Leading Candidate to Replace Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui Emerges

Posted on: June 19, 2019, 09:51h. 

Last updated on: June 19, 2019, 09:51h.

Macau will soon need a new chief executive when Fernando Chui’s second five-year term expires in December, and a leading candidate with backing from Beijing has emerged.

Macau chief executive casino gaming
Ho lat Seng (left) is an odds-on favorite to replace Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui (right). (Image: Macau Business)

Ho Iat Seng – the current president of the Legislative Assembly of Macau – formally announced his candidacy this week to replace Chui. Ho has support in the People’s Republic of China capital Beijing, and is viewed as the frontrunner for the enclave’s top office.

I will move to optimize people’s livelihoods and diversified development, as well as deeply listening to society,” the Macau-born Ho said.

The chief executive of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) is chosen by a 400-member Election Committee. To win, a simple majority vote is needed.

According to the Basic Law of Macau, the chief executive’s role is to “be the head of the Macau Special Administrative Region and shall represent the Region. The Chief Executive of the Macau Special Administrative Region shall be accountable to the Central People’s Government and the Macau Special Administrative Region in accordance with the provisions of this Law.”

Critical Role

Reuters says Ho has garnered the endorsements of Macau’s political elite. The 61-year-old has served in the Legislative Assembly since 2009.

Chief executives are permitted to serve two five-year terms, but then must vacate the office. The next chief executive will be only the third leader of the enclave since it was returned from Portugal to China in 1999. Chui and predecessor Edmund Ho both won second terms.

The next leader of the world’s richest gambling hub will be faced with signing off on new regulations overseeing a gaming industry that won more than $37.85 billion in gross gaming revenue last year.

All six operating licenses are set to expire in 2022. Sands China, Wynn Macau, SJM Holdings, MGM China, Galaxy Entertainment, and Melco Resorts are all expected to see their permits reissued, but numerous regulatory factors remain in limbo.

Macau Liaison Office Director Fu Ziying represents the enclave in the Beijing capital. He’s urged SAR officials to strengthen the region’s oversight of the gaming industry, and also lessen its reliance on tax revenue stemming from casinos.

Casino tax revenue accounted for 87.6 percent of Macau’s operating budget in the first quarter of 2019. Fu says the enclave should promote incentives to the six casino operators that lead to non-gaming investments.

Non-Gaming Focus

Ho has no direct ties to the gaming industry, and that’s something higher-ups in Beijing like. With the 2018 opening of the Hong Kong to Macau bridge, the enclave is far less isolated than it previously was.

Allowing travelers to arrive via Hong Kong International Airport – the world’s eighth-busiest air hub in terms of passenger traffic – makes Macau a more desirable MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, exhibitions) destination. Macau’s airport is exceeding its capacity limits, but the 34-mile bridge cuts down travel time between the two SARs from around four hours to 35 minutes.