The Trump Organization applied for a casino trademark in the Chinese gambling destination of Macau, according to the South China Morning Post. The application is one of four trademarks the Trump Organization is seeking in Macau.
The applications were made in June by DTTM Operations LLC, a Delaware-registered corporation owned by the Trump Organization. The three other applications included trademarks for a real estate business, a restaurant and hotel services, and a construction company.
Trump Casino Trademark a Conflict of Interest?
News of Donald Trump’s family branding in China brings up fresh concerns about conflicts of interests. In the past, U.S. presidents placed any companies in a blind trust, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Donald Trump did not place the Trump Organization in a blind trust, but instead placed it under the control of his sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. He can assume control of the organization at any time.
When the announcement was made, Donald Trump Jr. said the Trump Organization would focus solely on the American domestic market. The family announced the policy, because international deals might look like foreign countries were trying to influence their father.
Donald Trump v. China
Donald Trump’s relationship with China is complicated and well-known. On the one hand, Donald and Ivanka Trump manufacture products in China. During the campaign, Trump was critical of American companies that manufacture in China, instead of the United States. Trump has pressured China to back sanctions against North Korea, and has sometimes praised and criticized China’s leaders for their actions in the ongoing dispute with Kim Jong-un.
China has shown signs they would grant Donald Trump certain personal concessions, in order to get on better terms with the American president. During President Trump’s meeting at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year with Chinese President Xi Jinping, news stories swirled that China approved certain Trump trademarks the president long had wanted to obtain. Donald Trump spoke in glowing terms of the President Xi at the time.
Macau’s Casino Industry
Macau is a lure for U.S. companies. In 2001, the former Portuguese colony was granted the right to offer casino license to a small number of casino companies. Eventually, six casino operators were granted licenses. Construction began in 2004-2005 in many cases. Three of American companies — Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts — were given licenses in Macau. Those companies’ revenues mushroomed, as Macau became the world’s most lucrative casino destination.
The Trump Organization has sought trademarks in Macau for 11 years. In 2006, Donald Trump applied for a whole variety of trademarks in the city. Over the next five years, Trump was frustrated by his inability to secure all those trademarks.
Donald Trump: China Courts are “Faithless, Corrupt, Tainted”
In 2011, Trump wrote then-US Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke, to complain about his treatment by Macau officials. Trump described the court system of Macau and China as “faithless, corrupted, and tainted.”
His full comments included the passage, “Who could expect anything different from such a deceitful culture? Their behavior should be a clear warning to the rest of the world to refrain from any trade practice or business relationship with them!”
The dispute over certain Trump trademarks came to a successful conclusion last year. Trump won a case against one Macau-based food and beverage company that applied for a Trump trademark. The casino trademark is a much bigger matter, though.
2001 Macau Casino License
Donald Trump’s desire to build a casino in Macau goes back a lot further than the trademark deals. In 2001, Trump was part of a consortium of American billionaires which sought a casino license. The Chinese officials decided to go with three of the four giants on the Las Vegas Strip. Three Chinese companies — Galaxy Entertainment, Melco Crown (now Melco International), and SJM Holdings — received the other three licenses. Besides the integrated casino-resorts on the Cotai Strip, dozens of smaller casinos exist in Macau, but all are tied to one of the six multinational corporations with a main license.
In 2020, those licenses will be up for renewal. Most gaming analysts predict Macau will renew all six licenses, because of the billions-upon-billions of dollars each of the 6 operators have invested in the Macau casino industry. Under one scenario, though, one new license will be offered by the government.
2020 Macau Casino Licensing Process
It is that seventh gaming license that the Trump Organization likely seeks. If the Trumps can parlay their globally-known casino trademark with their unique position in the worldwide political scene into a Macau casino license, it would be worth many billions of dollars to the family. However big Las Vegas’s casino industry is, the Macau casino industry is that much bigger. At one time, Macau generated 7 times the yearly gaming revenues of Las Vegas.
Sheldon Adelson, founder of Las Vegas Sands Corp., turned a lesser known Las Vegas casino company into a global empire worth $34 billion, due to the success of the Venetian Macau casino (and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore). Adelson is now a big political donor for the Republican Party — and one of Trump’s top contributors in 2016. Obtaining a Trump casino brand in Macau would be the first step to gaining a license there.