Former culture secretary Fernando Chui won an uncontested election today to become Macau’s next chief executive, raising expectations of a recovery for casinos hurt by restrictions on Mainland Chinese visitors and the economic downturn.
Chui 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.
Willy Lam Wo-Lap, adjunct professor of history at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, said, "There are expectations that the new chief executive will smooth relations with China. 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."
China, in May 2008, limited travel by its citizens to Macau to once a month, and later cut the limit to once every two months, harming the main source of business for the casinos. The only serious complainers were the casino owners of Macau. Some of the stories of black money being taken across the border and squandered at the gambiling tables boggled the mind. The action of the Chinese government was correct, timely, appropriate. The only criticism that might be made is that sterner measures could have been taken.
Fernando Chiu said the election result provides "me with incentive and encouragement. I am now ready to take firm action and start out on the mission bestowed upon me by the new era." Which is PR nonsense. Either the Mainland government allows high rollers (normally with black money) to flood back across the border or Macau and all its assorted casinos is in serious strife. This will cause little upset… outside of Macau.
Casino operators including Stanley Ho’s SJM Holdings Ltd., U.S-based competitors Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Wynn Resorts Ltd. could see an upturn in business if China loosens its visa rules after Chui’s election. Willy Lam Wo-Lap said Macau residents are hoping for a recovery that will bring back lost jobs. If the government of the Mainland was to revert to the old system it would, yes, bring jobs back to Macau. But it would mean a stream of black money leaving the country.
Bloomberg reported 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. For some, this is excellent news.