A bit more breathing room

The six casino companies currently operating in Macau have gotten six-month extensions to their licenses. Macau’s Economy and Finance Secretary Lei Wai Nong announced the decision on Thursday.

Each of the six licenses was due to expire on June 26. The new expiration date is December 31, allowing additional time to conduct a rebidding process. A number of license holders have welcomed the news of the extension.

each have to reapply for a license in order to keep operating

The Macau authorities plan to begin the rebidding process as soon as the legislature approves changes to gambling laws, which is taking longer than originally expected. Melco Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment, SJM Holdings, MGM China, Sands China, and Wynn Macau each have to reapply for a license in order to keep operating in the special administrative region. There is no guarantee that each company will hold onto its operating license.

Significant changes to gambling laws

The proposed changes to Macau’s gambling laws will be the largest reform of the sector in about two decades. New rules and regulations got the green light from the Legislative Assembly in January, with a special committee now going through each proposal in great detail. The full legislature will need to approve the changes before they can go into law.

the term length will be halved from 20 years to ten years

There is a raft of new measures set for introduction, including a new framework for how casino companies bid for licenses and their term lengths. While a total of six licenses will still be available, it looks like the term length will be halved from 20 years to ten years. The government’s ability to use discretion to extend licenses will drop from a five-year maximum extension to three years.

Struggles in the region

It appears that lawmakers are updating gambling laws in an attempt to have more control over the activities of operators. There has been increasing scrutiny on gambling operations in the region; Chinese authorities have particularly focused on cracking down on illegal capital outflows out of the mainland. There has also been an effort to target the illegal transfer of cash and underground lending.

Chinese police made more than 75,000 arrests relating to cross-border gambling in 2020. They also took down more than 2,500 illegal online gambling platforms.

Macau has been the biggest gambling hub in the world for many years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the sector. Extensive travel restrictions have meant that casino revenue has plummeted. Curtailments on visitors remain for most regions, including Hong Kong and certain parts of mainland China.  

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