Future of the casino industry a central issue as Macau voters go to polls

  • Elections for the 33-member Legislative Assembly hotly contested
  • Future of the casino industry a central issue in crucial elections

Over 300,000 Macau voters will head to the polls this Sunday to choose a new Legislative Assembly in a vital election.

Macau, China.
Macau, where voters are going to the polls.

The Assembly is made up of 14 directly elected members, 12 indirectly elected members and seven appointees, and while the election is not likely to produce the same level of division and rancour seen in neighbouring Hong Kong, according to reporting by the South China Morning Post it will be hotly contested, with a vocal pro-democracy movement attempting to make political headway against the dominant pro-establishment bloc.

But according to the South China Morning Post, the central issue in this election is the future of Macau’s gambling industry. Over the last eighteen years, the former Portuguese colony has been transformed from a gambling backwater to an international casino hub that has outperformed Las Vegas.

Many of the candidates have links to the land-based casino industry, which is not surprising, given that over 55,000 Macau citizens are employed directly by casino resorts, which amounts to 15 per cent of the working population, which many more locals employed in the hotel and tourism sectors that benefit from the casino industry.

Licences expiring

One of the first orders of business for the new assembly will be to decide the terms for granting new casino licence concessions. Many of the existing licences are set to expire by 2020, and the current political and economic environment is entirely different to that which existed back in 2001 when the Macau gambling market was first opening up.

The new assembly will also have to shape the role that Macau will play in the Chinese government’s plan to create a Greater Bay Area, integrating Macau with the nearby areas of Hong Kong and Zhuhai in Guangdong province, and in helping to develop the Beijing government’s vision of Macau as a link between China and the Portuguese-speaking world.

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