Management at Macau casino operator MGM China Holdings Ltd is “highly confident” in ultimately keeping its casino licence. That is according to Wednesday comments by MGM China chairperson Bill Hornbuckle (pictured in a file photo). But he added that he was unsure whether the process to refresh the city’s six casino concessions would be in place by June next year, when the current concessions expire.
“Macau remains an important part of our business,” Mr Hornbuckle told an investor conference call after the announcement of the third-quarter results of MGM Resorts International, the parent of MGM China.
“We will continue to work with the government, and we are highly confident in ultimately getting our licence renewed,” he said. “Ongoing discussions with the government give us a greater confidence in our belief that the process will be both judicious and fair.”
Mr Hornbuckle is also chief executive and president of MGM Resorts International.
The Macau government has said previously that there will be a new public tender process associated with the expiry of the current licences in 2022, although Macau’s gaming law is due to be amended prior to such a process. Pending a fresh public tender, Macau’s current gaming law allows for extension of the existing licences, up to a maximum of five years from the original 20-year term.
“Whether or not this all gets done in time for June, we don’t know yet,” said Mr Hornbuckle during the conference call. “There are some steps [the Macau authorities] still have to go through publicly with the Legislative Assembly.”
As part of the gaming law revision process, the Macau government held a public consultation process to gather opinions on the topic from operators and the general public. The public consultation period ran from September 15 until October 29. During the conference call, Mr Hornbuckle confirmed MGM China had submitted a written document to the government with its opinions on the matter, “as did all the concessionaires”.
Mr Hornbuckle also briefly discussed operational performance at MGM China’s two properties in Macau: MGM China and MGM Cotai. Following the easing of Covid-19-related travel restrictions in the second half of October, business had improved, he said. “We have gone from losing money to making a little of money again.”
Mr Hornbuckle added: “The market continues to operate well below pre-pandemic levels, as varying forms of travel restrictions have limited visitation to the region. The obvious catalyst to Macau’s recovery is a sustained resumption of frictionless travel between Macau, Hong Kong and mainland China, which heavily relies on higher vaccination rates that will take some time.”
Talking about MGM Resorts’ plans for Japan, Mr Hornbuckle noted that the city and prefecture of Osaka had declared in September the consortium led by MGM Resorts and Orix Corp winners of a request-for-proposal process regarding the metropolis’ tilt at a casino resort.
“We are now working with Orix and the city, to submit an area development plan to the central government in the coming months, and are hopeful and confident that we will be awarded a licence next year,” Mr Mr Hornbuckle said.
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Macau’s Public Prosecutions Office