Macau Authorities Still Struggle to Find a Solution for Casino Concessions

Ho Iat Seng, the chief executive of Macau, has stated that the government will try to re-tender the gaming concessions by June next year, but the option of extending the current terms of those concessions is still open.

Ho commented on the situation during a late Tuesday press conference after his 2022 Policy Address in which the focus areas and key initiatives of the government for the upcoming year were outlined.

Ho Assured Everyone That The Government Will Do Everything to Meet the Deadline

While speaking on the current situation concerning the concessions, Ho stated that if the gaming law amendment’s legislative process is not able to meet the due date, then the current gaming concessions could be extended as the mechanism that allows these types of actions is present.

However, he assured everyone that maximum effort will be put to meet the deadline and ended by saying that the goal of the gaming law amendments is to strengthen Macau’s healthy gaming industry development.

At the moment, there are six gaming concessions in Macau, which are held by subsidiaries of MGM China, SJM Holdings, Melco Resorts & Entertainment, Sands China, Galaxy Entertainment Group and Wynn Macau.

Operators’ gaming concessions will expire on June 26, 2022, and so far, authorities have been explicitly quiet on the possibility of extending the term. This was actually the first time where the chief executive of Macau has discussed the possibility of extending them if the timeline is too tight.

This issue has been troubling all casino operators as they had a lot to deal with in the recent period. Not only was November off to a slow start but the pandemic has made a huge negative impact on the market and casinos lost millions of dollars in both 2020 and 2021.

Moreover, during the Policy Address, Ho touched on the subject briefly and only said that the main intention is to promote the gambling industry’s healthy development according to the law, which will be improved together with regulations. The main goal of the process is to optimize the industry and its processes of monitoring.

The Re-Tendering Process Will be Driven on Three Benefits

Ho stated that the process of re-tendering will be driven forward by being based on three Macau benefits. The first one is promoting the industry’s healthy development, the second is enriching Macau’s content as the center of the world for leisure and tourism, and finally, the third is protecting local resident employment as well as their promotion opportunities.

Additionally, he noted that the market should have “more competitive non-gaming elements” and push gaming concessionaires so that they can bear more CSR. Ho did not provide any more details as he thought that it was not appropriate until a review of the public consultation concerning the new proposed amendments on gaming laws is complete. The review is due in March next year.

While discussing other key issues, Ho noted that he expects the travel restrictions of this special region in China to be loosened in 2022 as the COVID-19 vaccination rate is continuously improving. He said that tourism and the overall economy are expected to gradually recover, prices are likely to remain stable, just like the employment situation. He did note, however, that the process of economic recovery remains uncertain.

Travel restrictions have been devastating for Macau, especially in the Post-Golden Week period. However, since the restrictions were loosened, the industry showed signs of improvement in November. Ho pointed out that the recovery of Macau’s economy and tourism mainly depends on major source countries and prevention works in the region.

Macau’s leader encouraged the city’s residents, especially children and the elderly population to get vaccinated and improve the vaccination rate, which has officially reached 70%. He believes that if the vaccination rate goes over 80%, organized mainland package tours will be reinstated and Macau will try to negotiate Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) e-visa resumption. This, he asserts, will bring a lot of visitors back to Macau.