It was mixed news for Macau SLOT yesterday morning with the issue of the Macau government gazette. It became public that Macau’s only sports betting operator, which has enjoyed a monopoly on online and retail sports betting since 1998, saw its license to operate extended for three years to 5 June 2024. It last had its license extended for five years from June 2016 to June 2021.
Any day a gaming concession or license is extended has to go down as a good day for your company, but the big news was the fact that for the first time in over two decades, Macau SLOT would no longer enjoy exclusivity for its product. At first one might look at this as a negative for Macau SLOT, but just think back to what liberalization did for Macau’s casino gambling monopoly incumbent 20 years ago. The industry liberalization led to the introduction of competition and a complete industry transformation which grew the gaming pie stupendously. As SJM came to learn, part of an enormous pie can be much bigger than all of a small pie.
This is a major shift in the Macau government’s approach and extremely noteworthy.
Three ideas immediately spring to mind:
- Casino sportsbooks such as those we see in Las Vegas
- Corporate bookmakers such as those Europe has made famous
- Daily Fantasy Sports, the new-century industry led by the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel
But hold your horses. None of these will be appearing overnight. There are lots of hoops to jump through and the Macau government is famous for taking its time, slowly working through systemic change in a methodical step-by-step manner. Given the historical raging success and the overall stability of our gaming industry, this one-step-at-a-time “salami slicer” approach to change is hard to criticize.
But here’s a thought to whet your appetite. The Macau government has already demonstrated a penchant for “lining things up.” Back in March 2019 the casino concessions for SJM and MGM were extended two years to 26 June 2022, nicely lining up with the expiry of the concessions of the other four operators, Galaxy, Melco, Sands China and Wynn Macau, on – you guessed it – 26 June 2022.
Could yesterday’s announcement of the extension of the Macau SLOT licence to 5 June 2024 be a hint of an extension of Macau six casino gaming concessions for two years, from 26 June 2022 to 26 June 2024?
There has been much talk in the past year or two of the ability of the government to extend the casino concessions for up to five years, and there is precedent for such an extension from last time the casino concessions were issued, around the turn of the century. Time certainly seems to be running out with June 2022 just a year away, and the global pandemic offering a very reasonable justification for such an extension.
Were this to happen, it would see not only Macau’s casino concessions all falling due in June 2024, but the sports betting license of Macau SLOT in the very same month. Clean slate, anyone?
And while, yes, in theory any eager new prospective sports betting operator could begin the process to enter the Macau market immediately, perhaps a 2024 clean slate offers the perfect opportunity for the Macau government to dangle the salivating prospect of Vegas-style casino sportsbooks in front of the concessionaires? At least some of Macau’s concessionaires have expressed their desire for such sportsbooks for as long as the past two decades.
Food for thought?