There are no laws limiting the appearance of casinos in any part of Macau, but Coloane has been out of it. Until when? And if they are authorised in Seac Pai Van can they also pop up in Hac-Sa or in the village of Coloane?
Over the last five years, at least, there has been no shortage of opportunities for the government to state beyond doubt its opposition to the appearance of casinos in Coloane.
There have been interpellations by deputies in the Legislative Assembly, questions from journalists and discussions among specialists. But the clearest that the government has shown itself in this regard was when Lionel Leong told MPs: “If you think the law should be changed to ban casinos in some areas, we, the government, are open to this possibility.”
Three years have passed since this statement and not only has there been no legislative initiative to limit gambling in certain areas of the MSAR (as would be the case in Coloane), it seems clear that the government wants to leave the door open, particularly with a view to the new concessions effective 2022.
During a debate on the 2017 Macau Government’s Policy Address, the Secretary for Economy and Finance repeated that the city would take into consideration public opinion regarding permitting casinos to operate in Coloane, adding that Macau’s six major casino operators were permitted to apply for a casino licence in Coloane and that the urban department of the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau in Macau would decide whether any proposed casino would be in line with or against the government’s plans to develop the Coloane area.
“I cannot say which are the zones where you cannot build casinos because there is no law that prohibits their construction,” he added.
“The law could introduce some clarity to this matter, as has already been done for slot machines,” UMAC Professor Jorge Godinho told Macau Business.
This gaming law expert understands that “we have to differentiate between the north face and south face of Coloane. I am against the emergence of casinos on the south side; namely on the beaches of Hac Sa and Cheoc Van, as well as in the village of Coloane. They are traditionally places of tourism and family leisure. Nevertheless, in the north face, given the proximity to COTAI, I believe that may be admissible.”
This scenario gains more credibility because the government is trying to reclaim land whose concession has come to an end, several of them in Coloane, specifically in Seac Pai Van, where at least seven lots fall under such circumstances.
With COTAI busy, and the need to ask new dealers to bet on non-gaming, the land in the Seac Pai Van area gains new importance, particularly that with a view of the golf course. Even without this factor, it was in this area that the promoters of ‘the most luxurious hotel in the world’ decided to build The 13.
The reference to The 13 is no coincidence.
The hotel will open [July 31 is the new deadline] and it is already known that they want to have a casino. The owner has revealed that the group has a memorandum of understanding with an “affiliate of one of the [gaming licence] holders [Melco?] … in Macau … in relation to the management and operation of a casino proposed to be opened in The 13 Hotel.”
The response to the request, which may already have been made, will be a milestone in the history of gambling in Macau: if it is refused, it will hardly be the position of the government from then on, in similar cases; if authorised, the door is open for good.
Lionel Leong has said that “when we receive a [gaming] application, especially for the Coloane area, we’ll forward it to the related planning department for them to give us feedback, then we’ll handle it accordingly.”
In order to justify a possible negative answer – for example, in areas where the government will not want casinos such as the village of Coloane – the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau can invoke “nonconformity with plans of urbanisation and its regulations, as well as with the alignments and other instruments of urban discipline,” according to the response that the Director of the Gaming Inspection and Co-ordination Bureau, Paulo Martins Chan, gave Deputy Au Kam San, the biggest opponent of gambling’s entrance into Coloane.