Macau | Corrected: Casino concession renewals will involve "new bidding process" - expert

Gaming reporter Martin Williams told media at the breakfast organised by the French Chamber of Commerce that he believed the renewal of gaming concessions will involve a "new bidding process" overseen by Beijing

Macau (MNA) – The Asia editor of Gambling Compliance, Martin Williams, told media at the breakfast organised by the French Chamber of Commerce (FMCC) that he believed the renewal of gaming concessions will involve a “new bidding process” that will ultimately be influenced by Beijing.

According to Mr. Williams, the bidding process will not be affected by the earnings of the existing gaming concessions, because other factors like political stability might prove to be more important to Beijing’s interests.

“Overall, now all the influence is coming from Beijing,” said Mr. Williams. “That means that will be more important for the operators in the new concession meeting to be in Beijing’s good books.”

The powers that the Beijing Central Government yields over Macau has only increased after the handover in 1999, according to Mr. Williams, who explained, “Even 20 years ago, when the Portuguese seemed to run half the town, the Americans would still send envoys to Beijing [from court filings].”

“The business cliques that have run Macau for so long are bit-by-bit replaced by people that have greater loyalty to Beijing – technocrats. As far as Beijing is concerned, Macau’s economy, its stability, and its symbolism are too important to leave to Macau’s executive and legislative branches.”

The importance of Macau’s economic stability to Beijing would mean the relationship that the gaming concessions have with its workers would be a focal, if previously undiscussed issue.

According to Mr. Williams, “one of the more important aspects that will be important [during the period] is to show how good our [the gaming concessions] relationships are with workers, because they [the gaming concessions] employ a lot of them.”

“It is not just about [diversifying into] non-gaming, it is about providing livelihood, providing training, providing opportunities. This is something people often don’t talk about but it actually carries a lot of weight,” added Mr. Williams.

Williams believes the largest risk that can be posed in this sensitive period would be “the risk of a decision to compel operators to change their ownership to new concessions.”

In addition, having any of the concessions lose their licenses would pose an issue due to the ownership of land concessions. “If any of these gaming operators lose their gaming concessions, they will still have their land concessions for years.”

These gaming operators may also be threatened if the new approach from the Macau SAR Government would be to be protectionist and to allocate limits on foreign ownership in casinos, according to Mr. Williams.

Another issue could be whether taxation on gaming companies would be increased, as well as the risk of nationalism, especially anti-American sentiment due to the presence of American gaming companies such as Las Vegas Sands, MGM, Wynn, and Galaxy Entertainment.

Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On has said during his 2019 policy address that the rebidding process will be “public and transparent,” without providing much detail.

[corrected to reflect Mr. Williams said envoys, not invoices in paragraph 4]