CASINO

Macau’s public bus concession expiry reinforces analysts’ view on gaming concessions

TAGs: Macau

It is seen as a trial run for casino license renewals. Bus concessions in Macau are currently going through the renewal process and it has been anything but quick and easy. There have been numerous extensions, delays and a gross lack of transparency. International brokerage Union Gaming (UG) has been watching the process, and anticipates the same to occur once casino licenses come up for renewal, adding that there won’t be any clarity on the matter for at least several more years.

What Macau's public bus concession expiration tells us about gaming expirationAll bus licenses in the city state expired as of July 31. This followed several extensions offered after the original concessions were issued to two operators in 2008. A third operator was added in 2009, and now all three are trying to negotiate with the government for renewals with less than two weeks remaining until the deadline. The bus companies were being forced to rebid on their licenses, instead of simply seeking a renewal.

In a similar fashion, UG anticipates licenses held by casino operators SJM and MGM to be extended through May 2022. No changes in how the concessions are managed are expected until Macau sees an administration turnover in January 2020. Following the turnover, there could be a study by the new administration on the licensing process, which potentially could last several years. This would more than likely result in all six license concessions being granted extensions until some point past 2022.

The potential for the study was exacerbated by lobbying efforts currently being led for the introduction of a seventh, and possibly eighth, license being offered. According to UG, the efforts could result in the process “dragging on until the middle of the next decade,” giving current Macau casino licensees a little breathing room and pushing out the concession risk further. UG puts the odds of the additional concessions being granted at 50/50.

UG also explained that the concession term could be extended in an attempt to maintain current investments in established integrated resorts. It’s also possible that the Macau government could campaign for a “Vegas-like approach” to the industry, which was “a near constant refreshment and reinvention of the non-gaming attractions similar to what has been seen up and down the Las Vegas Strip.” From 2011 to 2017, casino operators invested $6 billion in the Strip without building a single new casino. According to UG analyst Grant Govertsen, “As non-gaming becomes a primary differentiator between properties in Macau, and as the customer base becomes worldlier and sophisticated (something that is already occurring rapidly) we would expect the pace and magnitude of reinvestment in Macau to outstrip that of Las Vegas.”

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