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Still early to predict impact of US-China tensions over Hong Kong on Macau gaming industry

A professor for Macau’s economy and gaming industry says it is too early to predict what kind of influence US economic sanctions imposed on Hong Kong would have on Macau’s economy, but suggested the Macau SAR government and operators pay close attention to US-China relations in the second half of this year.

US President Donald Trump threatened to place sanctions on Hong Kong this week after the Chinese National People’s Congress (NPC) agreed to implement a national security law on Hong Kong. The law would include revoking Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China. So far the White House has not provided an implementation timeline for any sanctions.

As Hong Kong fears losing its special close economic ties with the US, the escalating tensions between China and the US once again raise concerns about the impact this will have on Macau’s economy and gaming industry.

Ricardo Chi-Sen SIU, Associate Professor in Business Economics and Director of the Centre for Career and Research Advancement in Integrated Resorts at Macau University, said that the US Presidential election in November could have a big say in future relations between the nations.

“No matter the US sanctions on Hong Kong in recent days or US-China trade disputes in recent years, it is hard to have any clear and accurate predictions about the influence on Macau before the US election,” Sui said. “There are too many uncertainties.”

The Chinese NPC will offer legislative details of its national security law in Hong Kong in late June, with Siu suggesting Western governments will wait until then before making any decisions on how to react.

Unlike Hong Kong, Macau has always maintained a close relationship with the Beijing Government, and Macau officials and NPC deputies have expressed support for the Hong Kong national security law.

But Sui said even though the implementation of the national security law would lead US capital to be withdrawn from Hong Kong, “it’s still too early to say whether the US-China relations would cause difficulties for US capital on the re-tendering of gaming licenses in 2022 in Macau.”

Sui suggested the Macau SAR government and gaming operators keep an eye on developments between the US and China but should focus more on boosting their gaming and tourism offerings after the COVID-19 pandemic.

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