Macau Gambling Licences are up for renewal in 2020
A time-bomb is ticking away with Macau gambling licences. Various Macau gambling casino licences begin expiring between 2020 and 2022. When Macau was conceived as the world’s top gambling destination what was intended and how has it panned out? Many billions of dollars have since gone under the bridge.
Back in October 2001, the Tender Committee of Gaming Concession of Macau received 21 bids from the U.S., Australia, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Macau organisations. Three of the bids for gambling licences were disqualified due to insufficient information being provided. On 8th February 2002, three concessions were awarded gambling licences.
A consortium of SJM and Stanley Ho signed 18 year gambling licences in Macau on 28 March 2002. The contract was valid from 1 April 2002 until 31 March 2020. Currently, SJM has 8 casinos located on the Macau Peninsula and 4 casinos located in on Taipa Island. SJM has also installed slot machines in many other locations on Macau on a concessionary basis.
Major gambling shareholders Steve Wynn and Wong Chi Seng signed 20 year gambling licences on 24 June 2002. The contract was valid from 27 June 2002 until 26 June 2022. The main difference with this contract was that Wynn was required to invest in hotel and casino construction over the following seven years.
Construction started on the now famous 700 million dollar downtown casino tower during June 2004. Other hotel and casino developments have since followed including the Outer Harbour reclamation project on Taipa Island. It included a 600 room hotel, a 10,000 square feet hotel, seven restaurants and 28,000 square feet of retail, spa and entertainment centres.
Galaxy Casino SA
Major gambling shareholders The Venetian from the US, the Lui Che Woo family and Ho On Chun signed 20 year gaming licences on 26th June 2002. The contract was valid from 27th June 2002 until 26th June 2022. The difference with this contract was that later in December it included a sub concession contract for the Galaxy Casino to share equally in the investment. It was effectively two operators under one roof, The Venetian and The Galaxy.
The investment required two casino resorts and a conference centre to be open before the end of 2006.
What happened afterwards
Las Vegas Sands were involved with Galaxy but were not able to agree on a casino management contract within the deadline. Las Vegas Sands were then granted a legal concession in their own right so three Macau gambling licences became four.
The Macau Government subsequently decided it would allow the other concession holders to sell their concessions.
SJM sold their concession to Stanley Ho’s daughter Pansy Ho for $200 million dollars and they partnered with MGM.
Wynn sold their concession to Stanley Ho’s son partnering with son of James Packer and the Melco Crown Casino in Melbourne.
So now there are six gaming gambling licences up for renewal between 2020 and 2022.
The first Macau gambling casino license is due for renewal during 2020, the SJM licence will expire on 31st March. MGM and SJM casinos will be the first affected. The remaining Macau Casino licences all expire during June 2022.
The Mid Term Report
During May 2016 the Macau Government issued a mid-term review report of the local casino industry. It was a 254 page report but it shed no light on the likelihood of whether the six existing concessionaires would have their licences renewed.
It is no secret that the fortunes made in Macau gaming are derived from the VIP sector. However, Macau has been trying to develop non gambling tourism. Much has been spent on infrastructure improvements and new facilities on the enclave. A more sustainable holiday destination was being sought in the longer term.
One of the problems highlighted in the report was the junket operators. They are loan operators who have who have been blamed for some of the Chinese money restrictions recently imposed on Macau. The junket operators in Macau have been allowing corrupt Chinese officials to borrow large sums of cash for gambling and then repay it in cash when they return home.
It does seem strange that these junket operators are actually licensed by the Macau government. The report refers to 35 of the 183 junket operators not having their Gambling licences renewed during 2015 due to failure to comply with new financial reporting regulations. Over 50% of Macau gaming revenue is filtered through junket operators so it is a significant sector of Macau gambling business.
The mid-term report indicates that the operating licences for Macau Gambling had been operating favourably to date without major violations.
The Renewal Terms
In the run up to renewal of the Macau gambling licences, the cards of the Macau government will no doubt be played close to their chest.
The six concessionaires were required to invest specific sums of money, it appears from the interim report that they met their obligations.
Land is very scarce in Macau so much of it is developed out. It terms of building life cycle, all of the buildings have life left so, it would be pointless knock them down. They still have high value and they are earning a lot of money.
The most likely scenario is the buildings will be offered to the concessionaires for a premium equating to the new licence fee. Whatever that might be?
Other major casino conglomerates seem eager to line up for casino investment, especially within the far east. Japan will soon be throwing out the investment invitations having recently taken steps to legalize casino gambling.
At the moment, Macau is on a roll and out performing all other casino locations. Read about Macau gambling revenues. Whilst there is some way to go before licence renewal in Macau, much can still happen it the world.
One possibility is that one of the concessionaires might withdraw or assign their lease to another.
The Macau Government might also decide to grant a greater number of licences.
It is also possible that Macau may invite competitive tenders from other interested parties not yet involved in Macau. That would throw the cat amongst the pigeons.