the Grand Lapa Hotel (Macau’s original Mandarin Oriental) to hotel guests. When that failed, Lam set up a proxy betting operation in the Philippines, in essence a studio casino utilizing attractive women with cameras attached to their heads to place bets for Jimei customers who call in or play via internet. Working with its established customers makes the payment process easy for Jimei.
Not so for other legal casino jurisdictions in Asia, including Vietnam, Cagayan in the Philippines and Cambodia run proxy betting operations streamed over the internet. They face the payment problems common to all online gaming for players in jurisdictions where online casino play is illegal or restricted to certain types of play or locally registered operators. Just ask US online poker players that have had their overseas accounts blocked about that. In some places, there’s no pretense of legality: last year, yakuza in Japan reportedly set up betting rooms taking cash bets on site using play beamed live from overseas studio casinos.
In Macau, “proxy betting is completely legal,” Tony Tong says. However, it may be illegal in the jurisdiction where the player is placing their bet, for example, mainland China or Hong Kong.