• Zhang Dejiang on Macau Gaming Hub

Zhang Dejiang on Macau Gaming Hub (Photo : Getty Images)

China’s third highest official Zhang Dejiang highlighted the need to diversify the economy of Macau gaming hub upon his arrival on the largest gambling center in the world on Monday. Zhang, the chairman of China’s National People’s Congress, is on a three-day visit to check a number of industries and to meet with legislators.

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From the time when it was entrusted to China in 1999, the former colony of Portugal has been under a “one country, two systems” agreement.

Macau has made brilliant achievements since the turnover, Zhang said, speaking on the tarmac alongside children who welcomed his arrival with flowers and a red banner.

“But now Macau faces an important stage as it makes a transition in its development,” he added, mentioning the increased support of the Central Government for the special administrative region this year.

Zhang’s 5-minute speech was not particularly directed at the gaming industry, but the Chinese government has released earlier policy goals for Macau. Among which is to become an international leisure center and a platform between China and Portuguese-speaking nations.

New casinos are being constructed on a reclaimed land area intended as Macau's Las Vegas-styled Cotai casino strip. Authorities have required these casinos to incorporate significant non-gaming facilities and services in an effort to shift away from gambling.

Macau’s economy is greatly dependent upon the gambling industry, contributing more than 80 percent of the government’s revenue. Following President Xi Jinping’s announcement of an anti-graft campaign, the gambling industry was undermined, causing the tiny territory’s revenue to plunge for five years.

Prior to Zhang’s visit, Macau officials declared a new monitoring process for withdrawals at ATMs using facial recognition technology in an effort to increase restrictions on cash outflows from the mainland.

According to the Macau government, Zhang will be meeting members of the Chinese territory’s legislative body. A Legislative Assembly election is scheduled in September.

The mainland seeks economic diversification for Macau, hoping that the territory will shift away from gambling as the government continues with its anti-graft campaign.