Galaxy Entertainment Group executive director Francis Lui is calling for closer co-operation between Macau’s gaming regulator and its concessionaires and suggested the government should consider cutting taxes to help Asia’s gambling hub remain competitive.
Lui made the comments during his opening speech of the G2E Asia conference on Tuesday. He was speaking about the importance of expanding the range of non-gaming amenities to help Macau compete with the growing number of integrated resorts opening around the region. At present Macau has the highest rate of gambling tax at 39 percent.
“We need to keep in mind there are lower tax jurisdictions targeting highly mobile chinese gamblers,” Lui said. “There needs to be an open discussion of how Macau can ensure its long term competitiveness.”
To achieve this, Lui suggested more should be done to leverage Macau’s unique cultural heritage and UNESCO sites, whilst expanding other non-gaming industries, including MICE.
He also called for proactive engagement between Macau’s six concessionaires and regulator, the DICJ, to ensure casinos are able to embrace the latest technologies and products. In particular, he mentioned Macau could develop its esports community to diversify its tax base.
In a later seminar, Morgan Stanley Asia managing director Praveen Choudhary said he doubted the government would agree to tax concessions any time soon, especially given the strength in gross gambling revenue seen in the first quarter.
“As the market is recovering, we are losing the time window for that debate,” he said.
Lui pointed to Macau’s unique position to be able to service Chinese outbound travel market, which posted spending of $261 billion last year. But he stressed that the operators need to embrace Beijing’s vision for a more leisure oriented mass market destination to be able to reap the full benefits. He said if operators can show they fully embrace responsible gambling and the non-gaming vision, the mainland may be prepared to expand the Individual Visitation Scheme beyond the 49 cities currently covered.
“Beijing will remain supportive of the mass focused business that Macau is focused on,” he said.
He also called for open borders between Macau and the neighbouring island on Henquin to improve Macau’s non-gaming potential. The island has been set aside as a destination for tourism and leisure, but not for gaming. Lui, whose company is building a resort there, said it could be like having Orlando built next to Las Vegas.
When asked of the opportunities for foreign operators in Vietnam given the latest gaming decree, Lui said there was opportunity, but a small one compared to that of other upcoming jurisdictions.
He noted that for the market to be successful, the foreign entry process would need to be more streamlined, as the market would be reliant on international travellers.
Japan on the other hand, provides an already robust domestic and international travel market, said Lui.