New details about amendments to be introduced to Macau’s gaming law, currently in discussion at the SAR’s Legislative Assembly (AL), keep surfacing. On Friday, Chan Chak Mo, president of the second standing committee, detailed a national security clause in the gaming bill.
The clause, which caught the AL’s attention in prior meetings, had prompted members of the committee to request clarification from officials on its application. The provision states the Macau Chief Executive has the right to terminate a casino license for a number of reasons, including threats to national security, public interest or breaching of contractual obligations.
Chan Chak Mo explained that the revoking of a gambling permit can be done without going through a judicial procedure, reports Macau Business. Article 1 of the gambling bill indicates casinos must operate under the premise of maintaining the security of the nation and the SAR.
According to the lawmaker, the decision to revoke a concession would need to be discussed with the gaming commission, with proper explanations of the reasons why the operator is believed to be violating national security. The gaming concessionaire would also have the right to appeal the decision.
Macau's Legislative Assembly
However, the revoking, if enacted, would be exempt from judicial procedures on the basis that a process of revocation would take a long time to conclude should it be brought to criminal law. Chan further explained that since the Chief Executive’s decision would be under the administrative scope, no clearer definition is needed since it's not a judicial decision.
Macau’s national security law prohibits a series of crimes, including treason, secession, sedition, subversion, theft of state secrets, foreign political bodies’ activities in the city, and their establishment of ties with local bodies. Examples given by officials of crimes casino operators could commit in this regard include acts of foreign collusion or funding for anti-China purposes.
But on Thursday, during a Legislative Assembly meeting, what caught the attention of many lawmakers was the fate of “satellite casinos” under the new legislation, which still remains unclear. Government officials were present in order to answer questions from the members of the standing committee, in contrast to prior meetings.
Lawmakers had shown concern about a potential termination of these venues since the legislative body approved a draft of the gaming bill in January. “Satellite casinos” are gambling facilities that are not located in premises owned by gambling concessionaires, and 22 of them currently operate in the city.
The draft of the gaming law amendment suggested that all satellite casinos must be housed within the properties of gaming operators. An example of one such satellite venue is the Macau Fisherman’s Wharf, which is owned by Macau Legend Development Ltd. but operated by SJM Resorts.
However, Chan explained that operators could gain a minority stake in a satellite casino via a strata arrangement of purchase of the gaming space, only within those buildings that currently house satellite casinos.
Chan told the media that if, for example, the area of a satellite casino is one-tenth of that of the entire real property and can be proven by construction diagrams, the subdivision would be able to be registered, according to Macau Daily Times.
Additionally, the government has told the committee that it has conducted a site check on satellite casinos. Officials investigated and inspected the scale of all properties of the six current gaming operators from July to November last year, Chan said.
The government has said, according to the lawmaker, that it intends to differentiate between sections identified as satellite casinos and those that are not. Results from the study are expected to be made available “by the end of this year.”
The government is set to provide a three-year period to satellite casino operators to regularize their situation. Chan confirmed to local media that the grace period would begin from the date the new gaming concessions begin.