Veteran gaming legal expert, António Lobo Vilela, publishes this month four volumes of “Macau Gaming Law: Annotated with Comments”, an endeavor that is out as the city’s core industry sits at a critical juncture. Macau Business had exclusive access to this forthcoming work that sheds light onto two decades of a once-in-a-lifetime process.
To some extent the sketches of a first draft of this four-volume undertaking date back to 2001 and 2002, when António Lobo Vilela was a senior legal advisor, both to the Commission of the first public tender to grant casino concessions and of the think-tank in charge of (co)drafting the new gaming law.
“I believe it all started with the notes I took when we were drafting the gaming law. Since then, I have been collecting information related to the gaming law as a whole and the different articles,” Mr Lobo Vilela told Macau Business.
He regards this project as a work-in-progress, as over the years he has been adding and updating contents resulting in the forthcoming four volumes to be published this month and to which Macau Business had exclusive access.
It was some five to six years ago when the veteran legal expert decided to move ahead with this endeavor when Mr Lobo Vilela started assembling all the notes and information to publish this work. “Having assembled this huge amount of information, I thought it would be useful to share it with the public.”
The four-volume book was set to be published earlier this year, but some problems related to the work’s final revision and pagination delayed the process. That is why the prefaces are dated May 2020.
Jorge Costa Oliveira, under whom Lobo Vilela worked in the public tender commission, the think tank in charge of drafting the gaming law, as well as in the Macau Gaming Commission, authors the Preface to Volume I, where he underlines the breadth of this undertaking. “This publication is a massive repository of everything that has been produced on gaming that may be relevant for the interpretation and the understanding of the norms and precepts that are contained in this legal regulatory framework. Thus, it is quite comprehensive and as complete as one can imagine.” The usefulness of this work is also emphasized by Anthony Cabot, Distinguished Fellow of Gaming Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who penned the Preface to Volume III, stating that the book “offers regulators, industry members, practitioners, judges, and the public with a complete and easily accessible roadmap to all Macau gaming laws.” The same idea is conveyed by the author of the Preface to Volume II, a former Las Vegas Sands top executive, to whom this “Treatise is a great tool.”
As Macau cemented its position as the world’s top casino jurisdiction, the SAR began to be regarded as an indispensable reference for regions and countries around the world when preparing laws and regulations. “The Macau Gaming Law served as a reference to many jurisdictions,” states António Lobo Vilela, who has been serving as legal advisor to the Secretary for Economy and Finance since 2016.
Throughout the volumes, one comes across a number of notes on comparative law, which highlight the city as a key legal reference, as in those countries, “most of the articles are very similar to those in Macau or the legal principles follow very closely those of the Macau gaming law.”
The resilience of the city’s gaming legal regime is lauded by Grant Bowie, in the Preface to Volume IV: “The legal framework has come under much stress, but despite this and with only a small number of significant new laws the system has evolved robust & sustainable platform to regulate the industry in Macau.”
As the Government is gearing up to amend the gaming law and prepare the public tender, which will determine the future of the city’s casino industry in 2022, key questions loom: Is the current gaming law still suitable to meet the new reality of the SAR’s development strategy and the future direction of the gaming industry? How much of it and in which areas should there be changes?
Without going into specifics or particular aspects of the legal framework, when addressing structural features of the law, Mr Lobo Vilela holds a clear-cut view. “I believe that conceptually the current law can last for many years from now.” Given that “it proved to be globally a good law,” the legal expert stressed to Macau Business that moving on with structural changes “would not only be unnecessary but also a mistake.”
The subconcessions saga
One of the main controversies that surfaced at the onset of the post-liberalization era was the granting of a subconcession to Venetian. The public tender resulted in provisionally awarding the three concessions to three gaming operators: Wynn Resorts (Macau), Galaxy Casino and Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (SJM) in February 2002. However, one of the concessionaires was, in fact, a partnership between Galaxy and Las Vegas Sands-owned Venetian Macau. Sheldon Adelson’s company had a preliminary management company agreement with Galaxy, In June 2002, the Government signed the concession contact with Galaxy with the condition of Liu Chee Woo’s company finalizing the management agreement with Venetian within six months. However both sides were growing apart from each other and authorities were before a dilemma.
This four-volume work published by PC Consulting Limited can be acquired at www.macaugaminglaw.com.