From December 2009 the gambling island of Macau off the shores of China will be under the control of a new chief executive, reports Associated Press. The former Chinese Culture Minister, Fernando Chui (52), has been selected as the man to lead the island out of its tough times in a five year tenure of office.
There are hopes that Chui may be able to persuade central government in Beijing to ease the visa restrictions on visits to Macau by Chinese gamblers, a measure that has helped to depress the gambling industry further in already difficult economic times.
Chui's endorsement by a 300-member panel loyal to Beijing has been characterised as a formality: he was the sole candidate for chief executive in the former Portuguese colony's first leadership change since reverting to Chinese rule in 1999.
The former culture minister will figure prominently in shaping the gambling industry in Macau, the only place in China where casinos are legal. After years of spectacular growth that helped it overtake the Las Vegas Strip, the territory's market has lost momentum recently as a result of economic conditions and the restrictions imposed on travel by Chinese citizens to its gambling attractions.
Chui appears to be taking a conservative approach, telling reporters: "We will mainly follow these [existing] policies to allow Macau's gambling sector to develop in a healthy manner and hopefully it will hold an edge in Asia. 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.
Current CEO Edmund Ho put a cap on the issue of new casino licenses and applications for additional gambling tables or slot machines last year.
Commenting on the change of Macau leadership, casino magnate Stanley Ho, whose SJM Holdings is Macau's largest gambling company by market share, said he believed Chui wouldn't push for more regulations on the industry. He suggested the new chief exec 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 received 282 votes on Sunday, according to Chu Kin, president of Macau's electoral affairs committee. He will take office in December and serve a five-year term after his appointment receives formal approval from Beijing.
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