Steve Vickers: New gov’t signals shifts in gaming policies

Steve Vickers & Associates, a Hong Kong based specialist political and corporate risk consultancy, has said in its latest annual security report that the changes to the local government may signal a significant shift in the city’s policies on the casino sector.
The report observes that the review into gaming regulations presents a risk for American investors. “Much attention has focused on whether the government will put pressure on the U.S.-owned concessionaires, such as Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts, to scale back their presence in favor of Chinese companies,” the firm noted in its 2020 Asia Risk Assessment.
A report last year by Moody’s Investors Services predicted that American firms would likely receive new concessions in Macau irrespective of the trade tensions between the U.S. and China.
Steve Vickers & Associates predicts that the local government will outline plans for the renewal of the six gaming concessions and sub-concessions.
According to the report, Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng may “emphasize diversification from a reliance on gaming, through the expansion of the financial sector and integration in the Greater Bay Area initiative” in his first policy address this April.
Another concern is the city’s slowing economy. The firm suggests that Ho may focus on the development of Hengqin Island and the establishment of a local stock market and trade initiatives with Portuguese-speaking countries, in order to shore up the economy.
It also added that local casinos remain a target for Islamic extremists in light of the events in Xinjiang.
“However, the largest risk is the problem of triad society penetration of the Macau junket sector, which poses the perennial risks of money laundering and related criminality,” the report added, echoing the sentiments of previous years.
In view of the social unrest and political instability in Hong Kong, the firm notes that Macau should be on guard. The firm surmised that neither the Hong Kong government nor the central government will accede to the demands of protesters. As long as Chief Executive Carrie Lam remains in the post, protests are expected to continue.
“The political [stalemate] seems likely to continue well into 2020, with implications for the rule of law, the economy and the security environment.”
Meanwhile, the firm suggested that the police force manage protests liable to degenerate into fighting. It said that “routine thuggery” risks normalizing violence in the region.
Prior to founding Steve Vickers & Associates, Steve Vickers spent 18 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police Force and commanded the Force’s Criminal Intelligence Bureau, according to his bio on the company website.

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