Licence renewal of Macao’s US-based casinos largely depends on firm’s foreign policy lobbying power: Johnny Lau

As the draft amendment to Macao’s gaming law is scheduled for its first reading at the Legislative Assembly on Monday (24 January) afternoon, the bill is expected to pass its first vote without any drama. But uncertainties and controversies remain as to whether the current six gaming concessionaires can successfully win the re-tendering of the city’s six casino licences, especially for the three US-based operators.

Sino-US relations will be one of the major factors affecting the fate of Sands China, MGM China and Wynn Macau, according to seasoned political commentator and China affairs analyst Johnny Lau Yui-Siu.

In an interview with Allin Media, Lau noted that although Beijing had imposed a strict policy on capital outflow which would have a direct impact on US-based gaming operators, a firm’s foreign policy lobbying power was in fact a decisive factor in the re-tendering process.

He explained that even though the draft amendment to the gaming law clearly stated that the gaming industry must operate under the framework of national security, not all corporate activities of foreign-funded firms would necessarily pose a threat to China’s national security, citing Tesla as a case in point.

“If the Chinese government allows certain foreign-funded corporations to invest in China, these firms will be required to abide by Chinese laws and therefore they have an incentive to lobby their home governments to change certain policies if necessary,” said Lau.

He added that given the prerequisite of safeguarding national security, it was normal for local or mainland China-funded firms to have an upper hand in Macao’s re-tendering of casino licences. Nevertheless, for US-based operators, their foreign policy lobbying power would be an important asset that might lead to licence renewal, he said.

Apart from the current concessionaires, several owners of Macao’s satellite casinos have already expressed interests in jointly bidding for one of the six licences, adding more uncertainties to the future of Macao’s gaming sector.

According to the draft amendment to Macao’s gaming law, up to six new concessions will be issued, with a maximum term of 10 years, with a three-year extension possible under certain circumstances.