The Legal 500 > Asia Pacific > Macau

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Legal Market Overview

A special administrative region of China, Macau is a formal Portuguese Empire colony, which remained under Portuguese sovereignty until 1999, when it was transferred back to China. As a special administrative region, Macau’s system of government is legally separate from that of mainland China, while Macau law is broadly based on Portuguese law – Macau’s legal code is written in Portuguese but all current legislation is now also available in Chinese – which itself originates from Roman law and is based on written statutes and codes.

Widely known as China’s Las Vegas and making up about 50% of Macau’s economy, gambling tourism is the jurisdiction’s largest source of revenue, with visitors mostly comprising Chinese nationals from mainland China and Hong Kong. In 2018, the casinos in Macao generated a revenue of approximately $37.59bn, over three times larger than that produced by Nevada’s casino gaming industry.

A transparent, non-discriminatory, and free-market economy, there are no restrictions in place in relation to foreign investment in Macau; both overseas and domestic firms are subject to the same business regulations, including Macau’s Commercial Code.

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, Macau’s economy faced huge challenges in 2020. In addition to its notable decrease in gross gaming revenue, Macau’s tourism, restaurants, transport, and retail sectors, among others, were also heavily impacted. In response, the government announced an Economic Stimulus Package that aimed to lessen Covid 19’s impact on the economy by providing financial assistance to SMEs, boosting domestic consumption, and protecting employment. A second financial package was also introduced, which aimed to complement the existing measures through further assistance to employees, businesses, self-employed professionals, and residents.

There are a number of long-established law firms in Macau, all of which assist international gaming sector operators with their investments in Macau. Several of the jurisdiction’s legal practices are also full-service, and able to advise on financing, capital markets, insurance, real estate, and construction matters, along with IP, pharmaceuticals, telecoms, and commercial disputes and arbitration.

Although a relatively small jurisdiction, the increasing levels of investment in Portuguese-speaking countries by mainland China and Hong Kong companies, as well as the ongoing development of economic links between Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau (Greater Bay Area) – a megalopolis that is also known as the Pearl River Delta – have resulted in some Macau law firms seeking out additional opportunities within the Greater Bay area.

In late 2018, MdME Lawyers became the first Macau law firm to launch an office in Hong Kong; the office’s establishment coincided with the opening of the 55km, Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, which is the longest sea crossing in the world.