Fernando Chui will officially take over the running of Macau from Edmund Ho on December 20. Since he was the only candidate, it was no surprise when he was elected with 94% of the vote of the 300-member Election Committee. Chui takes over after the worst slump in the history of the Chinese territory.
The only place in China where gambling is legal, Macau has taken over the leadership of the gambling industry from Las Vegas. When the 40-year monopoly on gambling by Stanley Ho was opened up in 2002, several operators moved into the market including the Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts. The foreign investments in casino developments have raised the standard of living for the enclave but the economy and new Chinese travel restrictions have hurt the industry.
The global economic crisis slowed and in some cases halted new developments along the famous Cotai Strip in Macau. With the tight credit markets, many of the operators couldn’t obtain financing to complete projects on schedule. The Las Vegas Sands is still trying to find the means to finish their $12 billion hotel and casino complex which had to be suspended several months ago.
Another factor in the declining revenues is that China put stringent limits on travel to Macau from the mainland. In May of last year, the government limited citizens to only one trip per month and later this was further reduced to once every two months. Macau has long relied on the mainland Chinese tourists for the bulk of their income so this has struck at the heart of the colony’s income streams. Many are pinning their hopes for the future on the ability of the new chief executive to be able to improve relations with the mainland government and get some of these restrictions lifted.