The Macau government should consider extending the term of the existing six gaming concessions for “at least one year” and only hold a fresh public tender for gaming rights when the global economy recovers further from the Covid-19 pandemic, suggests the chief executive of Macau operator SJM Holdings Ltd.
Ambrose So Shu Fai (pictured in a file photo), the firm’s vice chairman and CEO, made the suggestion in remarks to the Hong Kong Economic Journal, a Chinese-language publication.
An extension of at least “one year” would allow Macau operators to “recover financially” from Covid-19, while “not affecting Macau’s economy”, suggested Mr So.
It would also buy Macau “more time” to decide on the criteria for the fresh public tender, said the executive.
The current six gaming concessions are due to expire in June 2022, unless the authorities grant a form of limited extension as permitted under existing Macau gaming law. Such extension can be in increments, up to a maximum of five years from the original 20-year term.
After that, it is envisaged any new concession would have to be granted via a public tender of international scope.
Mr So suggested it would be “unfair” for any overseas bidders if the Macau government started a new public tender process soon, as Covid-19-related travel restrictions might prevent their representatives – if foreign passport holders – from coming to the city.
“If, eventually, the competition is only for the existing gaming concessions… this runs against the very aim of the rebid [new public tender],” Mr So added.
The Macau government has said that the city’s gaming law needs to be updated, as such a framework is linked to the new public tender topic.
The city’s government has not so far given any hint on the direction of public policy in that regard, except to mention Macau would hold a public consultation process during the second half this year, on revision of the city’s gaming law.
Melinda Chan Mei Yi, an executive director at casino and hotel services firm Macau Legend Development Ltd, remarked to local media on Monday that she believed it would be “difficult” for the government to complete the public consultation on the revision of gaming law and finalise its legislation before the gaming concessions meet their expiry in June next year.
The government might seek to extend the existing gaming concession terms, said Ms Chan, who is a former Macau legislator.
The Macau Legend executive said she hoped the government would consult the operators of the city’s so-called satellite casinos – those that piggyback on the licence of an existing operator but where the venue concerned has a third-party owner, such as Macau Legend – on the future of gaming concessions. She also spoke of her hope that the Macau government would preserve the legal status of satellite casino operations.
Ms Chan was talking to local media on Monday on the sidelines of Macau Legend’s annual general meeting. Macau Legend is a satellite casino operator that runs gaming at its flagship waterside complex, Macau Fisherman’s Wharf, under the gaming rights of SJM Holdings.
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