Seven companies bid for new casino licences in Macau

Macau is the only place in the country where citizens can legally gamble in casinos. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG - Seven companies have bid for new casino licences in the world's biggest gaming hub, with the contracts set to start at the beginning of 2023, Macau's government said on Wednesday.

The government is expected to review the proposals and negotiate with the bidders on detailed terms and conditions, before announcing six winners by the end of November or early December, analysts said.

Sands China, Wynn Macau, Galaxy Entertainment, MGM China, SJM Holdings, Melco Resorts and GMM Limited submitted bids for the tender, the government statement said.

GMM is linked to Malaysian tourism and gambling conglomerate Genting Group, which currently does not have a licence in Macau.

Mr D.S. Kim, an analyst at JP Morgan in Hong Kong, said the current environment made it challenging for new entrants.

"Time will tell," he said, as it was hard for new entrants to make proper returns during the concession period, which has been shortened to 10 years from 20.

The bidding committee will conduct the bid opening process on Sept 16, the government said.

Macau for the first time imposed a formal table cap and minimum income requirements for the new operators.

The move is part of a broader overhaul of legislation for Macau's gambling industry and gives the authorities much tighter oversight and control over the casino operators, which raked in US$36 billion (S$50.6 billion) in 2019, prior to Covid-19.

The government kicked off the highly anticipated bidding process in July, when it said global gaming operators could submit bids for new licences from July 29 until Sept 14.

The bidding process took place amid Macau's worst outbreak of Covid-19, which led to a 12-day closure of casinos in July. While casinos in the Chinese special administrative region have reopened, there is little business as restrictions are only being lifted slowly. REUTERS

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