Rear Window | Getting beyond Wynn fall

Severo Portela

Suddenly… the barrage of claims of sexual misconduct that brought down conspicuous figures from politics, business and entertainment, starting from about last fall with Harvey Weinstein, have indirectly hit the Macau Special Administrative Region.

The Wall Street Journal’s report on a string of women claiming to have been harassed or assaulted, together with the dire 7.5 million US out-of-court settlement took Steve Wynn to the ropes.

The maverick casino tycoon who appeared to be winning all through a full career of gaming ventures was forced to resign as the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas-based WR and its cash cow, Wynn Macau Ltd. Though he denies the bulk of the allegations, Wynn had to evaluate the consequences of what he referred to as “negative publicity” and march himself from the helm of WR having reached the conclusion that he could not “continue to be effective” in such an environment. It looks like Wynn could be on a losing streak: well-known Las Vegas Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez decided to allow certain claims a hearing in the never-ending legal battle with Kazuo Okada.

As far as Macau is concerned, we have to bear in mind that the future outlook was already a mildly disturbing one: a climate of real caution, ripe with rumors and completely wild, if not insane, scenarios as we count down to the end of the gaming concessions. That is to say that even before Wynn’s departure and his proposed replacements (Matt Maddox and Allan Zeman) the six (6) gaming licenses were the source of all sorts of guessing games in wishful thinking: from rubber-stamping the franchises to an utterly formal process of readmission; from inflating the number of concessions to eight (8) to accommodate new players to a less populated environment… everything but the legally binding public tender!

Steve Wynn leaving a company that not only bears his name but which won the first public tender based on his existing portfolio rather than on a proposal – pardon the analogy to Vegas memoir, it will be a Sinatra Singing Show with no Sinatra singing. This can be the leitmotiv for the rethinking of the casino business in China’s single ground of gaming.

Locally, there is much thinking to do other than defer to veiled remissions to the northern capital “instructions”, which nobody has actually heard: such an eroded push to a worthless autonomy. The MSAR is home to casinos because of its history; because of a Central Government decision not to threaten the economic monoculture and the prosperity of the semi-autonomous region of Macau; and because Macau has the culture and the regulatory framework that allows the casino business.

What constitutes a threat to Macau’s status is regulatory: the status of the rule of law, the scope of autonomy. The recurrent idea to install casinos in the well-known Chinese Hawaii is just a naive idea that it is possible to have casinos with no side effects.

Hainan is developing well into a Chinese Florida of affluent elderly retirees from the chilly northern China, locally known as “migratory birds”, big business on its merits.

Finally some notes. A sad one upon the death of Professor Jao Tsung I; an astonished one due to UM Finance Professor Rose Neng Lai’s theory of the bubble that does not exist until it bursts; and a preoccupied one about the clouding of the project Alto de Coloane.

Categories Opinion