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Macau Casino Union Warns About Mass Layoffs with New Gaming Licenses

The leading casino union in Macau is expressing concerns that the six licensed gaming operators might be inclined to lay off thousands of their workers after the companies receive new concessions.

The New Macau Gaming Staff Rights Association said last week that casino job layoffs are likely once the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) issues each casino gaming operator fresh tenders. The operating concessions for Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment, Melco Resorts, and SJM Resorts are set to expire at 12:01 am local time, January 1, 2023.

The Macau government and its Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) are finalizing the region’s next regulatory conditions. The new regulations will oversee gaming operations in the world’s richest casino market before the pandemic. Macau has since lost that title largely because of China’s ongoing maintenance of its “zero COVID” policy.

All six of Macau’s current casino giants are expected to receive fresh tenders before the year’s end. But unlike their original 20-year concessions, the new permits will run for only 10 years.

Casinos Delay Firings

COVID-19 rendered Macau and its glitzy Cotai Strip lifeless throughout much of 2020 and 2021. Things are slowly improving as Chinese officials in Beijing finally believe the pandemic is becoming contained, and vaccines continue to be put in arms.

Unlike other major casino hubs like Las Vegas, Macau casinos did not terminate or furlough workers amid the pandemic. That was because the local Macau government directed the casinos to refrain from laying off workers at all costs.

With their coveted licenses expiring and all six companies heavily invested in the region – many of which still have considerable debts to pay off – the gaming firms have done all they can to stay in Macau’s good graces. But union reps believe that layoffs will be widespread once those new concessions are in hand.

I hope that the government will add specific regulations and impose additional conditions when issuing gaming licenses that require gaming concessionaires not to lay off employees,” Cloee Chao, president of the New Macau Gaming Staff Rights Association, told the Macau News Agency. “Employees in the gaming industry … have expressed great concern and think the problem is very serious.”

The union thinks that the casinos, once those new 10-year licenses are in hand, won’t think twice about reducing overhead by cutting jobs.

Gaming Rebound Delayed

China’s “zero COVID” pandemic response continuation has halted any meaningful recovery in Macau. While Las Vegas has more than recovered to pre-pandemic business, the six casino operators in the Chinese enclave continue to suffer.

Gross gaming revenue in Macau last year totaled roughly $10.8 billion. While that was a 44% improvement in 2020, the casino haul remained 70% below 2019.

Despite fewer visitors to Macau in 2020 and 2021, the six casino firms continued to keep their more than 58,000 workers on the payroll.


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