Macau chief executive Ho Iat Seng said the government would attempt to complete the submission of gambling concessions by June 2022, but remained open to an extension of current concession terms if it becomes necessary.
Ho's comments came at a press conference Tuesday night following the 2022 policy speech, in which he outlined government initiatives and areas of focus for the coming year. He explained, "If the legislative process (of gaming law amendment) cannot meet the due date, we could extend the current gaming concessions since we have the mechanism to allow us to do so."
Macau's leader stressed that the goal is to try to meet the deadline, adding that the amendment to the Gaming Law is aimed at the healthy development of the gaming industry in the city. He asserted that the government doesn't intend on making things difficult for gaming operators.
All six of Macau's current gaming concessions – held by subsidiaries of Galaxy Entertainment Group, Melco Resorts and Entertainment, MGM China, Sands China, SJM Holdings and Wynn Macau – will expire on June 26, 2022. The government has until now stayed tight-lipped on the possibility of extending the license term. This is the first time Macau's Chief Executive has mentioned that extending the license term of gaming concessions as an option should the timeline prove too tight.
However, the issue was still only touched on briefly during Tuesday's Policy Address, with Ho stating its intention was "to promote the orderly and healthy development of the gaming industry in accordance with the law, improve the laws and regulations of the gaming industry and optimize the procedures and processes for monitoring the gaming industry."
He also promised to drive forward the retendering process based on three benefits for Macau – to "enrich the content of Macau as the 'World Centre of Tourism and leisure,' promote the stable development of the gaming industry and protect the employment of local residents and their opportunities of promotions."
Ho added, "We should actively develop more competitive non-gaming elements in the market and continuously push gaming concessionaires to bear more CSR."
He refrained, however, from revealing any more details, stating it is not appropriate to do so until a review of the recently completed public consultation on proposed gaming law amendments, due by March 2022, is complete.
Discussing other key issues, Ho said he expects Macau's travel restrictions would be eased next year as the vaccination rate against COVID-19 increases and prevention efforts continue to be strengthened and improved.
Since the COVID-19 vaccination rate has finally reached 70% in the city, it is encouraging more residents - especially the elderly and children - to get vaccinated as soon as possible. "If the vaccination rate reaches 80% in Macau, package tours from the mainland to Macau would likely be resumed and we would try to negotiate for the possible resumption of the Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) e-visa, which would bring back a great number of visitors to Macau," he concluded.
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