Macau government extends casino licences to December

By Farah Master

HONG KONG, March 3 (Reuters) – Casino companies in Macau will have their licences extended by six months, the city’s Economy and Finance Secretary said on Thursday, allowing more time for a highly anticipated rebidding process in the world’s biggest casino hub.

Lei Wai Nong said Macau’s casino licences that were due to expire on June 26 will be extended to Dec.31, according to a government statement.

Authorities would start the rebidding process once the city’s legislature had passed a revised law, he said.

Macau’s six operators, Wynn Macau, Sands China , MGM China, SJM Holdings, Galaxy Entertainment and Melco Resorts, all have to reapply to maintain operations in the Chinese-ruled former Portuguese colony.

Legislators in the Chinese special administrative region need to first approve changes to the city’s gaming law which are the biggest reforms in two decades.

The law will lay the groundwork for what is required from the multibillion dollar casino operators ahead of their license expiration.

In 2019, Macau raked in $36.5 billion from its casinos, more than six times that of the Las Vegas strip.

Since 2020, however, Macau’s casinos have been slammed by coronavirus travel restrictions, which have curbed visitors, and crackdowns on the opaque junket industry.

Beijing, increasingly wary of Macau’s acute reliance on gambling, has not yet indicated how the licence rebidding process will be conducted.

It is clear, however, that authorities want far greater control over the casino operators’ activities.

Beijing and Macau massively tightened scrutiny of casinos in recent years, with authorities clamping down on illicit capital flows from the mainland and targeting underground lending and illegal cash transfers.

(Reporting by Farah Master; editing by Kim Coghill and Jason Neely)

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