Macau’s Chief Executive, Fernando Chui Sai On (pictured), said on Tuesday that he did not have any “exchange of opinions” with government officials of the mainland-territory island of Hainan. The Macau government is however seeking further cooperation with Hainan in tourism, Mr Chui noted.
The Chief Executive made the remarks at a question and answer session held at the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday. Mr Chui was replying to a question from legislator Angela Leong On Kei, who is an executive director of Macau casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd. Ms Leong had asked whether officials from Macau and Hainan held talks related to cooperation in any form of gaming,
Beijing is aiming to make the free trade zone on the Chinese holiday island of Hainan “more mature” by 2035, according to a central government paper released online on Saturday.
The plan for Hainan did not mention gambling or casinos, but it did mention the possibility of horse racing and an expansion of regulated lotteries. Hainan currently offers the licensed welfare lottery and sports lottery found elsewhere on mainland territory.
“Regarding lottery business, we’ve not exchanged any opinions. They [Hainan] also didn’t approach me on this issue,” Mr Chui told legislators at the assembly, adding that the two sides had only discussed tourism-related matters. The Chief Executive last week attended the annual conference of the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan.
“Our government departments and the counterparts there [Hainan] will strengthen their focus on tourism, especially our consideration on whether both sides can cooperate on creating a multi-destination travel package, which would be a win-win situation,” Mr Chui added.
Analysts covering the Macau gaming industry have dismissed the idea that the policy announced for Hainan could harm Macau’s casinos, as “there is no indication that casinos are forthcoming” in Hainan, said brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd.
The brokerage suggested that the ambitions to develop further Hainan as an international tourism destination might affect the non-gaming tourism plans of Hengqin Island, next door to Macau.
On Wednesday, Xinhua official news agency reported that China will offer visa-free access to tourists from 59 countries arriving in Hainan Province from May 1, including from Russia, United Kingdom, France, Germany and the United States. The move, approved by the country’s State Council, aims to support the island’s reform and opening-up, said officials from the State Immigration Administration in a press conference.
Since 2010, visa-free access to Hainan was available to visitors from 26 countries, but only if travelling in package tours. The visa-free access will now be extended to individual tourists who have their trips arranged by travel agencies, according to Wednesday’s announcement.
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”Ramp ups [of new Macau casinos] are taking a little bit longer. The market is somewhat volatile at the moment, but we continue to look at all the opportunities and are still very comfortable that things are starting to move ahead”
Chief executive of MGM China Holdings