International edition
July 24, 2021

Fernando Chui to replace Edmund Ho and brings hopes of casino recovery

Macau's ex-culture minister chosen as new leader

(Macau).- Former culture secretary Fernando Chui won an uncontested election Sunday to become Macau’s next Chief Executive Officer, raising expectations of a recovery for casinos hurt by restrictions on mainland Chinese visitors and the economic downturn.

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hui won by a vote of 282 of a total of 296 votes cast by the 300 members of Macau’s election committee, according to Will Wong, an information officer at the Macau Government Information Bureau. He will replace Edmund Ho, who has governed Macau since the gambling enclave west of Hong Kong was returned to China in December 1999 after 442 years of Portuguese colonial rule.

Ho presided over a transformation of Macau as it opened its main industry, casino gambling, to competition in 2002, ending a four-decade monopoly held by Hong Kong billionaire Stanley Ho and letting in Las Vegas companies.

“There are expectations that the new chief executive will smooth relations with China,” said Willy Lam Wo-Lap, adjunct professor of history at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Macau’s economy is very dependent on the mainland. One of the reasons for the downturn was the recent visa requirements for people coming to Macau.”

Chui will figure prominently in shaping Macau's casino industry, which has surpassed the Las Vegas Strip as the world's gambling capital but has started sputtering over the last year from the global downturn and visa curbs on mainland Chinese tourists. But with much of the city's gaming policy already cemented, he is not expected to bring any major changes in the near term.

"We will mainly follow these policies to allow Macau's gambling sector to develop in a healthy manner and hopefully it will hold an edge in Asia," Chui said. "The policy for the next few years is basically set. "Everyone has to work extra hard in this competition to maintain the outstanding results that we have achieved in the gambling sector in the past few years," he added.

The incumbent, Edmund Ho, announced last year that Macau will not issue new casino licenses or approve new applications for additional gambling tables or slot machines in the near future. But there are growing expectations Chui's election might lead Beijing, as a goodwill gesture to a new administration, to end the travel restrictions on mainland visitors, Macau's biggest customers by far.

Casino mogul Stanley Ho, whose SJM Holdings is Macau's biggest gambling company, said he believed Chui wouldn't push for more regulations on the industry. He suggested Chui could also help tame some of the acrimony among Macau's six casino operators.
"He will ensure that there should not be any fighting among the six of us and we should work together for the good of the citizens, for the good of Macau," said Ho, a member of the election committee that picked Chui.

Chui will take office in December and serve a five-year term after his appointment receives formal approval from Beijing. Unlike neighboring Hong Kong, about an hour away by ferry, this city of nearly a half million people has a history of strong pro-China sentiment and only a token presence of pro-democracy opposition lawmakers.

Wynn Resorts said July 22 a Macau subsidiary filed an application with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange to sell shares in an initial public offering. Las Vegas Sands plans to apply for a listing in Hong Kong early next month for an initial public offering of shares in its Macau casinos, a person with knowledge of the matter said July 20.

Vegas Sands, which gets more than two-thirds of its revenue from Macau, is seeking funds to restart work on a us$ 12 billion, 20,000-room hotel and casino complex on the Cotai Strip. Construction of the project was suspended in November.

Macau’s visitor numbers fell 11 % year on year in the first half of 2009, according to the Macau Statistics and Census Service. Casino revenues have been slumping, down 12 % on year in the second quarter, according to the Macau Gaming Inspection and Co-ordination Bureau Web site. “This was a blow not just to the gaming industry, but to the entire viability of Macau,” Lam said. “Many casinos promised investment that they have not yet delivered.”

Las Vegas Sands said in May 4,000 jobs would be cut in Macau and Hong Kong in efforts to cut costs, while canceled construction projects and laid-off staff at different casinos helped push Macau’s unemployment to a two year high of 3.8 % in March this year.

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