The chief executive of Macau-based casino operator Wynn Macau Ltd says the firm has yet to “accrue for” any “material exposure” to debt claims involving junket operators previously based at Wynn Macau Ltd’s two casinos.
“We haven’t accrued for any material exposure,” said Craig Billings in a conference call with investment analysts following Tuesday’s first-quarter results announcement by Wynn Macau Ltd’s parent, U.S.-based Wynn Resorts Ltd. Mr Billings is also CEO of Wynn Resorts.
A November ruling by Macau’s Court of Final Appeal, held Wynn Macau Ltd to be a party liable to refund a HKD6-million (US$775.0000) deposit lodged with Dore Entertainment Co Ltd, a gambling junket that had operations at the Wynn Macau property in the city’s downtown district.
In its annual report filed with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange last month, Wynn Macau Ltd confirmed that the group – via the unit that holds the Macau gaming rights – “was required to pay approximately HKD9.3 million, inclusive of accumulated interest” to the plaintiff involved in that lawsuit.
The company added at the time: “We believe most remaining cases are without merit and unfounded and intend to vigorously defend against the remaining claims pleaded against us in these lawsuits.”
Still, Wynn Macau Ltd recorded HKD62.0 million as provision for litigation costs regarding cash deposits individuals claim were placed with Dore Entertainment, according to the casino operator’s 2021 annual report.
During Tuesday’s conference call, Mr Billings said, commenting on the outstanding claims: “Each individual claim comes down to a really detailed analysis around clear proof of a deposit in your particular property, the statute of limitations on the claim, and a number of other very, very nuanced legal points.”
He added: “We don’t expect material exposure at this time.”
New uses for junket rooms
During Tuesday’s conference call, Mr Billings said he expected that the Macau gaming market would rebound from the current COVID-19 pandemic downturn “as more mass-centric”. He added that Wynn Macau Ltd planned to put space at its properties that was previously allocated to junket rooms, to other use.
“We think about it differently at each of the two properties,” said Mr Billings. At the Wynn Macau hotel-casino on the peninsula, “we anticipate that the core customer motivation will be gaming over the longer term: we have some prime real estate… former junket space, that we think will be incredibly competitive in mass [market]”.
He added that Wynn Palace in the Cotai district was a “bit of a different story because we may have the opportunity to do some more unique things… We are obviously not making that investment now but we certainly have the real estate to do it and we’ll take advantage of that when the time comes.”
Macau’s VIP gambling trade has seen a decline in business in recent years, coupled with tightened supervision from authorities in Macau and mainland China. The trend accelerated with the November detention of Alvin Chau Cheok Wa, on suspicion of promoting cross-border gambling overseas to mainland China customers, and the cessation of business at his junket brand Suncity Group.
In January this year, the VIP trade saw the arrest of Levo Chan Weng Lin, boss of junket brand Tak Chun, on suspicion of being a triad leader.
During Tuesday’s conference call, Mr Billings also commented on an expected fresh public tender process for Macau gaming rights. The existing six concessions are due to expire on June 26. The government has however invited the incumbent six operators to apply to extend their current concessions until December 31, to allow for time to prepare a fresh public tender.
“The concession process continues to move forward, according to the pre-established timeline,” he said. “We continue to be pleased with the process and with the content of the amended law.”
The latter was a reference to a key piece of legislation for the Macau gaming industry: an amendment bill relating to the city’s existing gaming law. The bill is currently being reviewed by Macau’s Legislative Assembly and is due to be passed prior to a fresh public tender for Macau gaming rights.
Wynn Macau Ltd still has two undeveloped land parcels at Wynn Palace covering 11 acres (44,515 square metres}, plus another 1.5 acres on the existing complex, said company president, Ian Coughlan, during the conference call.
He added: “We are in the process right now of determining what exactly will benefit Macau for the long term. We are awaiting the [casino licence] tender documentation to see what the government feels about what is required for the future, and we will blend our own needs with that.”
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”The upswing in visitation and gaming revenue is likely to aid Fitch-rated casino operators with a presence in Macau in reducing their debt levels”