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Wynn Cotai ‘not yet approved’: Francis Tam
Wynn Macau’s land concession in Cotai has not been approved yet, secretary for Economy and Finance, Francis Tam Pak Yuen, said yesterday.
“Companies may release their news, and the news should correspond to reality. Anyhow these news release won’t affect the process,” the secretary told reporters.
Last week, the local gaming operator announced in a statement sent to the Hong Kong stock exchange that they had agreed to pay a MOP 1.55 billion premium to the government for a block of land in Cotai. On that same day, the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT) said the request for a land concession was still being reviewed and the government was yet to make a final decision.
Yesterday, according to Tam “The process of reviewing land concession requests follows specific rules.” He indirectly hinted however the request could be approved sooner or later.
“The government has already said that land concession requests for gaming projects filed before 2008 would be approved. But those submitted after 2008 would not. Wynn is one of the operators that filed the request before that timeline,” he added.
He went on: “Some land in Cotai has not yet been granted, but that will likely happen in five-year’s time. The government did not say it would not approve [Wynn’s land request], but the final decision is not official yet.”
In Macau, land concessions are usually gazetted years after the agreement is reached.
Last week, Wynn said it had “formally accepted the terms and conditions of a land concession contract for approximately 51 acres [20.6 hectares] of land” and had already placed a fence around the block, located next to City of Dreams resort and the Macau University of Science and Technology campus, a company spokesperson told Macau Daily Times.
Studio City ‘must apply’ for gaming tables
Melco Crown Entertainment will have to submit an application to the government in order to include gaming amenities in the Macao Studio City project, the secretary for Economy and Finance, Francis Tam Pak Yuen told reporters yesterday, on the sidelines of a public event.
It was the first time the executive made a clear remark on the case. The gaming operator announced in June that it had gained control of the long delayed project, after buying a 60 percent share in the Cotai resort developer for MOP 2.1 billion. They also said the property is intended to have 300 to 400 tables and 1,200 gaming machines when it opens.
However, secretary for Transport and Public Works Lau Si Io had said no casino was included in a 2008 development plan, which states that the project for Macao Studio City primarily contains hotels and a film production enterprise.
After Melco’s announcement, the director of Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT) Jaime Carion reaffirmed the government’s position, though he did not deny immediately that the property would not have gaming amenities.
The 2008 development plan of the project has never been made public and the last plan unveiled in the Official Gazette dates to 2001.
Back then, the land concession contract set that the Cotai project included film production studios, restaurants and residential units, but no gaming amenities
According to the operator, the MOP 1.55 billion premium was to be divided in one down payment, and eight semi-annual payments, while the rent was set at MOP 6.17 million a year. In May, chairman and chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts, Steve Wynn, told local media the company would start construction of the project as soon as the land was granted. The cost of the new project in Macau is expected to exceed MOP 20 billion and open within four or five year’s time, in late 2014 or early 2015.
Secretary Tam also reminded that the government would only allow the number of tables to increase by three percent until 2020, when some gaming licences are scheduled to expire. At this moment, SJM and MGM are also still waiting for the government’s reply concerning their Cotai reques.
Francis Tam meanwhile announced the government is working on a new legal system for the construction and location of casinos, slot machines and lottery houses, which will be ready in the first semester of next year. “The government’s stance is very clear: slot machine rooms have to move away from residential areas,” the secretary stressed.
This policy was announced in 2007. “Slot machines and lottery houses are banned in residential buildings and those that already exist will be relocated,” he recalled.
‘Total trust’ in AMCM
Asked to comment on the recent International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) report on the Monetary Authority (AMCM), Tam expressed the government’s total support of the local financial authority.
“During the international financial crisis, Macau economic and financial sectors were kept stable, so we have total trust in the financial system of Macau and our outlook towards AMCM’s work is positive,” Tam said.
He assured the government “will not politically influence AMCM’s operations” and stated the body had “sufficient capability to supervise financial and banking activities.”
The IMF report finger pointed towards “shortcomings in the operational independence” of AMCM and slammed its “lack of independence.”
Currently, the authority comes under the secretary for Economy and Finance, but the international organisation recommended it should be granted independence from the SAR Government.
Tam was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the seminar on the implementation of the mainland China and Macau Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA)’s model cities that took place yesterday, at the Venetian Macau.
The SAR secretary and deputy general director of the department of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, Sun Tong, remarked in their speeches that the partnership has been “implemented effectively”.
Tam said Macau economic sectors had developed thanks to CEPA, but that the next target would be to focus on the service trade.
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