The Macau government has opened a public consultation on a series of reforms linked to the casino sector, including changes to the number of licenses issued and the possibility of imposing government representatives on licensees.
The consultation will consider amendments to Law No. 16/2001 – “The Legal System for Casino Gaming Operations” – which opened the Macau casino market to multiple operators for the first time. The review will cover nine main areas.
The first is the number of concessions that are expected to be issued when the current licenses expire in June 2022. Currently, three licensees offer games in Macau, and three more sublicensees are also operating. However, the report suggests that fewer operators could be beneficial.
“Restricting the number of concessions does not mean reducing the sector’s competitiveness in the market, but, on the contrary, it seeks to ensure a balance between the stability of the market dimension and the liberalization of the sector”, says the report.
To do this, you can restrict the number of concessions issued, while explicitly prohibiting sub-concessions. In addition, another measure involves the introduction of “Government representatives” to licensees.
“As a representative of the public interest of society, the Government of Macau has a responsibility to protect the interests and well-being of the entire local population,” the government said. “Game dealerships, in turn, have as their main objective the maximization of their own profits.”
Because of this difference, representatives should be appointed “to extend the direct oversight power of the Macau Government to concessionaires”.
Macau government assesses decreasing duration of concessions
The duration of concessions could also be shortened. The consultation suggested that Macau’s original casino law was drafted at a time of great economic uncertainty, when a long concession was deemed necessary to attract strong investments. Furthermore, he stated that an “excessively long or inflexible concession period can cause problems”.
In order to adopt the proposed rules, other legal requirements for potential licensees would be necessary, including a higher minimum amount of share capital to better reflect the size of the Macao market.
The government has also proposed introducing some kind of guarantee for local workers. However, this proposal did not contain specifics, limiting itself to highlighting that “operators must take constant and proactive measures to guarantee job vacancies for local workers”, as well as access to promotions for these workers.
The government even pointed out the need for new rules for those who promote the game, such as ‘junket’ operators. These companies currently face few legal requirements compared to casino operators and links to illegal activities have been discovered. “It is necessary to tighten the regulation of the activities of game promoters, as the criteria for access to this profession are increased,” stat
Proposal for diversification of activities in resorts
Another proposal listed was the promotion of non-gaming projects, requiring resorts to include more non-gaming activities in an effort to diversify Macau’s economy, after Executive Chairman Ho Iat Seng warned last year of the Macao’s “excessive dependence” on the gaming industry.
The penultimate area of consultation concerns social responsibility. The government noted that the current rules lack specificity. As a result, licensees were expected to assume a range of social responsibilities, including supporting local small and medium enterprises, protecting labor rights, and participating in philanthropic endeavors.
Finally, the government proposed changes to the law on criminal liability, mainly by making it clear that operators could be held criminally liable for certain flaws.
The new proposals would also make it a crime to deny authorities access to documents or information when necessary. The consultation will last 45 days and will include five public sessions in which interested parties can present their views.