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Lawmakers home in on satellite casinos while examining draft gaming law

Fate of workers following possible casino closures uppermost in lawmakers’ minds as they examine the nitty gritty of proposed bill.

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Fate of workers following possible casino closures uppermost in lawmakers’ minds as they examine the nitty gritty of proposed bill.

ARTICLE BY

PUBLISHED

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 4:42 am

Lawmakers have continued to discuss the issue of satellite casinos while examining the draft bill of Macao’s new gaming law, Chan Chak Mo, who chairs the Legislative Assembly’s 2nd Standing Committee, said yesterday.

Speaking after the committee’s second meeting this week, Chan reaffirmed that “all questions” about satellite casinos have been raised by the committee members during the two meetings, which will be answered by government officials in a meeting expected to be held early next month, after the committee members’ thorough review of the bill.

Chan Chak Mo
Photo by AAMacau Media

Chan underlined that the committee has been collecting opinions about the bill. According to Chan, the committee has so far received comments from one of Macao’s six gaming operators and one resident. The concessionaire, which Chan did not identify, commented on how certain rules in the bill will be enforced, such as casino operators’ shares, listing status, reviews of shareholders’ eligibility, and the issue of joint and several liability, while the resident signalled agreement with  the government’s tighter controls on the gaming industry.

The purpose of a joint and several, or several, liability clause is to make clear whether the parties have a joint obligation or have individual promises to perform acts or obligations.

Concerning the satellite casino issue, Chan said that during yesterday’s meeting, the committee members raised concerns over the impact of the possible closure of satellite casinos on the affected hotels’ operations and the employment of casino workers.

The bill proposes that all casinos must be situated in real estate owned by the concessionaires. It also proposes that gaming operators’ so-called “satellite casinos” housed in buildings that they don’t own will be given a transition period of three years to regularise their situation, provided that their operators are among the winners of the upcoming bidding process.

According to Chan, some of the committee members questioned whether the proposed three-year transition period will be sufficient for the future – up to six – concessionaires to regularise the satellite casino issue.

Committee members also asked whether future concessionaires would employ the staff members of satellite casinos after their closures, Chan said.

According to Chan, some committee members also asked whether several satellite casinos would be allowed to collectively bid for a single gaming concession in the future.

The government has noted that according to the bill, junket operators, officially known as “gaming promoters”, must be registered as a company, Chan noted. Currently, junket operators can either operate as a company or an individual.

After the standing committee finishes its review of the bill, it will be submitted to its second reading during a plenary session for its final debate and article-by-article vote. The bill will then have to be gazetted to become law.

Chan said on Monday that he expected the final version of the bill to be voted on by the legislature by 26 June, when Macao’s three gaming concessions and three sub-concessions are scheduled to expire, The Macau Post Daily reported. 

Legislators did not discuss nor consider whether it is technically possible under Macao’s land law (within three years) to create horizontal property units (subdividing the land) in buildings where satellite casinos are currently situated given the technical requirements, which require establishing an entirely independent unit of land. 

Furthermore, many of the buildings housing satellite casinos are privately or publicly owned by other companies that are not themselves concessionaires. How these companies could or should be compelled to transfer ownership in parts of their building to a concessionaire even if it could be subdivided was also not considered.

 

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 4:42 am

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