Weighing it all up

How the city’s current gaming tax will be adjusted will depend on the government’s upcoming mid-term gaming concession review, a major task that the MSAR Government is committed to embarking upon this year, Secretary for Economy and Finance Lionel Leong Vai Tac told media in a gathering yesterday.
Freshly sworn into office on December 20 following President Xi Jinping’s visit to the territory, Mr. Leong – Macau’s new gaming policy supremo – met with media in a gathering yesterday that marked the start of his first year in office.
When asked whether the city’s current effective tax rate of 39 per cent on casino gross gaming revenue will be adjusted upon the negotiation of the renewal of gaming concessions, Mr. Leong stressed that it was “hard to give an answer” on the subject before the government had examined the gaming concessions renewal.
The city’s six gaming concessions expire between 2020 and 2022.
“As to whether our gaming tax has to be lifted or not, as the Gaming Inspection and Co-ordination Bureau noted on Friday any indication of such [a likely lift of gaming tax] comes from a personal remark only,” he said. The Bureau remark alluded to was published on Friday, and was directed to local media reports that cited CLSA’s regional head of consumer and gaming research Aaron Fischer’s remark that the existing tax on gaming could increase from 39 per cent to 43 per cent upon renegotiation of the gaming licences.
“Without the basis of our mid-term gaming licensing review, it’s very hard to give an answer [on gaming tax adjustment,” Mr. Leong said. “…But as our Chief Executive pointed out in his political [manifesto] we’ll work to keep our gaming industry internationally competitive, while at the same time sustaining a healthy development of the industry.”
For the review of the city’s gaming licences, the Secretary briefly mentioned that studies from local academic institutions about the subject had already started – although he did not elaborate upon the major points of the analysis involved.
“As I have noted several times before, for our review of the gaming licensing this year, we’ll mainly see whether the gaming companies have carried out their promises made in their concession contracts,” said the Secretary when answering questions on the major content of the gaming licensing review.
“For the review we’re also looking into their non-gaming elements, and whether they have conducted their corporate social responsibilities,” Mr. Leong added. “We’ll also consider the elements that can contribute to the healthy development of the gaming industry here, and whether we can work towards the goal of building our city as a world tourism and leisure centre as the central government requests.”
In August last year, Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On mentioned conducting a public consultation on the renewal process of the gaming licensing whilst campaigning for re-election – but how such an initiative will be carried out was not mentioned by Mr. Leong yesterday.

No formal applications for tables received

The Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lionel Leong Vai Tac, also told media yesterday that the government has not yet received a “formal application” for the table allocation of Galaxy Phase II or Studio City – two major casino-resort projects that are slated to open mid-year.
Speaking to media on January 12, co-chairman of Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. Lawrence Ho Yau Lung mentioned that he was “confident” that the government would allow his company to run at least 400 gaming tables at Studio City, with their investment in non-gaming activities and promotion of Macau made.
In previous announcements, Galaxy Entertainment Group has also spoken of its confidence in being allotted 500 gaming tables for Galaxy Phase II.