Gaming law expert calls on gov’t to directly award gaming concessions

The Macau government should consider an amendment to the gaming law to provide for the possibility of directly awarding the casino gaming concessions to the current casino operators, according to gaming legal expert Antonio Lobo Vilela.
Under the current legal and regulatory framework on casino gaming, granting casino gaming concessions by a direct award is not allowed, unlike all other types of permitted gambling in Macau.
The Macau government had long announced that it would open a public (international) tender for the award of the casino gaming concessions, which are set to expire in June 2022.
In his opinion cited in Asia Gaming Brief, the author of the book, Macau Gaming Law, recalled that one of the main points of the public consultation on the revision of the gaming law refers to the number of concessions.
“Although practical meaning and the Macau government’s intention [behind the public consultation], which proposes to ‘study and review the number of concessions,’ is unclear, three hypotheses are possible: decreasing, increasing, or maintaining the current number of casino gaming operators,” the gaming law expert said.
“The option for a decrease has the immediate and inevitable consequence of a significant surge in the unemployment rate,” he opined.
With unemployment rates affected in this manner, this also means that the city’s small and medium enterprises would be affected.
Meanwhile, the option for the increase would “lead to the entry of new players into the market at an economically challenging time.”
Hence, and by exclusion, Vilela argued that the “maintenance of the number of casino gaming operators proves to be the only viable option given the current reality.”
“If maintenance is the way forward, what public interest is there in opening a public tender to award the casino gaming concessions?” he questioned.
The public consultation on the gaming law recently ended after 45 days of the government seeking input on which aspects of the law should be revised.
Revision of the number of concessions, the removal of the sub-concessions, and the revision of the regular term of the concessions were among the topics that were put forward.
According to a note authored by João Nuno Riquito and Belmiro Leong of Riquito Advogados, one of the most significant changes in the consultation document is the removal of the legal status of the gaming sub-concessions. Such is the mechanism under which The Venetian Macau, MGM Grand Paradise and Melco Resorts are currently operating in the city.
However, the lawyers noted that “most of the proposed items of the revision are set forth in a very general undetailed manner,” as cited International Financial Law Review.
In September, following the announcement of the proposed changes to the SAR’s gambling laws that wiped out over USD18 billion in stock market value, the gaming operators and junkets have sought clarity from the government.
“Whatever legislative policy choice, we can only hope that the unfolding of this entire process relating to the new casino gaming concessions, which began troubled, proceeds smoothly. It needs to be in the public interest and must safeguard the economy and image of Macau, to make sure it does not turn into a ‘Mak Mak’ in the gaming industry,” Vilela concluded.
Another lawyer Jorge Menezes had previously criticized the public consultation document for providing similarly little insight, noting that the move is a “rare show of governmental incompetence.”.
For the lawyer, there is not much to expect from this consultation noting that the paper is “packed with nuances and ambiguities.”

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