Macau redrafts gambling license proposal

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The Macau government has submitted a revamped gambling license proposal to its legislators. It is significant since the concession to the gambling license holders will end when the existing casino licenses expire. Most of the licenses will expire soon.

Many players anticipate there to be automatic extensions given to the operators whose licenses expire first in an effort to gain time while the whole licensing scheme is hashed out by legislators. However, Macau lawmakers are planning to bring about full-fledged and complete legislation, possibly before the time for renewal. Lionel Leong Vai Tac, Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance, said over the weekend that a preliminary proposal on gaming law changes has already been introduced. This could go far in the preparation of the bidding process for existing concessions.

Leong told Macau-based reporters, “We’ve said before that the awarding of the gaming concession contracts [when the current ones expire] will have to be done via a bidding process, and the related law needs to be amended as well [in preparation for a new tender]. We are now having an internal study on it [the preliminary proposal].”

He didnot specify the details of the proposal, but stated that the government will “listen to social opinions and analyse them” throughout the rebid process. There are currently six licenses issued to operators in the gambling hub, and they all expire in either 2020 or in 2022. The first to expire will be those of MGM China and SJM Holdings.

According to law, the licenses can be extended up to five years past their original expiry dates. However, once the contract ends, any new concession can only be approved through a public tender. Because of this, gaming lawyers have argued that there is no true “concession renewal” in Macau.

Last week, Ambrose So Shu Fai, vice-chairman and CEO for SJM Holdings, told reporters that the company hopes to receive a two-year extension when its current license expires. This would put it in line with the four operators, whose licenses expire in 2022, allowing all operators to be on the same ground in the potential rebidding process.

There are currently a number of operators working under the license of another outfit. There has been a push in the city lately to amend the gaming laws to allow for more than the current six concession licenses. It is possible, come 2022, that a seventh or even an eighth license could be added.