The business background of Macau’s new Chief Executive, Ho Iat-seng, will be welcomed by the city’s casino operators as an opportunity for greater collaboration, according to industry experts.
Ho Iat-seng, the 62-year-old former President of the Executive Assembly, was officially elected to be Macau’s next Chief Executive by the 400-strong Election Committee on Sunday, with his five-year term to begin once he is sworn in on 20 December.
And although the result was a formality – Ho was the sole candidate to replace Fernando Chui Sai On – it should be an encouraging one for the city’s six concessionaires whose casino licenses all expire in 2022.
“With his business background, this can be an advantage for more engagement with the private sector, particularly the integrated resorts who have business and operational challenges to deliver on daily,” explained Glenn McCartney, Associate Professor of International Integrated Resort Management at the University of Macau.
“I see potential here for this engagement. Greater equitable collaboration between the public and IR industry will certainly benefit and is something I have mentioned over the years. More listening, discussion and consultations between one another so that future policies have more buy-in.”
Ho’s business expertise stems from the family firm, Ho Tin Industries, a lighting and electronics manufacturer of which he served as Managing Director.
He is also seen as someone who ticks all the political boxes, having been born in Macau before studying in mainland China and serving as a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
As such, he has the trust of Beijing to continue its push for greater diversification in Macau but “can bring a fresh perspective and approach to old challenges – some which persist in Macau’s tourism and casino development,” according to McCartney.
“Some have mentioned that Mr Ho’s business background will mean a focus on outcomes rather than the processes. This can certainly be an advantage for the development of tourism and The Cotai Strip.”
Ho’s credentials in that respect will be tested almost immediately with operators anxiously awaiting details of the re-tendering process for casino licenses.
“Key to re-tendering will be stability – ensuring that the process is introduced and managed to be the least disruptive as possible,” McCartney said.
“I believe these would be the expectations of government bodies, be it Macau or Beijing, as well as the business community and Macau’s community. There will be several factors to consider during the re-tendering process and afterwards.
“Casinos need to continue to operate and the re-tendering offers a rare opportunity to integrate policy and direction that presents a climate for greater diversification.”