Macau Horse Race Co Ltd’s monopoly public concession to run horse racing in the city will end from April 1 this year, said on Monday André Cheong Weng Chon (pictured, second left), Macau’s Secretary for Administration and Justice, during a press briefing.
According to the official, the company submitted last year a request to the Macau government to have its contract terminated, citing operational difficulties and the fact that horse racing activities were out of step with the path of social development in the city.
Mr Cheong stated that horse racing in Macau had been experiencing a “decline in popularity” in recent years. Taking this into consideration, and after a thorough study, the government decided to accept the Macau Horse Race Co’s application, he added.
After the termination of the contract, the land plot and related facilities will revert, free of charge, to the government, said Mr Cheong. The company has already settled all the tax payments that were overdue, added the official.
Mr Cheong said the plot would revert to the government’s land reserve. He added that the authorities would conduct a study to determine the use to be given to the plot, but stressed that it would not be used for casino gaming.
The secretary also said that there would not be a new public tender for any further concession to run horse racing in Macau, and that Macau Horse Race Co would have one year to transfer its horses to destinations outside Macau.
In a Monday afternoon press conference, representatives from Macau Horse Racing Co said the company had so far accumulated losses of “over MOP2.5 billion” (US$310.3 million). Company representatives Rui Cunha and Connie Kong took no questions from reporters.
The two representatives stated that the company had made the “difficult decision” to cease horse racing activities, as it had been “increasingly difficult” for the company to sustain its operations. Horse racing had “limited room for development and growth”, and its operations had been “adversely” impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, they added.
Gross gaming revenue (GGR) linked to horse racing amounted to MOP32.0 million in the first nine months of 2023, representing just 0.025 percent of overall GGR of MOP129.43 billion from all gaming activities in the same period, according to official data. Casino GGR stood at nearly MOP128.95 billion in the nine months to September 30.
An executive order from Macau’s Chief Executive, Ho Iat Seng, gazetted on Monday and in force from that day, gave the Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lei Wai Nong, the powers to represent the government in signing the agreement to effect such a termination.
In February 2018 the company had been given an extension of its horse racing betting concession for a period of 24 years and six months, i.e., until 2042. Racing was done via the Macau Jockey Club grounds at Taipa.
At the time, the company had pledged to build additional hotels, a tennis court, an equestrian school and a theme park. But the only commitment that the company was able to fulfil was the revamp of the existing facilities at the race course, Mr Cheong mentioned in the government’s briefing.
(Updated at 4.50pm, Jan 15)
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