NEW GAMING LAW TO BE FINALLY VOTED ON TUESDAY


The Legislative Assembly (AL) will finally vote on the new law that will govern the local gaming industry’s operations for the next decade, the president of the Second Standing Committee of the AL, Chan Chak Mo, announced yesterday.

Speaking after the committee’s last meeting on the bill, Chan said that the final reading of the bill will most likely take place on Tuesday, June 21, in a plenary session that has yet to be officially scheduled.

Yesterday’s meeting was dedicated to the reading of the final version of the bill as well as the signing of the final opinion from the committee’s members that greenlighted the bill after intensive discussion over five months.

Questioned by the media on whether he thought this bill would achieve the consensus of all lawmakers on voting day, Chan said that he believes that the law will be approved, even if some lawmakers raise questions about particular details.

“If you ask me, I think that the law will be approved. I will certainly vote in favor and my [committee] Secretary (lawmaker Lam Lon Wai) will too. I think the law will receive the necessary votes to be approved even if not all articles are voted upon unanimously. There may still be questions to be raised and the government must respond to these at the plenary,” Chan said.

Chan listed a few key topics that were clarified by the Committee, such as the acknowledgment that in the new concessions tender there will be a maximum of six licenses to be attributed and no sub-concessions will be allowed.

The bill will have an enforcement period of up to 10 years with the possibility of an extension of up to three years.

It will be up to the Chief Executive (CE) to define the size of the industry delimiting the total number of permitted gaming machines and tables. Each of these machines and tables will have a minimum revenue ceiling that will be established by administrative order.

Also in the hands of the CE will be scrutineering over the managing companies signing contracts with the concessions. Gaming promoters (also called junkets) may only work for one concessionaire at a time and may only receive commissions for their services. They will not be permitted to receive shares of any profits or receipts generated.

Furthermore, the concessionaires will have a duty to supervise and inspect the junkets operating under their concessions.

Aiming to increase the reputability of the concessionaires, the inspection of their stakeholders will be reinforced and their share capital has been exponentially raised from 500 million patacas to 5 billion patacas.

The bill also includes a ban on listing gaming concessionaires on the stock exchange and an added control over the shareholders of indirect interests in these companies, with stakeholders of one concessionaire not permitted to hold any shares over 5% of any of the parent companies related to a different concession.

TRANSITION LAW

Questioned by the Times if the Committee president believes that this law is equipped to last the upcoming 10 years before its official expiry, Chan said that he did not have a response, as, “there are many factors that can influence the inadequacy of a law. Right now we are still living in a pandemic situation and there is a war ongoing in Europe. We cannot anticipate what the future will bring. Maybe only a Nobel Prize winner in economics can answer that question,” he said.

The question of whether this new gaming law represents a complete update from the one  currently in force (and which has a duration of over 20 years) or, if it was merely a transitory law to smooth the path for even more restrictive laws on gaming activities in the future, was initially raised at the start of the process. However, this discussion was soon abandoned in favor of more pressing matters such as the survival of satellite casinos and the economic impacts of their closure.

SATELLITE CASINOS THE ‘HOTTEST’ TOPIC

The discussion over the situation of satellite casinos was highly topical during the Second Standing Committee discussions, Chan said in response to a media inquiry.

“The most controversial topic was the matter of the satellite casinos,” Chan said. “Many lawmakers, including those who are not members of this committee, were very worried about this because of the potential impacts on the economy and employment. The government promoted many changes to the bill that concerned this aspect – even dropping some requirements on the ownership of the venues, among others. I think the feedback from society in general and this sector is now far more positive than it was in the original version of the bill.”

PANDEMIC AND JUNKET CRISIS MIGHT HAVE PLAYED A ROLE IN THE NEW GAMING LAW

The pandemic and surrounding economic crisis, as well as the junket scandal leading to the arrest of two of the major heads of the larger market players may have played a role in defining certain aspects of the new gaming law, the president of the Second Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly said during a media briefing yesterday.

However, Chan said that while the current situation might have played some role in certain parts of the law, it was not the most important factor driving the amendments nor did it play a decisive role.

“Recent problems might have influenced the law revision somewhat, but I believe that other situations such as the problems with the VIP sector had a greater influence,” he said. 

“I think is it more the way we are looking to the future that had the most influence. National security matters, for instance, have had an added relevance. Even without the pandemic, we would have to make this revision. Maybe without the pandemic it would have been easier,” Chan remarked.

Chan explained that the overarching principles that guided the revision are clearly stated in Article 1-A of the bill. These mostly stem from the local government’s experiences over the past 20 years.

Highlighting a few lines of relevance, Chan noted number 1, which provides that the gaming activities in casinos must safeguard national security, and number 4, which provides that the operation of games of chance in a casino must be free from criminal influence and that their operation must abide by mechanisms to combat the illegal flow of cross-border capital and comply with measures to prevent money laundering and terrorism. 

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Source: Macau Daily Times

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