Macau could develop sports industry, target the elderly, MGS hears

The Macau Gaming Show kicked off on Tuesday with a clear focus on weaning the local economy away from its over reliance on the gambling industry, with speakers at the morning conference session outlining possible development paths and how the territory may benefit from China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative.

The ambitious project will see billions of dollars of investment to create economic corridors linking about 60 countries from China to Europe.

Chen Guanghan, Vice President,  Chinese Association of Hong Kong &  Macao Studies, said the project is an example of China is taking up economic leadership in a world order long dominated by western powers under the auspices of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

He said the resulting infrastructure improvements around the Pearl River Delta could benefit Macau, opening up large areas of mainland China. He pointed in particular to plans to link Zhuhai in the south and the capital Beijing by high-speed rail.

Zhang Bo, Professor and Doctoral Supervisor, School of Economics Peking University, spoke about Macau’s advantages, which include its geographic location, its strong government finances, its unique culture and the return of overseas Chinese. 

“The development of Macau relies on getting rid of its over development on gaming,” he told the session. He pointed to several possible industries that may be “suitable” for development, including building up the sports industry.

Macau’s horse racing sector has long been a poor cousin to that in neighbouring Hong Kong, while greyhound racing and the Grand Prix are other examples of potential tourism draws, he said.

“The way to solve limited land is to expand Hengqin. We could develop a global sports brand for Macau.” 

To date, Macau’s tourism industry has been dominated by the mainland Chinese, though Zou Yanyi, Chairman of Ao Da Li Ya Dong Fang Ji Tuan, pointed out the territory could use its Portuguese heritage and language expertise to reach out to other Portuguese speaking nations in Latin America for example. 

She also spoke of the potential for developing tourism attractions targeting China’s rapidly ageing population. 

“We need to attract the elderly and those who are retired and could stay in Macau longer. China has an aging society and we need to develop programs for those people. We need centers of entertainment and healthcare for the elderly,” she said. 

The speakers’ comment come amid predictions for another weak month for gambling revenue in Macau, with Wells Fargo the latest to reduce its estimates for the month. It now sees a decline of between 32 percent to 35 percent and says the deterioration on a sequential basis from the previous month points to further deterioration in the market.

The decline also comes despite the opening of Melco Crown Entertainment’s $3.2 billion Hollywood-themed Studio City resort, which so far has failed to drive as much traffic as had been expected.