BY ALICE ZHAO
MACAU – Sitting on a sloped knoll with an overview of the splendid casinos across the Zhujiang River estuary, the University of Macau has just made one of the most high profile casinos into an investigation.
A month earlier, Casino operator Wynn Resorts Ltd. said that the Securities and Exchange Commission is conducting an informal inquiry and asking its preserve information related to its US$135 million donation pledge to the University of Macau.
There have been doubts that the casino giant’s donation could have been a way of bribery to quicken the approval for its new casino in Cotai Strip, a rising area for the casino and tourism project in Macau.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Wynn Resorts Macau generates more than five times the revenue of the Las Vegas Strip. The Chinese territory’s growth in recent years has helped Wynn Resorts and other casino companies offset stagnant U.S. gambling markets. Wynn Resorts operates two casinos in Macau and is seeking approval by the Macau government to build a casino in the region’s Cotai section, where rivals are building a replica of the Las Vegas Strip.
The US$135 million is said to be donated to the university over 12 years through the University of Macau Development Foundation. So far, the UMDF has received donations of MOP500 million (US$62 million).
In a filing to the SEC, Wynn Resorts said that it made previously disclosed a US$25 million payment to the UMDF in May 2011 and it has committed to make 11 annual donations of US$10 million from this year through 2022.
A US$1.2 billion campus is under construction on the nearby Hengqin Island, 20 times larger than the University of Macau’s current facility. However, the school’s spokesman Kai Lai said none of UMDF’s funds will be used for the construction of the new campus. UMDF will follow the usual practice adopted by other university foundations, and the annual funds allocated to the university will not exceed 5 percent of the total donations received by UMDF. Funds allocated to University of Macau by UMDF will only be used long-term development of the University of Macau and its Asia-Pacific Academy of Economics and Management, particularly in the area of studies on Asia-Pacific Economics and Management.
Over the past three years since its inception, UMDF has received donations of different sizes. The university said the Macao SAR government is very strict in terms of legal compliance in the operation of private foundations registered as non-profit organizations and UMDF has dealt the donation in a transparent and open manner, regardless of the size.
Efforts to access other departments of University of Macau went unsuccessful.