July 26, 2009 / 4:41 AM / 10 years ago

FACTBOX - Five facts about Macau and new leader Fernando Chui

(Reuters) - Fernando Chui, 52, was endorsed on Sunday by a small, pro-Beijing election committee to serve as Macau’s next leader with no marked policy shifts expected towards the city’s hard-hit casino industry.

Here are five facts about Macau and Chui.

* Macau returned to China after centuries of Portuguese rule in 1999, two years after the return of the next door former British colony of Hong Kong.

* Revenues from Macau’s $15 billion gaming industry overtook those of Las Vegas in late 2006 thanks to the liberalisation of the casino sector in 2002, bringing in Las Vegas giants like the Sands and Wynn Resorts. But Macau has also been left vulnerable in the economic downturn given its overwhelming reliance on casinos.

* Little known outside of Macau, the U.S.-educated Chui served as Macau’s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture for 10 years till 2009 when he resigned to run for the highest office. He hails from a prominent Macau family with wide commercial interests spanning property, tourism and finance. Chui replaces incumbent Macau leader Edmund Ho in December.

* Analysts and gaming industry executives expect little change to Macau’s gaming policies, with the downturn and Beijing imposed travel curbs on Chinese visitors having hit the gaming sector hard. Chui has pledged to diversify Macau’s economy, and may face pressure to cut Macau’s high gaming taxes given competition from upcoming casinos in Singapore and Taiwan.

* Unlike Hong Kong which held a contested Chief Executive election in 2007 and is inching towards universal suffrage in 2017, Macau has no such timetable. Its electoral system is heavily weighted in favour of pro-government candidates. Macau’s Chief Executive is currently selected by a 300-person election committee stacked with Beijing loyalists. The gaming hub’s half million citizens have no direct say.

Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Nick Macfie

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