Luck has not been on Macau’s side this year, as the pandemic continues to batter the world’s largest casino hub. The city’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau last week said casino revenues fell by 56 per cent year on year in November, and were heading to a record low for 2022. The figures were released only days after Macau decided to renew gambling licences for its six incumbent casino operators. The announcement ended months of uncertainty as seven bidders jostled for six available slots. New 10-year concessions went to winners MGM Grand Paradise Limited, Galaxy Casino Company, Venetian Macau, Melco Resorts Macau, Wynn Resorts Macau and SJM Resorts. Not making the cut was newcomer GMM Limited, run by Malaysian tycoon Lim Kok Thay, owner of the Genting Berhad conglomerate with experience in theme parks, hotels and casinos. The tendering process was the first since the biggest overhaul in decades of the city’s gambling laws. Macau has been trying to strike a balance between reliance on casino taxes and central government pressure to diversify its economy and rebrand itself as a more family-friendly destination. Macau normally gets about 80 per cent of its tax income from casinos. Macau casinos face worst year on record after poor show in November Macau’s Commission for Gaming said the awards were based on “the social responsibilities on the tender documents” that “ensured stable opportunities in Macau”. Commission head Andre Cheong Weng-chon said evaluators focused on bidders’ previous experience in local gaming and non-gaming businesses. Industry experts say the status quo result may reflect concern about instability should a new player displace casino and hotel staff from one of the incumbents. Casino operators have a decade to get to work delivering what they have promised in their tenders. The city’s amended gambling laws will subject them to more regular reviews, higher minimum capital and more local representation by Macau residents. Most importantly, they need to invest in non-gambling activities to help the city diversify itself away from casino-related revenue. In the short term, a number of factors will stack the deck. Pandemic travel restrictions as well as the mainland’s anti-corruption and austerity drive dampen any hopes for an influx of high rollers any time soon. China’s economic growth is also slowing to its weakest pace in decades, dampening interest in spending in casinos or shopping centres. Such headwinds only support the argument for finding ways to diversify from a reliance on gambling, but developing a new stable economic engine takes time. Some may be disappointed not to see a new casino player at the table, but Macau’s immediate need to survive in the current climate trumps any desire for wider competition and change. For now at least, stability seems to be the safest bet.