A Trump company with a Trump Tower address has filed four applications with the Macau government for trademarks using the Trump name. According to various media reports, the government gave DTTM Operations LLC., approval on June 7 for trademarks covering gambling and casino services and facilities; real estate services; construction and development; as well as hotel property, food, beverage, and conference facilities.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) was first to report on the government’s announcement on Sunday. According to Monday’s New York Times, it was not clear whether the applications were simply for the renewal of expired protections secured in 2006 or if they were entirely new applications. The NYT also reports that the Trump Organization says the trademarks don’t have anything to do with the president and were registered with an affiliate.
Donald Trump has stated that he handed control of his businesses to his sons shortly after being elected president. He has also claimed that there can be no conflict of interest involving his office. While that may or may not be true, some legal experts have suggested that were his companies to profit from anything he does while in office, it could present legal problems for the companies he owns, whether he immediately controls them or not.
Donald Trump is no stranger to the casino business. He once owned and controlled four casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey. At their peak, those casinos drew in as much as 30 percent of the gambling hub’s casino revenues, according to a 2016 report in the NYT.
Mr. Trump is also no stranger to Macau. Last year the Wall Street Journal reported that he was part of a consortium that bid on the Chinese special administrative region’s first casino concessions in 2001. The SCMP reports that the consortium included Macau billionaire Ng Lap-seng. Ng was convicted of bribery and money laundering in the US last month. His lawyers have stated they plan to appeal the conviction.
It is common practice for international businesses to secure trademarks in foreign lands ahead of any solid plans to enter those markets. The application is not conclusive evidence that any Trump company plans to operate a casino in Macau.
However, some observers have noted the timing of the trademark applications. They come less than three years before the first casino concession is set to expire in the world’s most lucrative gambling center. SJM, and sub-concessionaire MGM China were the first to secure licenses in the former Portuguese enclave that has been under China’s control since 1999. They will be the first to see just how the government plans to handle the expirations. The other concessionaires, Galaxy Entertainment and Wynn Macau will see their’s and their sub-licenses with Sands China and Melco Resorts Entertainment expire in 2022.
Assuming properly managed casino businesses that make profits, Trump and also-ran Caesars would now potentially have billions more on their balance sheets had they been successful in the first round of Macau licensing. Both Trump Entertainment Resorts (TER) and Caesars have dealt with bankruptcies instead. Caesars is reorganizing with a potential REI and the ability to regain a top 5 position in the world market.
Trump’s casino properties did not fare as well through four bankruptcies. His friend Carl Icahn now controls TER which operates the Tropicana in Atlantic City. The Trump Taj Mahal was purchased by Hard Rock International in June for $50 million. The property cost Trump nearly $1.2 billion to build in 1990, according to The Los Angeles Times. Trump Plaza sits derelict and Trump Marina is now The Golden Nugget.
Although it is unknown how the Macau government plans to handle the concession process in the future, the current concessions can be renewed incrementally until 2025 for SJM and MGM, and until 2027 for the other licensees. There is currently no guarantee that the government will open the tender process to outside international operators, nor that bidding will be competitive.