Three Cotai casinos awaiting land grants

Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Issue 1079, Page 2
Word count: 633
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Three gaming operators’ development projects covering a total area of 340,000 square metres on the Cotai Strip are still waiting for the Government’s formal land grant approval.

Secretary for Transport and Public Works Lau Si Io disclosed the information in yesterday’s meeting with the follow-up committee for Land and Public Concession Affairs at the Legislative Assembly.

Committee president Kwan Tsui Hang told reporters after the meeting that the Government refused to name the three gaming operators, citing that the land has not been granted and the legal process is ongoing.

Yet, Kwan said the Government did reveal that one of the three projects, involving a land area of 200,000 square metres, has already begun construction on a 5-star hotel, a casino and a convention and exhibition centre.

This land application was lodged in 2006.

Chairman of Wynn Resorts, Steve Wynn, said in a Macau press conference on June 10 that his Macau unit has applied for 50 acres of land on the Cotai Strip, which is translated into around 202,342 square metres. However, the construction is yet to start. At present, Wynn has only put up the fences encircling the area next to City of Dreams.

The applications for the other two development projects, which were submitted respectively in 2006 and 2007, both involve 70,000 square metres of land intended for the construction of a hotel and a casino.

The Government explained that the delays were caused by “technical changes” and “constant adjustments in the development projects”, Kwan said, adding the measures to freeze casino expansion announced in 2008 had once seen the authorities stop approving land applications.

In spite of this, Kwan said the Government disclosed that former chief executive Edmund Ho Hau Wah during his term of office has given a “verbal commitment” to each of these three gaming concessionaires and “the files have been opened respectively”.

It means that the three land applications will likely be approved as long as the development does not “violate the contractual commitments”, Kwan told reporters.

“To know which gaming operators they are isn’t the most important. What we need to make sure is that the Government policies won’t give preference to the gaming companies anymore and that the fourth land application [of this kind] won’t appear in the future,” she stressed.

Meanwhile, there are also four non-gaming related projects on the Cotai Strip awaiting land approval.

However, the Government failed to give details regarding which types of development they are and how much land they need. Kwan said the secretary promised to provide the information in the next meeting.

Land Law, urban planning

Secretary Lau told the committee that the bill to revise the Land Law and the urban planning draft law are expected to be presented for a public consultation at the end of 2011, and then “hopefully” to the Legislative Assembly in 2012.

Hence, Kwan said, in the upcoming two years the Government will come up with some ways to enhance the existing mechanisms such as the Land Committee and the cadastral information website, aiming to oversee the land use and land grant situations in Macau.

She also pointed out that it is necessary for the Government to review the practice of “allowing companies to start construction before land grants”, adding the terms and conditions must have to be clearly defined in the legislation and “only when the public agrees with it can this exemption be given”.

With the exception of Galaxy, the five other gaming concessionaires and sub-concessionaires have fulfilled their development commitments with a total investment exceeding the amounts stated in the land concession contracts.

However, although Galaxy hasn’t completed its mega resort construction, it has already invested MOP 8.9 billion to date in both the Cotai and StarWorld projects, an amount beyond the contractual commitment of MOP 4.4 billion.

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