Macau Legal Sector Buoyed By Gaming Revival, Economic Diversification.

Updated: May 27

By Andrew Kemp











Between the gaming sector finding its feet and the city’s ongoing economic diversification efforts, the short and long-term prospect of Macau’s legal sector appear robust


While the Macau legal sector has been buffeted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with the local economy contracting by more than half last year, practitioners remain upbeat about the future.


Not only is the outlook of the gaming industry more positive – good news for a city that has tied its economic fortunes to those of its casinos – but strategic plans focusing on economic diversification are gaining momentum.


The Macau government ended in February the last of its quarantine measures for travellers from Mainland China. This was an important step for the city’s casino sector, which has seen gross gaming revenue (GGR) tumble on the back of restrictions on international and domestic visitors.


Moreover, with the casino sector historically accounting for around 80% of the city’s gross domestic product (GDP), any positive changes for gaming sector will inevitably be felt the city’s law firms.


Lockdown pinch


Macao’s gambling sector may be the local legal sector’s biggest source of work, but the city’s roughly 500 lawyers also advise on a range of matters including finance, capital markets, real estate and construction.


Nevertheless, few areas of practice were left unscathed after the city shut its borders in March 2020. While Macau’s quick response has so far limited the number of recorded COVID-19 cases to an incredibly low 48, with zero fatalities, the jurisdiction’s GDP contracted by 56.3% last year.


Casino GGR fell by 79.3% year on year in 2020 to MOP60.44bn (US$7.56bn), according to data from the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ).


Tiago Assuncao, a senior associate at leading law firm Manuela Antonio, told Conventus Law that the property sector had been one of the worst affected by the gaming industry’s downturn.


Assuncao said: “Real estate law was among the top earners for law firms, thanks to gambling tourism, but restrictions on entry visas have seen work in this area plummet. The pandemic has forced many practices to diversify.”


COVID-19 has affected almost all areas of practice, with finance deals giving way to refinancing work as companies restructure. Employment and corporate law are two of the few areas to witness an uptick in work, however.


Macau’s unemployment rate climbed from 1.7% prior to the 3.8% in the final quarter of 2020. While the figure is enviable from an international perspective, the city has historically enjoyed lower unemployment rates thanks to the fact that casinos have paid well and hired extensively.


Assuncao said: “There is a lot of work in corporate restructuring, dealing with reducing employee benefits and cutting bonuses. Companies have had to focus on becoming leaner in order to weather the recession.”


The senior associate added that many gaming outfits expected their operations to break even this year, in the wake of travel restrictions being eased, and noted that the more stable environment should buoy the legal sector.


The casinos’ confidence has been reflected by brokerage Sanford C Bernstein, which projected in March this year that rising visitor numbers should help casino GGR to reach approximately two-thirds of 2019’s figure.


The pandemic, however, has exposed the city’s heavy reliance on gaming revenues and has strengthened the case for greater economic diversification.


Macau’s economic diversification will likely need to go hand in hand with the gaming sector’s success. The city’s main economic limitation is its shortage of space and people. Casinos have tended to be at the forefront of employment opportunities and other sectors may struggle to compete for human capital."

Tiago Assuncao, senior associate at leading law firm Manuela Antonio.



Diversification and opportunity


Both the Macau and mainland China governments have pushed for the development of non-gaming sectors such as finance, tourism, international exhibitions and trade shows, culture, medicine and education.


However, reducing the gaming sector’s share or the local economy will be no easy feat given land constraints and the competitive employment packages casinos have been able to offer in the past.


Assuncao said: “Macau’s economic diversification will likely need to go hand in hand with the gaming sector’s success. The city’s main economic limitation is its shortage of space and people. Casinos have tended to be at the forefront of employment opportunities and other sectors may struggle to compete for human capital.”


Macau, while only home to 600,000 residents, suffers from chronic land constraints. As a special administrative region, the city has been bound by its borders with neighbouring Guangdong Province. The answer, it seems, may lie with the Hengqin Project.


The mainland government first proposed in 2009 developing Hengqin Island, which is part of Guangdong, as a bridge between the two economies. Not only will the island provide new residential opportunities but it will also provide much-needed land for commercial and industrial developments.


Assuncao said: “Hengqin is the answer to Macau’s lack of space, which limits the employment pool and constrains the development of sectors other than gaming.”

Macau’s greater integration with the mainland should also lead to new opportunities for the city’s law firms, given the Hengqin free trade zone (FTZ) is China’s only such scheme directly connected to Hong Kong and Macao by road.


Manuela Antonio itself formed a partnership with the mainland’s Beijing Jingshi in August 2020, with the two firms agreeing to launch the Jingshi-Manuela Antonio law firm.


Hengqin is the answer to Macau’s lack of space, which limits the employment pool and constrains the development of sectors other than gaming."

Tiago Assuncao, senior associate at leading law firm Manuela Antonio.



Diversification and opportunity


Both the Macau and mainland China governments have pushed for the development of non-gaming sectors such as finance, tourism, international exhibitions and trade shows, culture, medicine and education.


However, reducing the gaming sector’s share or the local economy will be no easy feat given land constraints and the competitive employment packages casinos have been able to offer in the past.


Assuncao said: “Macau’s economic diversification will likely need to go hand in hand with the gaming sector’s success. The city’s main economic limitation is its shortage of space and people. Casinos have tended to be at the forefront of employment opportunities and other sectors may struggle to compete for human capital.”


Macau, while only home to 600,000 residents, suffers from chronic land constraints. As a special administrative region, the city has been bound by its borders with neighbouring Guangdong Province. The answer, it seems, may lie with the Hengqin Project.


The mainland government first proposed in 2009 developing Hengqin Island, which is part of Guangdong, as a bridge between the two economies. Not only will the island provide new residential opportunities but it will also provide much-needed land for commercial and industrial developments.


Assuncao said: “Hengqin is the answer to Macau’s lack of space, which limits the employment pool and constrains the development of sectors other than gaming.”


Macau’s greater integration with the mainland should also lead to new opportunities for the city’s law firms, given the Hengqin free trade zone (FTZ) is China’s only such scheme directly connected to Hong Kong and Macao by road.


Manuela Antonio itself formed a partnership with the mainland’s Beijing Jingshi in August 2020, with the two firms agreeing to launch the Jingshi-Manuela Antonio law firm.



This article was written by Andrew Kemp for Conventus Law in association with Manuela Antonio.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, position or policy of Manuela Antonio or its other employees and affiliates.






For further information, please contact:



Tiago Assuncao

Senior associate at Manuela Antonio.

tassuncao@mantonio.net

Tiago Assunção joined the firm in 2014 and has been since then active in several practice areas. Tiago’s practice has been focused on advising clients on corporate, banking and finance matters, assisting in all corporate and financial matters, including several financial arrangements acting for both borrowers and lenders.


Tiago has also been assisting clients on civil and administrative judicial proceedings, being also involved in several out-of-court negotiations and dispute settlements.


In addition, Tiago has a broad experience in Intellectual and Industrial Property and Data Protection matters, where both his previous professional life and academic tutoring have provided him with a strong professional experience and insight in these matters.


He is a double qualified lawyer registered in both Macau and Portugal and has been practicing law for more than 10 years now.

Liu Rentang

Global Lawyer at Jingsh law.

lrtlaw@126.com


  • Beijing Jingshi Law Firm Investment Partner Arbitrator

  • Director of Legal Affairs Department for the Protection of Entrepreneurs' Rights and Interests

  • Executive Director of Jingshi Corporate Governance and Equity Research Center

  • Bachelor of Zhongnan University of Economics and Law

  • University of International Business and Economics Master of Laws and off-campus practice tutor

  • Possess securities and fund qualifications, insurance agency, and national registered auctioneer certificate.


Lawyer Liu Rentang has been engaged in legal services for more than ten years and has lived and worked in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hainan and other places. Served as the legal representative, assistant to the chairman, general manager and legal director of the company.


Professional services include civil and commercial dispute litigation, arbitration, protection and inheritance of entrepreneurs' rights and interests, legal services for corporate investment and financing, advertising, auctions, and perennial legal advisory work for enterprises, institutions and individuals. Currently serving as a number of well-known corporate and private legal counsel.


CCTV "Lawyer is coming" column specially invited guest lawyers, Beijing Satellite TV, Legal Evening News, Beijing News, New Youth News, China Intellectual Property News and other news media special lawyers. An efficient and professional legal service team of Jingshi lawyers has been established at the headquarters of Jingshi Law Firm, which can resolve legal disputes and non-litigation legal affairs for clients in a timely manner.


The classic cases that the agent has participated in include:

The 2012 National Intellectual Property Case Classic Case Magician's Copyright Case, this case was selected as the 2012 National Intellectual Property Classic Case, and it was the first copyright intellectual property case in China that confirmed that a magician's performance was filmed by way of judgment.


In 2016, the country’s first case where Bank of Communications’ cardless withdrawals were stolen and swiped into a second-instance case. The case lasted two years. The first-instance judgment supported the bank’s payment of 70%. After the second-instance appeal, the Beijing No. 3 Intermediate People's Court directly changed the judgment 100% and fully supported the compensation request. This is the first domestic case. The second instance of Bank of Communications withdrawing funds without a card was changed to a successful case.


In 2017, Guangzhou Evergrande Group sued Beijing Evergrande Four Seasons Auction Company in the infringement case. The Beijing Intellectual Property Court ruled that Evergrande Real Estate’s request to prohibit the use of Evergrande Four Seasons Auction Company’s name was rejected, and it safeguarded Beijing Evergrande Four Seasons Auction Company’s infringement case. After Guangzhou Evergrande appealed for trademark use rights and domain name use rights, the Beijing Higher People's Court upheld the judgment of the first instance in the second instance. This case is selected by the China Intellectual Property News and the Intellectual Property Court.


The 2017 Hebei Xushui bank loan fraud case involving entrepreneurs’ economic crimes involved 1 billion yuan. It was the largest bank loan fraud case in Baoding in 2017, involving more than dozens of people. The defendant after the intervention of the Jingshi lawyer team All people are out of guarantee.


In 2017, Wang Yaochun and other 80 LeTV mobile phone users sued LeTV Haiyun Culture (Beijing) Company for a contract dispute. After a court trial, the defendant LeTV finally compensated the users for redeeming their mobile phones. The case was selected as one of the top ten contract dispute cases in the 2017 China Law Review Cup.


In March 2018, Wu sued China Merchants Bank Beijing Company for bank card fraud. After the Beijing Xicheng District Court ruled that it won the first instance, the bank immediately paid compensation. This case is a new type of stolen depositors. 42 depositors of China Merchants Bank were stolen at the same time. It was difficult to obtain evidence and the trial period was long. Many well-known media reported and reprinted the case.


In May 2018, Shandong Qingdao Jiang's equity investment gambling agreement case. The case involved nearly 100 million yuan, and was the first dispute arising from equity investment in gambling agreement financing in Qingdao Jiaozhou City Court.


In July 2018, the celebrity writer Zhang Yiyi's "Watching Chinese with Three Eyes" offer a reward advertisement case. After multiple court trials, this case rejected the plaintiff's unreasonable demands and safeguarded the lawful rights and interests of the defendant Zhang Yiyi. The court hearing of the case was broadcast live, and many media followed up and reported it.


Civil and Commercial Main Service Customers


  • State Reserve Huijin Investment Group Corporation

  • The Second Department of the General Staff of the Central Military Commission

  • CTS Metropark Hotel Management Group

  • Hainan Auction Industry Association

  • Beijing Academy of Environmental Sciences

  • CITIC Prudential Life Insurance Beijing Company

  • Eurasian Green State Beijing Environmental Technology Company

  • Beijing Evergrande Four Seasons Auction Co., Ltd.

  • Cheap Eats Roast Duck Roosevelt Plaza

  • Qingdao Chengyang District Urban Investment Group Corporation

  • Celebrity writer Zhang Yiyi



Zhu Tingting

Zhu Tingting, Deputy Director of Jingsh Law Firm.

522739367@qq.com


Secretary, Founder, Deputy Director, and Director of the Legal Affairs Department of Real Estate Finance and Legal Affairs of Jingshi Zhuhai Party Branch


Fields of expertise:


government legal counsel, enterprises, real estate, engineering, intellectual property, finance, criminal law.



Resume:


• Graduated from Zhongnan University of Economics and Law with a double bachelor degree in law and management (accounting)

• Former senior executive of a well-known overseas real estate company (Hong Kong Lai Sun), with more than ten years of experience in the overall development, engineering, sales, investment promotion, operation and management of residential, commercial, cultural tourism, urban renewal, non-performing assets, hotels and other projects

• Secretary General of Macau Intellectual Property Research Association

• Legal counsel of the Rural Trade Promotion Center, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs

•Special legal advisor for the Foreign Economic Cooperation Center of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs

• Legal Counsel of Zhuhai City Relief Center

• Member of the "Civil Code Propaganda Group" of Zhuhai Civil Affairs Bureau

• Administration Service Data Administration of Doumen District, Zhuhai City

• Legal consultant of the Construction and Environmental Protection Bureau of Hengqin New District, Zhuhai City

• Special legal consultant for the Planning and Land Resources Bureau of Hengqin New District, Zhuhai City

• Zhu Tingting Mediation Studio of the People's Mediation Committee of Hengqin New District, Zhuhai City

•Incoming expert from the Public Order Association of the Comprehensive Law Enforcement Bureau of Hengqin New District, Zhuhai City

• Specially-appointed expert in police consultation for Macao residents of the Hengqin Branch of the Zhuhai Public Security Bureau

•Legal consultant for Xiaohengqin Community, Hengqin New District, Zhuhai City

•Vice Chairman of Women's Federation of Lianhua Community, Hengqin New District, Zhuhai City

• Deputy Director of the Rights Protection Committee of Zhuhai Lawyers Association

• "Outstanding Party Member" of Zhuhai Social Organization Party Committee

•Mediator of Guangzhou Internet Court Mediator of China Association of Small and Medium Enterprises

• Treasury lawyer of China Cinda Asset Management Co., Ltd. Shenzhen Branch

• Secretary General of Zhuhai Zhongnan University of Economics and Law Alumni Association

Register here for your monthly Asia legal updates

Thanks for submitting!