Sands China President Wilfred Wong noted on a group conference call recently that recent criminal law changes introduced by China's central authorities to organize or encourage Chinese citizens to gamble overseas have a certain "ambiguity" exhibit.
China's National People's Congress passed an amendment to its criminal law that will result in a new crime against cross-border casinos starting March 1, 2021, organizing or soliciting Chinese citizens to gamble and increasing penalties for those who are due to found guilty of serious offenses.
The change is specifically aimed at those who “organize mainland Chinese citizens to play outside the country (borders)”.
“You are specifically saying outside of the country what you all appreciate Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan in general are viewed inside the country. But then they leave ambiguity justice, which puts the word offshore in brackets outside the country. This introduces the ambiguity and I have discussed this with both our Beijing lawyers and with the National People's Congress, ”Wong noted on the conference call.
According to Wong, Chinese legal experts consulted by the group said that while the central people's government recognizes Macau's special status, it does not want the SAR to be used as a basis for organizing such activities to bring people outside the country, like z like the Southeast Asian countries.
Last month, the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT) announced that it would expand its travel blacklist to include overseas gambling areas or countries that promote gambling tourism for Chinese nationals.
Although the exact blacklist is unknown, analysts believe it relates to Southeast Asian gambling areas popular with Chinese gamblers such as Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, or even Australia.
Wong underlined that the list adds another level of "ambiguity" that "will ultimately be decided by the authorities and the courts in the future."
"But at this point it is certain that any person or junket who tries to use Macau as a base for organizing games of chance in other countries will be condemned," added the President von Sands.
NagaWorld Hotel and Entertainment Complex in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Sands management recently stated in a group conference call that the company has not been consulted by Macau or by Chinese authorities if the participation of a Chinese company in the group is a requirement for future gaming concessions.
As local gaming concessions expire in 2022 and the authorities prepare for the public tender that will decide on future concession licenses, questions have been raised as to whether US operators see investments by Chinese corporations as a means of increasing their chances of renewing their licenses would.
“We neither picked up nor were we asked whether Chinese companies should be involved (…). In the past there have been some suggestions from people who said that state-owned companies could come along. I don't think that's really in line with your political rationale. Whether or not private Chinese companies are allowed to participate in Macau and under what circumstances are things that were not brought to us at all, ”said Wong.
“The only thing I can say at this point is that we will continue to do our best in Macau and show that we are a locally rooted company as we are listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and are just like everyone else Hong Kong companies and that we do everything, even better than other competitors. "
Last month, Snow Lake Capital Limited, an Asian investment management firm, released a letter to the board of directors of MGM Resorts International asking them to sell 20 percent of the local gaming concessionaire MGM China to a Chinese company as a strategic investor.
The group argued that the launch of one of China's leading consumer internet platforms as a significant strategic shareholder would create a win-win deal for MGM China as MGM China is highlighted by Macau being low on the post-COVID-19.
MGM later stressed that it "remains committed to Macau," and analysts also questioned whether the mainland authorities' investment opportunity would be profitable or even legitimate.
Rob Goldstein, CEO and Chairman of Sands, also emphasized that government officials had made no mention of Chinese stakeholder demands or even intentions of Chinese businessmen in this direction.
"We have been in Macau, Beijing for about 20 years and we have endless meetings. (…) I have never had a conversation with someone who was important, whoever said that to me or even made that comment. If anything, they actually giggle because, according to Wilfred's comment, there isn't a huge appetite to invest in gambling, ”noted Goldstein.
“I once knew a very, very good person, a very important man in the Chinese world, a businessman. And I suggested (this) so he started laughing, he said no one is going to buy their way into a Chinese gambling company, whether it's Macau or Las Vegas, because we won't. "
Regarding the bidding process itself, Wong noted that the group is running out within a tight deadline as the concession is set to expire in 17 months and the group is still "eagerly" awaiting government instruction.
"We only know that the government is adopting a process that includes a public consultation on the implementation of the concession, and that the objectives to achieve diversification, that changes to the legislation must be introduced in the Legislative Council and then the tendering process begins," he added added.
“We also know that a parliamentary election is planned for September this year. So all of this comes into play and we are facing a very tight schedule. We don't know if this will start very soon as the government is currently all involved in the fight against the pandemic. "