Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng emphasized on Tuesday that gaming taxes in Macau would not be reduced under new gaming legislation to form part of license re-tendering in 2022.
A day after giving his maiden policy address, Ho presented to the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday to answer legislators’ questions about the key issues raised in his address.
Legislator Mak Soi Kun raised the issue of gaming taxes given Macau faces increasing competition from neighboring jurisdictions, with the Chief Executive maintaining his stance that operators will continue to have the financial means to pay the 35% tax rate.
However, he added that those same operators should not also be expected to shoulder all the burden for Macau’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.
“Gaming operators should not bear too much irrelevant CSR,” he said. “For example, building dorms for employees should not be their responsibility. Paying tax is their main contribution to us, the government then uses the fiscal surplus to construct the city.
“It’s not appropriate to force gaming concessions to do everything.”
Ho had previously criticized Macau’s six gaming concessionaires for failing to offer up their hotels for use by the government as medical quarantine venues. Sands China subsequently responded by making up to 2,000 rooms at Sheraton Grand Macao available for those returning from overseas, but Ho noted on Tuesday that poor communication with the operators may have been part of the initial problem.
“The Director of Macau Government Tourism Office sent letters to every gaming operator at that time, and most of them rejected it,” he said. “But after I spoke about CSR, many senior management personnel contacted me and said they were willing to provide hotels for us. It’s probably because staff at lower management levels were too bureaucratic at that time.
“It might have been better if I sent requests personally! We didn’t expect hundreds of people to return from foreign countries so quickly (in March) and it was more than the capacities of the older and smaller-scale hotels could handle. We had to find more hotels urgently.”
Ho also expressed his gratitude for those operators who did offer up hotels to support COVID-19 quarantine measures.
“SJM provided many hotels such as Grand Lapa and Jai Alai to us, almost to give us all they could. Then Sheraton Grand Macao gave use 2,000 rooms for quarantine, which quickly resolved our difficulties,” he said.
“It’s much easier now. I appreciate the six gaming concessionaires’ efforts and support. Several casinos had to close due to their hotels being utilized as quarantine venues.”