Posted on: March 7, 2022, 06:02h.
Last updated on: March 7, 2022, 12:33h.
A Macau Legislative Assembly committee reviewing the city’s updated gambling laws has clarified a clause regarding casino operators and national security violations. However, the explanation doesn’t provide additional clarity.
Language in Macau’s updated gambling laws addresses the revocation of a casino operator’s license if authorities deem it to be a threat to national security. This has caused some concern because the language doesn’t go into detail about what constitutes a threat.
The legislative committee reviewing the draft laws, which are now entering their final lap, has offered an update on what this section of the bill means. After conferring with other government officials, the legislative committee reviewing the laws can only offer that there is no “definitive concept” on when and how the government may apply the rule.
China’s Oversight of Gaming Laws in Macau
Chan Chak Mo, who oversees the legislative committee, reiterated to reporters last Friday that the Macau government has the right to terminate a concession at its discretion. Even after seeking further information from the government, there isn’t much clarification. What is known is that the government can cancel a license over “an act of foreign collusion” or if the operator engages in “funding for anti-China purposes.”
That language provides a great deal of latitude for how the government reacts to casino operators. This is especially true for those with strong ties to US-based companies. China has always had the ability to determine what “anti-China purposes” are, and changes the definition frequently.
Chan explained that the government would use an administrative process to shut the offending operator down. This will be in lieu of a criminal process, which could take longer to enforce.
He pointed out that criminal proceedings can take up to 10 years to make their way through the bureaucratic system. 10 years is also the length of the new concessions. In other words, it’s possible a criminal action wouldn’t bring about change until after the concession had expired.
China Pushes Macau to Approve Laws
Macau is supposedly a special administrative region (SAR) that belongs to China. At the same time, it has almost complete autonomous control over its day-to-day operations. Why a senior mainland Chinese official would feel the need to comment on the gambling laws is somewhat of a mystery.
Yesterday, Vice Premier Han Zheng emphasized that the legislators should support the new gaming laws. Han, according to GGRAsia, made the remarks while speaking with Macau legislators at a meeting of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing.
Macau legislators are already working to approve the new laws. They overwhelmingly supported the new language in the first reading this past January. Since then, they have not indicated they intend to take a different position during the final reading in June. The timing of the last reading already resulted in a six-month extension to existing concessions being necessary.
Han is a member of China’s 19th Politburo Standing Committee, the highest decision-making entity in the country. He is also a supporter of reforms in Hong Kong that reduced the power of local district councilors.
The Legislative Assembly will continue to work with the standing committee to review the amended gambling laws ahead of June’s vote. Casino operators can only wait patiently in the meantime. However, they have all confirmed that they are taking the necessary steps to receive the concession extension.