Gaming | Experts say there is no possibility of online casino liberalization

Ben Lee, Jorge Costa Oliveira, David Green

Ben Lee, Jorge Costa Oliveira and David Green

Liberalizing online gaming in the Macau SAR has been labeled unachievable despite it being a possible way to diversify the city’s gaming options, gaming experts have noted.
In an online talk titled “Macau Gaming: Reality Check” presented by Debates and the Rui Cunha Foundation, Jorge Costa Oliveira, former commissioner for legal affairs of the Macau Gaming Commission, recalled that the city’s first Chief Executive Edmund Ho had intentions to open the market to online gaming.
Ho was said to have always shown strong support for the liberalization of online gaming.
However, the timing had not been right for liberalization. After the arrest of former Secretary for Transport and Public Works Ao Man Long on corruption charges in late 2006, Ho had chosen not to communicate the matter to both the central government and the Legislative Assembly.
“At that time, the Chief Executive had lost significant power over the scandal of Ao Man Long. He did not want to risk any negative directives from Beijing and he could not risk having a complicated discussion at the AL,” said Oliveira, who was part of the development of the gaming legislation enforced in 2001.
“I don’t think we are going to have other [types of] gaming in Macau, although there should be. We should have more competition for [current operators to work] more efficiently and be more law-abiding,” he added.
Since diversifying gaming offerings from casino to online is not a possibility due to political reasons, Oliveira noted that it is important for the market to target clients from South Asia and Southeast Asia, and not just having a large focus on urban China.
Meanwhile, the city’s current gambling model will likely remain the same despite the upcoming renewals in 2022, with no new addition to the city’s current six gaming operators.
Gaming expert David Green, Newpage Consulting founder, opined that the granting of new gaming concessions that is set to take place next year should be postponed as the Macau SAR’s economy has not yet been stabilized.

Ben Lee, managing partner of IGamiX Management & Consulting, disagrees.
“While the outcome is likely to be determined, I don’t believe that there is going to be an expansion of the existing concessions, primarily because the game plan is already set in place,” said Lee.
“In terms of what the desired outcome would be, objectives are pretty much set and the operators will have to come in and specify what non-gaming amenities they will commit to invest in,” he added.
Meanwhile, for Green, the city has had 20 years to look at the volatility of the market and could learn from facts that can influence the sector.
For the gaming expert, the city’s current six gaming operators are enough to continually run the industry.
“It would be a very difficult to make decision when you have already got the best operators […] on the ground in Macau. Would you award it to a state-owned enterprise in the PRC? Or to a large listed public company from China?” he questioned.

[Updated Ben Lee’s opinion on postponing the public tender.]
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