Last Word

Game for growth

Updated: 2011-08-26 12:14

By Alexis Hooi (China Daily European Weekly)

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Game for growth
Jose Luis de Sales Marques, president of the Institute of European Studies of Macau, acts as a bridge between the European Union and the Asia-Pacific region. Provided to China Daily 

Macao's former mayor says China's gambling hub must also build on historic and cultural links with Europe

It is the world's top gambling spot, but Macao's former mayor says the special administrative region in southern China is more than just fun and games.

"Of course, the gaming industry is a very big attraction and draws a lot of tourists to Macao," Jose Luis de Sales Marques says.

"But that doesn't necessarily mean that other sectors like the food and beverage or hotel industries have to be 100 percent tied to gaming. These can benefit from the synergies of the gaming industry to develop a particular aspect of Macao, such as food and wine.

"That alone is especially interesting because we know that in Europe there is such a rich tradition and culture of good food and good wine."

Marques was the mayor of Macao from 1993 until the city, under Portuguese rule, was returned to the motherland in 1999.

Similar to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Macao maintains its own legal and monetary systems as well as customs and immigration policies. The central government handles defense and foreign affairs.

Macao, the only place in China where casinos are legal, is hugely reliant on the gaming industry. Official figures show that by the first half of the year there were 34 casinos with more than 5,000 gambling tables and more than 15,000 slot machines - in an area with a population of just over 500,000.

Revenue from gambling in July was $3.02 billion (2.12 billion euros), up 16 percent over the previous month, figures from the region's Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau show.

Marques, who also served as president of the Provisional Municipal Council of Macao, a transitional body that was abolished 10 years ago when the region was being handed over, says Macao's economy is developing rapidly and that there are plenty of opportunities for European businesses to ride on that growth.

"For one, we have seen incredible growth in terms of luxury brands in Macao. The hotel and gaming businesses can provide good markets for the high-tech, IT, communication and design sectors that Europe can offer," he says.

But Macao must also look to make the most of its cultural and historical ties with Europe to continue acting as a link to a fast-developing Chinese mainland, Marques says.

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