Macau Professor Believes China Might Force US Casino Operators Out Due to Trump Ties

Posted on: January 27, 2021, 12:50h.

Last updated on: January 27, 2021, 04:37h.

A professor in Macau believes US casino operators might be wearing out their welcome in the world’s richest gambling market.

Macau Professor Believes China Might Force US Casino Operators Out Due to Trump Ties
Macau Professor Believes China Might Force US Casino Operators Out Due to Trump Ties
Former President Donald Trump and China President Xi Jinping, seen here in 2017, were at odds for much of the past four years. When it comes to Macau and its licensed casino operators, China might end up with the upper hand. (Image: Getty)

Speaking at an event hosted by the France Macau Chamber of Commerce this week in the Chinese Special Administrative Region, Macau University Associate Professor Priscilla Roberts says the future operations of three licensed casino operators in Macau are in jeopardy.

I think it’s quite possible that American casinos will no longer be as welcome in Macau,” Roberts opined at the event titled, America’s New President: A Turning Point for US/China Relations?

All six current gaming concession holders are set to see their operating licenses expire in June of 2022. Three of those companies are headquartered in the United States — Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, and Wynn Resorts. The other three are based in Hong Kong. These include Melco Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment, and SJM Holdings.

Trump Payback Possible

Roberts’ opinion on the future licensure of US casino giants in China’s Macau could be less about President Joe Biden and more about former President Donald Trump.

Trump had a combative relationship with China and its President Xi Jinping. The 45th president sought to remedy what he believed was China taking advantage of the US for decades.

Trump additionally blamed China for the COVID-19 pandemic, repeatedly calling it the “China virus.”

Trump is no longer in office, but some of the ex-president’s firmest allies remain heavily invested in China. Sands, the world’s largest casino operator in terms of revenue and market capitalization, is the empire of the late billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson, who died earlier this month at the age of 87, was a Republican Party megadonor. Along with his wife Dr. Miriam, the Adelsons gave more than $100 million to pro-Trump campaign committees.

Steve Wynn, also once a strong supporter of Trump and longtime GOP operative, is no longer invested in Wynn Resorts. However, like Sands, the company that bears his name derives the majority of its revenue in China. The firm losing its operational rights after investing billions of dollars in Macau would be a devastating blow to the billionaire’s legacy.

Unlike Sands and Wynn, MGM Resorts has no close ties to Trump. But being a US-based company, its odds of receiving a new license in Macau might be collateral damage.

“The major American casino industry has been heavily identified with the Republican Party,” Roberts explained. She added that any such effort to discredit the three US companies by China and Macau will “annoy Republicans much more than the Democrats.”

Sands Considers Abandoning US

Even prior to Adelson’s death, there were rumblings in the gaming industry that Sands was looking to fully move its operations to Asia. Along with Macau, the company is invested in Singapore by way of its Marina Bay Sands.

Reports have surfaced that the company’s two casinos on the Las Vegas Strip — The Venetian and Palazzo — are on the market.

It could be part of Sands’ effort to improve its reputation among Chinese officials, with the ultimate goal of receiving new gaming rights in Macau. In 2019, Sands generated 64.3 percent of its revenue — $8.83 billion — in Macau.

Though he was a Trump supporter, Adelson also revolutionized Macau by way of the Cotai Strip. The late casino tycoon was the visionary behind Asia’s version of the Las Vegas Strip. Cotai is today where Macau’s highest rollers gamble tens of billions of dollars away each year, generating roughly 90 percent of the region’s taxes.

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