Macau Legislators Want to Put Casino Operators Under the Microscope

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Next year is a crucial year for Macau’s gaming industry as the city, a Special Administrative Region (SAR) under China’s control, is going to have to issue new gaming licenses to its six casino operators. The future of Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and others in Asia could depend greatly on how the new licenses are issued. Ahead of this, Macau is updating its gaming laws and lawmakers want to take a closer look at the operators’ activities over the past several years. They are now asking Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ, for its Portuguese acronym) to provide detailed records on the operators that could be used to influence both the new gaming laws and how new concessions are issued.

Macau is Undergoing a Metamorphosis

This is possibly one of the most crucial times for Macau since the city’s control was transferred to China from Portugal in 1999. It has flourished as an international gambling hub since then, but has continuously relied heavily on Chinese gamblers for its revenue. According to the current gaming laws, casino licenses are set to expire, but cannot be renewed – only new licenses can be issued. This could potentially mean that an existing operator might lose its concession as of next year.

Ahead of the license-issuing process, Macau’s gaming regulators and government officials are rewriting the city’s gaming laws, with a new framework possibly being released this September. As everyone prepares for the transition, lawmakers have put forth a motion that the operators’ records be released publicly to understand how the companies have adhered to gaming laws over the past 20 years. This information would become part of a public consultation period planned for later this year to discuss the new gaming laws.

There’s Still Much Work to Be Done

It had been expected that the initial draft of the gaming laws could be ready by this summer, or in September at the latest. However, there has not yet been an update provided on where regulators and lawmakers stand with the changes being made to Macau’s gaming laws, and whether the city will implement China’s new digital currency, and the year is rapidly slipping away. In addition to Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts, the city is also home to MGM Resorts International, Melco Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment and SJM Holdings. All are anxiously waiting to see what Macau has in store, but are concerned about the timeframe.

If the new gaming laws are presented in September, followed by a public consultation period, the operators won’t have much time to respond and adjust ahead of the expiration of their concessions in June of next year. SJM Holdings vice chairman and CEO Ambrose So Shu Fai have reiterated the assertion that Macau needs to issue a one-year extension to the existing concessions in order to give everyone more time, but, so far, Macau leaders haven’t commented. Morgan Stanley analysts predicted last December that an extension might be forthcoming and, at this point, the extension would be beneficial to everyone involved.

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