Macau’s Chief Executive, Ho Iat Seng, says the government will try to complete the re-tendering of gaming concessions by June 2022 but has left the door open to extend the current concession terms if required.
His comments were made during a press conference late Tuesday following his 2022 Policy Address in which he outlined the government’s key initiatives and areas of focus for the year ahead.
“If the legislative process (of gaming law amendment) cannot meet the due date, we could extend the current gaming concessions since we have the mechanism to allow us to do so,” Ho said.
“Please do not worry, we will try to make [the deadline]. The aim of amending the gaming law is for the healthy development of the gaming industry in Macau. We will not make things difficult for gaming operators.”
All six of Macau’s current gaming concessions – held by subsidiaries of Galaxy Entertainment Group, Melco Resorts & Entertainment, MGM China, Sands China, SJM Holdings and Wynn Macau – will expire on 26 June 2022 although the government has until now stayed tight-lipped on the possibility of extending the license term. This is the first time Macau’s Chief Executive has mentioned that extending the license term of gaming concessions as an option should the timeline prove too tight.
However, the issue was still only touched on briefly during Tuesday’s Policy Address with Ho stating its intention was “to promote the orderly and healthy development of the gaming industry in accordance with the law, improve the laws and regulations of the gaming industry and optimize the procedures and processes for monitoring the gaming industry.”
He also promised to drive forward the re-tendering process based on three benefits for Macau – to “enrich the content of Macau as the ‘World Centre of Tourism and leisure’, promote the stable development of the gaming industry and protect the employment of local residents and their opportunities of promotions.”
He added, “We should actively develop more competitive non-gaming elements in the market and continuously push gaming concessionaires to bear more CSR.”
But he refrained from revealing any more details, stating it is not appropriate to do so until a review of the recently completed public consultation on proposed gaming law amendments, due by March 2022, is complete.
Discussing other key issues, Ho said he expects Macau’s travel restrictions would be eased next year as the vaccination rate against COVID-19 increases and prevention efforts continue to be strengthened and improved.
“The tourism industry and overall economy are expected to recover gradually while the employment situation is expected to stabilise and prices are expected to remain stable,” he said. “However, the economic recovery is still uncertain.”
Ho pointed out that the recovery of tourism and the economy is mainly dependent on prevention works in Macau and major source countries.
As the vaccination rate against COVID-19 has finally reached 70% in the city, he encouraged more residents – especially the elderly and children – to receive the vaccine as soon as possible.
“If the vaccination rate reaches 80% in Macau, package tours from the mainland to Macau would likely be resumed and we would try to negotiate for the possible resumption of the Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) e-visa, which would bring back a great number of visitors to Macau,” Ho said.