Gov’t drops casino venue ownership rule to save satellites

The government has amended the contentious rule that aimed to establish that all casinos would mandatorily be located in venues owned by the concessionaires. The amendment was part of a series of adjustments made to the new gaming law that is under analysis by the members of the Second Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly.

Aiming to address the problem of so-called satellite casinos, this change is the main aspect of the proposed amendment that was under scrutiny by the Committee on Friday.

The topic had been under heated discussion since the first version of the new gaming law was presented, which would potentially force the majority of casinos operating under an extension of the license of one of the gaming concessionaires to be located in different venues across the city.

In some cases, these casinos were located within the premises of the main concessionaire, but were operated by other companies from the same group, an arrangement that the new law would seek to prevent.

With the change now included in this second version of the law, the government has withdrawn from such a restrictive measure, effectively allowing satellite casinos to continue to operate in a similar manner to the current state of affairs. The second version of the law is subject to ongoing analysis with the aim of receiving approval from the plenary before the end of the next month. 

The matter had been raised on multiple occasions by legal, gaming, and economics specialists as a potential source of major disruption in the market, having the ability to directly affect many companies and the jobs of thousands of local residents who are already suffering from the economic fallout from the measures imposed to prevent and control the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sources close to the discussion have told the Times that a large number of lawmakers have previously expressed to government officials that, if the rule remained, the probability of the Article being voted down in the plenary meeting to finally approve the law would be very high, potentially causing a significant delay in the approval of the law.

Sector pleased with the change

The news was well received by the gaming sector, in particular those that have been at the forefront of the operation of satellite casinos.

Melinda Chan, the recently re-appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Macau Legend Development Ltd – one of the larger operators of satellite casinos – said to TDM that the news was very well received by the sector, describing it as a “relief for the sector.”

Nonetheless, Chan reaffirmed that this is not the only problem with the new gaming law nothing that “there are still other issues that demand debate between the government, the gaming concessionaires, and the future satellite casino operators.”

Chan was referring to the rule that states that the operation of these casinos is subject to a service contract in which the operator is considered a management provider. Such contracts need the approval of the Chief Executive.

In the new Article, these management companies cannot benefit from the profits generated by the casinos, but instead can only receive a “fixed fee” payment that needs to be stipulated in the contract. This requires such arrangements to operate under similar legal conditions as the junkets, including the need for an exclusivity contract with just one of the concessionaires.

Categories Headlines Macau