China's Xi preaches diversification in gambling hub Macau

Sat Dec 20, 2014 3:02am EST
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By Clare Jim

MACAU (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday urged the world's biggest gambling hub, Macau, to accelerate diversification away from its bread-and-butter casino industry, which has lost about $60 billion in market value over the last six months.

Xi, in Macau to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the former Portuguese colony's handover to Chinese rule, said although it had developed rapidly, certain deep-seated problems which have existed for a long time had come to light.

"It is important for Macau to adopt a global, nationwide, future-oriented and long-term perspective, formulate appropriate plans and blueprints for its development and promote sound economic and social development," Xi said, in comments carried on Chinese state television.

"Focus on building a global tourism and leisure center ... promote the Macanese economy's appropriate diversification and sustainable development. This is of great importance for the interests of the people of Macau."

Xi, who made no direct mention of Macau's casinos, swore in Macau leader Ferenando Chui for his second, five-year term at the ceremony, which was also attended by Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying.

Chui said the government would continue to give priority to stable development and the orderly adjustment of the economic structure.

Xi's visit comes as Macau has been battered by his pervasive anti-corruption campaign, with revenues for 2014 expected to drop for the first time since casinos were liberalized over a decade ago.

High-roller gamblers have increasingly steered clear of Macau, on the mouth of the Pearl River delta, unnerved by the increased scrutiny of the gaming industry as Xi's anti-graft drive shows no signs of let-up.   Continued...

Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with a child as he receives a bouquet upon arriving in Macau to celebrate the 15th anniversary of its handover to the mainland December 19, 2014. REUTERS/Government Information Bureau of the MSAR/Handout via Reuters