Macau’s US casino operators face the very real risk of being used as pawns in the ongoing trade war between China and the United States, with the granting of new casino concessions far from guaranteed according to an expert in foreign affairs.
Ms Priscilla Roberts, Associate Professor at City University of Macau, offered up the sobering prospect while speaking at a breakfast event hosted by the France Macau Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday titled, titled America´s New President: A Turning Point for US/China Relations?
“I think it’s quite possible that American casinos will no longer be as welcome in Macau” once their current gaming concessions expire in 2022, said Professor Roberts, who is a specialist in US foreign affairs and politics.
“There may be some pressure for the casinos to be more China operated, which may be an opening for localization, so to speak.”
While US-China tensions escalated significantly under the watch of former US President Donald Trump, whose term officially expired last week, Professor Roberts suggested China could use the retendering of Macau casinos licenses “to deliver a slap on the wrist to the United States without really getting the Biden administration too upset about what’s happening to the Adelsons and the Wynns.”
She added that any measure that negatively impact Macau’s US casino operators – Sands China parent Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Macau parent Wynn Resorts and MGM China parent MGM Resorts, will “annoy Republicans much more than the Democrats,” emphasizing how “the major American casino industry has been heavily identified with the Republican Party.”
She also speculated that casinos “could become symbolic issues a little bit like the Olympics” – reference to pressure previously brought by the United States to have the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics cancelled due to alleged human rights abuses by China.
While Professor Roberts noted that a Biden-led US could see relations between the two nations improved, she does not expect to see a pronounced turn in the American stance towards China due to a broader bipartisan view in US politics that China represents a threat to its national interests.
The gaming concessions of all six Macau operators expire in June 2022.