Gaming-linked candidates tout social fund, workers’ rights

Macau’s sixth Legislative Assembly elections will take place on Sunday, with gaming-related candidates proposing more concessions, a social fund and better workers’ rights as part of their platforms.

Seven out of the 24 candidate groups competing for the 14 directly elected seats come from the industry. It’s the largest field ever to contest the elections. Results will be announced on Monday.

Twelve seats are filled from functional constituencies, while seven are appointed by the chief executive.

The most controversial of the gaming-linked candidate groups is that of the operator of the Golden Dragon Hotel and Casino, legislator Chan Meng Kam. The businessman’s candidate group won a record three seats in the last election, despite later court rulings of vote buying and other vote-winning tactics.

In a surprise move, the legislator is not running in this year’s election, with speculation he is seeking a higher office. Chan Meng Kam’s list has divided into two candidate lists, his own Macau Citizens Development Association, as well as the United Citizens Association of Macau. The latter group is proposing that the Macau government set up a fund, into which a minimum of 10 percent of local gaming revenues are diverted and shared directly with the public. It also proposes increasing the overall number of gaming concessions from the current six.

Chan is one of the leaders of the Fujian community in the MSAR, from which five of the current leaders of the candidate lists are from.

Directly linked to one of the six concessionaires of Macau’s casino licences is the managing director of local gaming operator Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (SJM), Angela Leong, the fourth wife of Macau gaming godfather Stanley Ho. Ms. Leong leads the New Union for Macau’s Development (NUDM), the 14th candidate list and is joined by local developer William Kuan as well as her son Arnaldo Ho.

During the campaign process, issues such as housing and education have dominated the agenda, with gaming-related interests not being approached.

The 18th candidate list, that of the Alliance for Change, is led by the wife of local gaming and hospitality operator David Chow Kam Fai, and current legislator, Melinda Chan. Ms. Chan runs on a platform supporting Macau’s role as a link to Portuguese-speaking countries. This runs in line with Mr. Chow’s casino projects in both Portugal and Cape Verde, Africa (a former Portuguese colony). Mr. Chow also took over the Savan Vegas Casino in Laos after a bidding process in early 2016, after the Lao government seized the property from another Macau-linked company.

Another current legislator running for re-election is junket-linked Zheng Anting, on candidate list number 20, accompanying also-current legislator and property mogul Mak Soi Kun. The pro-establishment group is known for making incendiary statements in the Legislative Assembly on a range of issues from labour to education. The candidate group is known as the Macau-Guangdong Union.

The only group representing labour in the gaming industry is that led by Cloee Chao, candidate list number 25. The Casino Frontline Workers, pushing for casino workers’ rights, have been a strong voice in recent years.

The candidate list is pushing for rights across-the-board for casino workers, having most-recently proposed that Galaxy Entertainment Group offer a 14-month salary for its workers, given the casino’s strong revenues and hardships created by Typhoon Hato.

Legislators are able to influence policy, such as that related to the smoking law – which limits smoking in casinos to smoking lounges.

However, the upcoming election for the Chief Executive in 2019, to replace the current top official who has held the office since 2009, will be more significant for the gaming industry. That election will set the scene for the casino concession re-tender process, whose first round begins in 2020, starting with local operator SJM (Angela Leong) and MGM China, as well as the later 2022 re-tenders of the remaining four operators – Las Vegas Sands subsidiary Sands China, Melco Resorts and Entertainment (led by a son of Stanley Ho, Lawrence Ho Yau Lung), Wynn Macau and Galaxy Entertainment Group.