Still no clear answers provided by Gov’t for extending Jockey Club concession – Legislators

The Macau government has again failed to provide the Legislative Assembly (AL) Follow-up Committee for Land Affairs and Public Concessions with clear explanations for having extended the Macau Jockey Club by 24-years despite the large amount in debt it owed the government, the committee president, Ella Lei Cheng I, said today.

In 2018 Macau Horsing Racing Company saw its concession to explore the Macau Jockey Club operations extended by 24-year and six months until 2042, despite the company owing some MOP200 million (US$24.7 million) to the government as of that year.

About MOP150 million of that amount pertained to contributions to the Macau Pension Fund (FP), with the company having been exempt from paying one percent of its annual debt collection amounts since 2005.

Claiming financial problems, the company headed by gaming businesswoman and legislator, Angela Leong On Kei, was also exempted from paying the full MOP15 million land concession rent since 2008.

Today the AL committee finished the report on this year’s oversight works concerning the horse racing exploration concession granted to Macau Horsing Racing Company, with the authorities not providing much more answers than in last year’s committee meetings.

According to Ella Lei only this year did the government not provide any information concerning the company’s development and investment plans that allowed the committee to conduct its oversight works.

“Now we can’t revert this decision because the government already decided to renew the concession for more than 20 years [ …] Residents have doubts and concerning the reasons to provide such a long extension considering the number of debts, the government did not provide clear explanations,” the legislator said.

In both reports conducted by the committee on the issue, the legislators urged authorities to have better mechanisms to avoid similar debt situations and make sure the Jockey Club fulfils its contractual promises.

The Macau government stated that in 2018 it demanded the Jockey Club to pay the full MOP150 million owed until March, 2021, with MOP4.17 million having to be paid monthly, otherwise the contract would be canceled.

As of January of this year, Macau Horsing Racing Company owed MOP113 million to the government, according to the committee report.

In order to see its license renewed, the company has pledged to invest between MOP3.5 billion to MOP4.5 billion to develop the area, including the construction of two hotels, smart stables, a horse theme park, and a riding school, providing its investment plan to the committee.

The company expects to obtain the necessary investment capital through bank loans and shareholders, with the full investment expected to be regained in 20 years.

The company was also forced to undergo restructuring, having to achieve a minimum in the registered capital of MOP1.5 billion patacas by 2023 in different phases.

“The essential is not just spending this money but actually fulfilling what is stipulated in the investment plan for its different construction phases. But the current mechanism does not seem adequate since the government first approved the contract and only after revealed its details to the residents, bit by bit,” said the committee chairman.

The committee noted that some of the approvals of the investment plan’s proposals will depend on current urban planning, land, environmental and heritage conservation legislation.

The new Macau Jockey Club project involves a total construction area of 136,000 square meters, including an 11-storey, 2-star hotel of 23,000 square meters including gaming, commercial and VIP areas, plus a 16-storey apartment hotel occupying 22,000 square meters.

The committee questioned the company whether the hotels will be open to the public or just members of the club and if the proposed height will respect requirements. The company responded that the urban conditions plan – which includes height and dimensions of the construction – was already submitted to the government.

If this plan is approved, then the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT) will consider whether the land concession contract needs to be revised.

The main investment plan for the Macau Jockey Club revolves around the idea of developing the space into a leisure and entertainment area for tourists and residents, and even into a tourism and modal transport center.

The project will also include about 20,000 square meters in retail and restaurant areas, a gaming area with some 36,000 square meters, and a parking area with 800 spaces.

An area of 120,000 square meters will also be open to the public 24/7, offering open green areas, sports installations and horse riding training spaces.

The jockey club plans to remove the current installations, with the exception of the main stand, while improving the club’s horse stables.

The general development plan will then be divided into three phases; the first starting in 2020 will concern the construction of the stands and the track’s connection to the Light Rail Train (LRT).

The second phase will see the renovation of the main race building and club member installations, and the third will focus on community spaces, plus a horse riding school and museum.

The second phase is scheduled to start in 2022 and be completed in 2025, while the third phase will start in 2023 and be completed in 2026.

The development of the aparthotel and two-star hotel is also scheduled for completion by 2026.