Most of the candidates for direct election in Macau’s Legislative Assembly election with ties to the local gaming industry have presented political programmes centred on either housing policy, social benefits, aid to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or youth entrepreneurship. Policies relating specifically to the casino industry are relatively few in number. The poll is being held on Sunday (September 17).
A feature of Macau elections – with some assembly seats available via universal adult suffrage; some via sectoral professional interests; and where some seats are filled by appointment by the city’s incumbent chief executive – is that people with direct links to the casino industry, either bosses or employees, stand as candidates.
At the end of the second quarter, 55,726 people were directly employed by the gaming sector, or around 15 percent of the total working population of 382,300, according to government data. The majority of those gaming workers are Macau ID holders, and thus qualified to vote. When the number of locals employed by the city’s non-gaming hotels and tourism businesses are added, the electorate’s involvement in the tourism sector is even greater.
In this year’s election, 24 electoral tickets are competing for 14 directly-elected seats on the 33-seat Legislative Assembly.
Angela Leong On Kei, an executive director of Macau casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd and fourth consort of Stanley Ho Hung Sun, is running for the fourth time as a candidate for a direct seat, having been successful three times already. One campaigning theme now, as previously, is promotion of responsible gaming.
The SJM Holdings executive’s ticket has also suggested the city’s government seek to build in neighbouring Hengqin – part of Zhuhai prefecture in mainland China – a dormitory for those Macau casino workers without Macau ID – known as non-resident workers. Ms Leong’s ticket made a similar suggestion at the last election in 2013. It hasn’t happened so far.
Chan Meng Kam – a veteran legislator and local casino boss born in the mainland’s Fujian province – is not running for election this year. But Mr Chan has been campaigning with legislators Si Ka Lon and Song Pek Kei, each leading an electoral ticket and both seeking re-election.
Gina Lei Sou Ian, senior vice president of corporate and community relations of local gambling junket investor Suncity Group, is the third candidate on Mr Si’s list. The executives of another local major junket firm, Guangdong Group, were seen by GGRAsia at a campaign event held by Ms Song’s ticket on the Monday before the election.
Mr Si’s group has touted the idea of allocating 10 percent of Macau’s annual gross gaming revenue (GGR) for a new fund to help Macau residents in various ways, including: acquiring insurance for them that would cover critical illness; aiding first-time Macau resident homebuyers to settle their down payment; and injection of more money into the city’s social security fund. Last year, Macau’s GGR tally was MOP223.21 billion (US$27.7 billion).
Ms Song’s group on the other hand, has suggested the six gaming concessionaires each allocate every year no fewer than 5 percent of their net profits toward benefits for their workers. She has proposed the idea could form part of discussions in the context of Macau gaming concession contracts. The current contracts expire on various dates in either 2020 or 2022.
Local gaming worker activist Cloee Chao is a first-time candidate for a directly-elected seat in the Legislative Assembly, along with seven other gaming-sector workers. Ms Chao, also the director of a gaming worker grouping called Professional for Gaming of New Macau, puts a strong emphasis on the fight for better benefits for casino workers, and the call for a trade union law to provide a framework for local casino workers to negotiate with their employers.
Ms Chao’s ticket advocates more leave for casino workers, including a five-day work schedule for each week, 22 days of annual leave, and maternity leave of 90 days. Her group has also touted the idea of a cut in the number of non-skilled posts in casinos.
Direct election candidate Melinda Chan Mei Yi – the wife of David Chow Kam Fai, who is co-chairman and chief executive of casino services firm Macau Legend Development Ltd – is seeking a re-election with a political programme that has scant mention of gaming-related policy. But Ms Chan has, during her campaign, echoed Mr Chow’s call for the city’s casino employees to be exempted from work when Typhoon Signal No.8 or above is hoisted by the local weather bureau.
Zheng Anting, a local junket representative, is seeking a re-election with his ticket partner Mak Soi Kun, who was also a member of the previous assembly. Mr Zheng’s ticket has made no explicit mention of any gaming-related policy in its political programme.
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”We need to have stability – especially in terms of legislation, so that it doesn’t change very often. We have several discussions with the authorities and they understand that stability is a must for the development of this industry”
COO for Russian operations at casino investor Summit Ascent