Macau's top gaming regulator steps down amid mounting industry challenges

Macau's top gaming regulator steps down amid mounting industry challenges

HONG KONG - Macau's top gaming regulator Manuel Neves is stepping down from his post in the world's largest casino hub, the Chinese territory's government said, at a time when its revenues are plummeting and the growth outlook looks weak in the coming year.

Neves will step down by November 25 when his term expires, according to a government statement on Thursday. The 56-year-old had overseen the gaming industry from its infancy, prior to the entry of U.S. giants Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts, to its rapid growth leading up to 2014 when revenues eclipsed Las Vegas by 7 times.

Macau has been severely impacted by the country's slowing economy and a corruption crackdown in China which has kept wealthy VIP players away from its baccarat tables. Revenues have fallen for 16 months in a row and are on track to fall around 30 percent for the month of October, according to analyst forecasts.

Neves said it was time for a change. "After 31 years as civil servant, 18 of which as Gaming Inspection Bureau director, I believe it's time to take a break and spend more time with my family," he told state broadcaster TDM.

He is leaving the regulatory bureau as it steps up monitoring of casino and junket regulations, implementing tighter rules on accounting and auditing of gambling debts.

The Macau government has not announced a replacement for Neves yet. The retirement age for civil servants in Macau is 65, according to a government spokesman, but officials can retire early if they have been in public service for over 30 years.

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