Macau’s Chief Executive, Ho Iat Seng, said on Wednesday that his government’s priority was on stabilising the city’s economy amid the impact from the Covid-19 pandemic. Asked about the possibility of delaying the public retender process linked to the expiry in June 2022 of the rights of the existing six casino licensees, the official said he would not comment on the topic until the local authorities had completed a comprehensive assessment of the city’s gaming industry.
Mr Ho (pictured) made the comments to local reporters before departing to Beijing, where he is scheduled to meet with officials from the central government over the next five days.
“We will not discuss matters related to the city’s gaming industry” in the meetings in Beijing, said the Chief Executive. “Our focus now is on cooperation regarding epidemic prevention and stabilising the economy,” he added.
Mr Ho said additionally that he would “not answer” questions regarding the possibility of extending the existing gaming licences beyond 2022, at least until the government completed a previously-announced study of the city’s casino industry.
Industry observers have commented that the Macau government could choose to delay the retender process, giving itself room to assess the recovery of the tourism sector in a post-Covid-19 environment and, if necessary, introduce new requirements to the public retender process.
The Macau government had mentioned previously its intention to launch a public retender process for Macau gaming rights linked to the expiry in mid-2022 of the existing six concessions. But a review of the city’s existing gaming law – including a public consultation process – was also flagged as a necessary step ahead of any public retender process.
Some of the city’s legislators have questioned recently whether there was enough time available to complete such a legal review before mid-2022.
Macau’s existing gaming law includes the option of extending beyond June 2022 – up to a maximum of five years – the existing gaming permits of the current operators. The length of each eventual extension would be decided by an incumbent chief executive.
In April, JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd suggested that the revision of Macau’s gaming law might itself not be completed until 2022. The institution said it “wouldn’t be surprised” to see the casino rights retender process “postponed by a year or so versus the current expiry of June 2022”.
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