Malaysian group Genting has emerged as a strong contender to unseat an incumbent Macau casino operator for a new license, analysts and executives say, unleashing possibly the biggest shakeup in the world’s largest gambling hub in over two decades.
Only six slots will be available for the seven applicants, Macau’s government has said, as Genting Malaysia (GENM.KL) goes head-to-head with the six concessionaires Sands China (1928.HK), Wynn Macau (WYNN.O), Galaxy Entertainment (0027.HK), MGM China (2282.HK), Melco Resorts and SJM Holdings (0880.HK) as their concessions expire at year-end.
Headed by Malaysian Chinese billionaire Tan Sri Lim, Genting has casinos globally including in Malaysia, Singapore, the U.S. and the UK. It does not currently operate in Macau.
The stakes are high for Macau and the six gaming firms, which have operated in the Chinese special administrative region since 2002.
If one of the incumbents lost their license it’s likely to send tremors throughout Macau’s gambling industry as the companies have collectively invested more than $50 billion in the past two decades, are tied closely to the economic fortunes of the former Portuguese colony and employ tens of thousands of people.
It would cause “far too much disruption” if any of the six operators were replaced, said Terry Ng, an analyst at Daiwa in Hong Kong, although other industry watchers note the incumbents have left themselves vulnerable to an operator like Genting which lost out on a Macau licence in 2002.
Genting’s strong non-gaming track record, including operating two of the largest theme parks in southeast Asia, would be a big draw for Beijing which has been urging Macau to diversify away from gambling and attract foreign tourists.
The Malaysian group’s multiple non-gaming investments in China, including a prominent ski resort that was used for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, are also likely to bolster its chances, analysts said.
“They have a strong chance to topple one of the incumbents…and Genting would have been encouraged to come in. With their background it makes a lot of sense,” said Ben Lee, founder of Macau gaming consultancy IGamiX.
The group has been more successful at generating non-gaming revenue. In 2019 around 35% of total revenue at its Singapore property came from non-gaming versus 10-20% for Macau casinos.
Tensions between the United States and China also create a growing risk that Genting could pip a U.S. owned casino operator for a spot.
“It’s probably the right opportunity for Beijing to remove one American (concessionaire) if not two,” Lee said.