Macau casino operator Success Universe Group Ltd. (00487.HK) has set its sights on a gaming license of its own as the government is launching a review of the gaming industry this year.
Deputy chairman Hoffman Ma Ho-man said his company is “absolutely interested” in getting one new license that the government may issue this year, and so do many other casino and junket operators, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported on Monday.
Currently Macau has six gaming license holders. SJM (00880.HK) was the sole casino operator in the territory for decades, until Galaxy Entertainment (00027.HK) and Wynn Macau (01128.HK) were granted their own licenses in 2002 when the government decided to open up the gaming sector.
The three gaming concessionaires were subsequently split into three sub-concessionaires, which are MGM Macau (02282.HK), Sands China (01928.HK) and Melco Crown Entertainment (06883.HK).
The six licenses are going to expire in 2020 and 2022, and the government is expected to discuss the extension of the gaming licenses for the first time during the mid-term review of the gaming industry this year.
“If there is a public tender on the gaming license, for sure we have interest,” Ma said.
Success Universe is now the operator of Ponte 16, a “satellite casino” that does not belong to the six gaming giants but runs on the license of SJM.
It was rumored that the Macau government will issue one more gaming license to a Chinese or local enterprise to balance the clout of Chinese and US-owned casinos in the territory.
The central government and Macau government’s decision on the issue of gaming license must take into account the country’s overall interest, especially the mutual development of Zhuhai and Hengqin in Guangdong province, Ma said.
Although the Macau government has neither decided on whether to issue a new license nor the criteria for securing it, Ma said that moves to help Macau diversify the economy will increase its odds.
“Building facilities like shopping malls that attract tourists and investing in non-gaming tourism projects are the best feasible direction,” he said.
As to whether Macau’s casino market is already saturated, Ma said further observation has to be made after the casino giants launch new projects in Cotai Strip this year and in the next two years.
However, he believes the market can still accommodate one or two more license holders.
Macau lawmaker Ella Lei Cheng I said the six gaming giants’ contributions to help Macau diversify the economy will be the main consideration in any decision to extend gaming licenses, and that the mid-term review will be like an examination of casinos before the licenses expire.
Wang Changbin, associate professor at the Gaming and Teaching Research Centre of the Macau Polytechnic Institute, said it is difficult to tell which enterprises are more likely to get new licenses based on their business performance, as the decision will be a political one.
Meanwhile, Macau casinos saw their gross gaming revenue decline 17.4 percent to 23.7 billion patacas in January from a year earlier, according to figures released by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau on Monday.
It is the eight straight month of decline since June last year. Casino shares fell about 2 percent by midday following the announcement.
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