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Tuesday, 18 July, 2000, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Macau to widen casino trade
Macau central square
Macau reverted to Chinese rule last year
Macau tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun, who has controlled the enclave's lucrative casino trade since 1962, will be stripped of his monopoly next year, according to reports.

Foreign experts are expected to be brought in to advise the Macau Government on how to open up its gambling sector.

Mr Ho, whose entertainment and tourism empire generates about one-third of Macau's gross domestic product, had hoped to hang on to his monopoly for up to five more years.

Lisboa hotel, Macau
Stanley Ho's famed Lisboa complex
Casinos are the dominant industry in Macau - a popular weekend retreat for residents from Hong Kong, many of them avid gamblers.

But a government source said the system would be abolished next year.

He said the government hoped to increase its income from gambling taxes.

Although Mr Ho will lose his monopoly, his 10 casinos are expected to retain their licences.

Experts

Macau, which legalised gambling in 1847, introduced the monopoly system 63 years ago.

A committee headed by Macau's Chief Executive, Edmund Ho Hau-wah, is expected to hire several foreign gaming industry experts to look at the options.

roulette wheel
Macau's economy relies on its casinos
"They will study how Australia and America are running their gaming industries," a government source said.

"Competition among several casino operators is meant to increase the government's income from gambling taxes."

However, Chinese President Jiang Zemin has already said that mainland Chinese companies will be barred from joining Macau's gaming industry.

Revenue

Mr Ho was granted the monopoly as head of a group of Hong Kong investors by Macau's former colonial power, Portugal, in 1962.

His company, STDM, has since grown into Macau's biggest private enterprise, generating about half the government's annual budget.

Hong Kong
Many Macau gamblers come from Hong Kong
Aside from its casinos, STDM operates affiliated businesses including horse and greyhound racing, lotteries, hotels and high speed ferries between Macau and Hong Kong.

The company, whose assets totalled US$2.87bn last year, is also involved in banking, aviation, shipping, tourism and property.

Macau was handed back to China last December ending 442 years of direct rule from Lisbon.

Like the former British colony of nearby Hong Kong, it is ruled as a special autonomous region under the so-called "one country two systems" formula.

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See also:

15 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Macau: The Portuguese legacy
20 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Macau handover: Asia's last colony
24 Feb 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
Macao: Mediterranean life in the East
04 May 98 | Asia-Pacific
Macau moves against gangs
15 May 99 | Asia-Pacific
Macau leader chosen
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