In an attempt to capture a piece of the legal work in the world’s largest gaming market, Dickinson Wright says it has become the first Am Law 200 firm to establish a presence in the Chinese region of Macau through an alliance with a local law firm. Dickinson has teamed up with Macau firm MdME, according to a statement on Monday.
The affiliation with nine-lawyer MdME is Dickinson’s third partnership geared toward its 30-lawyer gaming practice. In 2011 Detroit-based Dickinson formed alliances with local firms in Malta, a hub for Internet gaming servers, and Lima, Peru, another large land-based gaming market.
“Our fundamental concept is to provide, on an international basis, legal services for the gaming industry such as licensing, real estate, financing and employment law,” says Robert Stocker, leader of the firm’s gaming practice. Stocker declined to name specific gaming clients of Dickinson or MdME.
Macau, a former Portuguese colony that became a special administrative region of China in 1999, is an hour-long ferry ride from Hong Kong and the only place in China where gambling is legal. Macau is still governed by Portuguese law, but is also heavily influenced by Chinese law. It does not allow foreign firms to establish offices within its borders. MdME has both Portuguese-licensed and Chinese-licensed lawyers, says Stocker. “In order to be successful in Macau, you have to have both,” he says.
Macau saw its gambling revenue skyrocket by 42 percent last year to about $33.5 billion — roughly five times that of Las Vegas, according to Reuters. An influx of gamblers from mainland China has fueled Macau’s growth. Stocker says his firm’s entrance into the Macau market is in anticipation of more foreign companies wanting to enter the region.
Through their alliance, Dickinson and MdME have contractually agreed to refer work to each other. The two firms will share revenues generated by those referrals as the bar rules in Macau permit. Dickinson has similar revenue-sharing arrangements with its alliance firms in Malta and Lima.
While Macau has evolved into a modern gambling mecca since becoming a special administrative region of China more than a decade ago, links between Macau’s casinos and organized crime linger, according to a recent article in The New Yorker. Stocker says that MdME attorneys and other lawyers who practice in the region take Macau’s “checkered history” into account by completing extensive due diligence on potential casino operators through exhaustive questionnaires and background checks. Publicly traded companies like Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International that have invested in Macau have helped make its business climate more transparent, he says. “From here on out, for casino operators and casino manufacturers, being an upright citizen is a major requirement for securing licenses,” Stocker says.
This article first appeared on The Am Law Daily blog on AmericanLawyer.com.