Current casino operators’ efforts to make Macau a ‘world centre of tourism and leisure’ and “internationally competitive” were important to the city’s government, said Lionel Leong Vai Tac (pictured), Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance.
He said such efforts are the factors in considering the possible refreshment of Macau gaming rights when the six current concessions expire on various dates between 2020 and 2022.
“Macau-based [casino] operators have to continuously improve their services in order to be more competitive,” stated Mr Leong in remarks to local reporters on Thursday on the sidelines of a public event.
The term ‘world centre of tourism and leisure’ refers to a Macau government aspiration to diversify the city’s economy away from dependence on high-stakes casino gambling. The authorities also want to widen the city’s international appeal so that it is not only a playground for rich Chinese from southern coastal mainland provinces and Hong Kong.
Referring to casino proliferation in other parts of the Asia-Pacific region, Secretary Leong noted: “We are monitoring the situation. We have seen that some regions are trying to develop their own gaming sector, but I do not think these would be in [direct] competition with the Macau market.”
A number of investment analysts have nonetheless said in commentaries that one effect of a perceived increase in scrutiny of the Macau casino market by the Chinese central government and the Macau government, has been to encourage some high-stakes gambling by Chinese players to migrate offshore to neighbouring jurisdictions.
In late July Mr Leong said there had been a preliminary proposal from the local government’s legal advisors regarding possible amendment of the existing framework gaming law, the basis for the current concession system. It was reported the proposal might relate to a fresh bidding process for gaming rights in the city. At the time Mr Leong said the government was studying the proposal but did not disclose further details on its content.
Macau gaming law currently states that the licences of the existing holders can be extended for a maximum of up to five years from their original expiry dates. But once a gaming concession contract expires, any new concession would have to be granted via a public tender. In that sense, say gaming lawyers familiar with the matter, there is no such thing in the Macau context as a “concession renewal”.
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“We see that basically the ‘golden’ periods [for Macau's casino industry] are all concentrated in the second half of this year”
Lei Wai Nong
Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance