Macau Casino Operator Shares Plummet as Government Begins Regulatory Overhaul Consultation

  • Officials have kickstarted a regulatory overhaul process with a 45-day consultation
  • Macau casino operator stocks lost around $14bn in value on Wednesday altogether
  • Wynn Macau stock saw the steepest decline, down 34%, while Sands China fell 28%
  • Macau’s casinos will rebid for licenses in 2022 with no sub-concessions included
Graph showing downward trend
Macau casino operators paid the price after the government began a regulatory overhaul consultation this week, causing gaming share prices to drop significantly. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Investors lose faith

In the Chinese gambling hub of Macau, casino operators will have to go through a rebidding process next year to renew their gambling licenses. In anticipation of this, local government officials have kickstarted a regulatory overhaul process which could see sweeping changes to the region’s gambling laws.

Macau gaming stocks fell as much as a third on Wednesday

A 45-day public consultation began on Wednesday with the aim of gauging public opinion on regulatory reform. Sadly for Macau’s operators, the beginning of this process has prompted fear of tighter regulations from investors, with share values paying the price. Macau gaming stocks fell as much as a third on Wednesday, losing around $14bn in value altogether.

All of Macau’s casino operators had share prices plummet. Wynn Macau saw the steepest decline, falling 34%. Meanwhile, Sands China recorded a large decline of 28%, while MGM China, Galaxy Entertainment, SJM Holdings, and Melco Entertainment also saw substantial drops.

What will the consultation include?

As reported by Reuters, Macau’s secretary for economy and finance confirmed the details of the government’s suggested regulatory changes on Tuesday night. The public will consider nine areas in the consultation which will run until October 29. This includes the number and length of gaming concessions and new employee protection and social responsibility measures.

Notably, the government has also proposed increasing its supervision of the casino industry. This would include a doubling of the number of gaming inspectors in Macau, in addition to the restructuring of several departments. The special administrative region has stepped up its casino scrutiny in recent years, with authorities clamping down on illegal capital flows from mainland China.

The proposed changes have caused investment banking firm JP Morgan to downgrade its estimations for the industry. It has reduced the prospects for all of Macau’s gaming giants from overweight to either neutral or underweight. “We admit it’s only a ‘directional’ signal, while the level of actual regulation or execution still remains a moot point,” analyst D.S. Kim added.

Rebidding to begin in 2022

All six of Macau’s casino operators currently operate through government-granted concessions. After SJM and MGM China paid $24.8m each for license extensions in 2019, all of those concessions now expire in June 2022. Before the government renews those licenses, officials intend to finish their gaming law revision by Q4 this year. The legislative assembly will then assess a finalized draft bill.

the process will no longer include sub-concessions

In April last year, Macau CEO Ho Lat Seng announced one major change to the next round of licensing for operators. He said the process will no longer include sub-concessions. MGM China, Las Vegas Sands, and Melco all currently operate through a license of this kind, granted after the initial period of concessions in 2002.