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People wearing masks walk in front of Casino Lisboa, before its temporary closing, following the coronavirus outbreak in Macau, China on Feb. 4, 2020.

TYRONE SIU/Reuters

Macau is betting on a new tech trade fair to help diversify its gambling-reliant economy and establish itself as a gateway to China as it recovers from coronavirus-related lockdowns.

The former Portuguese colony will next June host ‘Beyond’ a technology event loosely modelled on the CES trade show in Las Vegas, said Jason Ho, who is a member of China’s top political consultative body and the son of Macau chief executive Ho Iat-Seng.

Before COVID-19, more than 80% of tax revenues came from the gaming industry, which directly or indirectly employed about three-quarters of the territory’s 600,000 population. However, official data shows gaming revenue fell 80.5% year-on-year in November to 52,623 patacas ($6.6-billion).

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While Macau lacks the tech experience of nearby cities like Shenzhen or Hong Kong, the event, covering areas including life sciences, fintech and agritech, will help the government to understand which sectors it should support, Ho said.

“Macau has very good infrastructure, with the entertainment and hotels suitable for doing an event,” Ho said. “But we know our limitations and we need to partner up with different cities in the Greater Bay Area.”

This is a central government-backed initiative to better integrate Guangdong province, Hong Kong, and Macau.

Ho has spent months drumming up interest from Chinese companies including Tik-Tok parent, Bytedance, drone giant DJI and Sensetime, as well firms in Japan and South Korea.

The event would also showcase Macau’s potential as an alternative to Hong Kong as a gateway to China, Ho said.

Hong Kong has become more complex for tech companies to navigate, with a security law imposed earlier this year raising questions over data security.

“With what’s happening around the world right now, we want it to be a neutral platform to gather and talk about technologies and not talk about politics,” Ho said.

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The June date may be pushed back to October if the coronavirus is not under control by spring, he added.

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