Macau casino operators face problems if found to pose ‘national security’ threat

Posted on: February 18, 2022, 9:17 a.m.

Last update: February 18, 2022, 9:27 a.m.

A Macau Legislative Committee continues to review the framework of the city’s updated gambling laws. Although there have been no glaring problems so far, the language of “national security” is confusing.

Chan Chak Mo
Chan Chak Mo, a lawmaker in Macau and chairman of a subcommittee reviewing updated gambling laws. The legislator has highlighted several elements that require clarification from government officials. (Image: Macau Enterprise)

Macau’s Legislative Assembly approved new reforms to the city’s gambling law when it first considered the updates last month. However, this was only a superficial review, with a special legislative committee created to dig deeper into the bills.

Macau Gaming Law Review Continues

That review began this week, with the committee devoting time each day to reviewing significant changes. There were small things that they adjusted by thinking about the document page by page. However, lawmakers reached a section that needed more than a little clarification.

Based on comments made by Chan Chak Mo to the press yesterday, a casino operator could lose their license if they are found to pose a threat to national security. Chan is the chairman of the committee examining the bill and wants clarification on the meaning of this article.

The passage states that a licensee can lose their contract due to “threats to national security,” as well as for breach of contractual obligations. The latter is common sense; however, the use of “national security” stands out.

China’s potential involvement in Macau

Chan didn’t make it clear in his comments, but Macau has no “national” security concerns. Maybe it was just a misuse of the words, when “city” would have sufficed. But it could also represent something completely different. This was perhaps an indication of China’s continued – and growing – involvement in Macao’s day-to-day operations.

China is pushing its “one country, two systems” policy to guide the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao, which could influence new gambling laws. On the other hand, he wouldn’t need to put his power in writing. If he wanted to, he would simply take whatever action he saw fit.

Chan wants clarification on terminology. It will also ask for the criteria that could determine whether a dealer broke the rules.

More clarity needed

There’s also an entry in the bill that gives the city the right to evict a casino operator if they don’t receive approval for a new franchise when the current license expires. All six licensees are optimistic about getting new licenses this year, most likely in June. This is when the current concessions will expire.

The tongue leaves a gaping hole. There are concerns as to why it should be included. The issuance of the license is a one-time action after the approval of the new gambling laws. This could apply on the next expiry. But it won’t be for another 10 years.

Chan and the committee he heads are preparing a list of questions to take to the government in the coming weeks. The goal is still to have everything in place for the Legislative Assembly to give the laws a final reading – and approval – by June 26. It’s D-Day for current casino operator concessions, though lawmakers may approve an extension of schedule changes.

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