The Macau government would release the findings of the “mid-term review” of the city’s gaming industry early next month, officials said on Wednesday.
Speaking at an event on Hengqin Island, a mainland China special economic zone next door to Macau, the city’s Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lionel Leong Vai Tac, said that, following the release of the review report, there would be no formal public consultation on its findings. Nonetheless the government would continue to gather opinions from members of the public regarding the mid-term review exercise.
In March, during a trip to Beijing, Mr Leong had said in comments to reporters that the review would “definitely” be submitted to Beijing before the end of this year
The mid-term review began in May last year. According to previous comments by Macau’s officials, the mid-term review of the gaming sector was due to cover nine topics, namely: “development of the gaming industry; its economic impact on Macau; its impact on small- and medium-sized enterprises; its impact on Macau’s society; the relationship between the gaming and non-gaming sectors; whether gaming operators are complying with the terms of their [existing concession and sub-concession] contracts; the operations of gaming companies; whether gaming operators are fulfilling their social responsibilities and the management of VIP gaming promoters”.
Paulo Martins Chan, the head of the city’s casino regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, separately spoke to local media on Wednesday, saying that the findings of the mid-term review would be a “factual account” of the industry.
The gaming regulator added that the Macau government is determined to “enhance”, as he put it, financial requirements for new entrants to the VIP gaming promotion sector. But he added that the Macau authorities had not yet concluded consultations on the issue with representatives of the sector.
In other political developments with a potential impact on the local casino industry, the Macau government on Tuesday released its proposal for what it terms the first Five-Year Development Plan for Macau. This is separate from China’s national 13th Five-Year Plan, which includes general references to the diversification of Macau’s economy. The city’s own Five-Year Development Plan includes social and economic aspirations for the city, and covers the period 2016 to 2020.
The latter proposal, now subject to a two-month public consultation period, mentions the Macau government’s goals of completing the mid-term review of the gaming industry, improving gaming-related laws and regulations and promoting responsible gambling.
The local five-year plan has little in the way of specific policy aims for the gaming industry. One that is spelled out is a medium-term goal for non-gaming revenue at Macau casino resorts to rise as a proportion of all revenue they generate. The target is that non-gaming should account on average for at least 9 percent of all such revenue by 2020, from what the government estimates was 6.6 percent in 2014.
In 2014, fewer than 10 percent of Macau casino resorts’ gross revenues came from non-gaming activities, estimated Fitch Ratings Inc, in a report issued in August. On the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada in the United States, non-gaming makes up around 60 percent of all revenues from the casino resorts in that city.
The “biggest impediment to diversification for Macau may be what casino operators and investors consider its main strength – its proximity to mainland China,” said Fitch in its August report, referring to the popularity of gambling among many Chinese. Tourists from mainland China accounted for 62.7 percent of all Macau visitors in March, according to local government data issued on Friday, although the government would like to seem more visitors from further afield under what it terms its “world centre of tourism and leisure” policy, which is also mentioned in the city’s five-year plan.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Secretary Leong expressed confidence that the Macau five-year plan’s stated goal of boosting the proportion of non-gaming revenue at the casino resorts could be achieved. He said the city’s casino operators understood the desire of the government and of society to see more non-gaming elements in the large resorts. This was on the basis such amenities would help attract more middle-income and family visitors to the city, and would also be beneficial in maintaining a moderate and steady demand for gaming, said Mr Leong.
Lei Ngan Leng, an advisor to the Chief Executive’s office, mentioned during a radio programme transmitted on Wednesday by the city’s public broadcaster TDM, that the Macau government would provide the necessary policy support to enable the casino operators to develop non-gaming elements in their resort projects. It would also monitor these non-gaming components to ensure they were “quality” amenities, the advisor added. She did not elaborate on what that would mean in practice.
Investment analyst Grant Govertsen, of brokerage Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd, said in commentary on Tuesday regarding Macau’s five-year plan: “While brief, what we see in the five-year plan appears to be generally favourable and realistic with respect to the government’s long-term goals for the gaming industry.” He added the goal of 9 percent non-gaming revenue from the city’s casino resorts by 2020 was also “achievable”.
The five-year plan also reiterated the need for Macau to adhere to the cap on the number of new live dealer gaming tables allowed in Macau casinos.
The five-year plan also pledged the current Macau administration to maintain its policy of allowing only local residents to be hired as card dealers and croupiers. The government would also push for a higher proportion of local residents in middle- and upper-level management positions in gaming companies. It mentioned a target whereby locals would account for 85 percent of such appointments by 2020, compared to 80.8 percent in 2014.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China