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Beijing-backed candidate announces bid to lead casino hub of Macau

HONG KONG, June 18 (Reuters) - The head of the legislature in Macau, the world's biggest gambling hub, formally declared his candidacy on Tuesday in the race to run the Chinese-controlled territory for the next five years.

The political leader Macau chooses in the elections set for Aug. 25 will work with mainland authorities and be instrumental in the award of new casino licenses, a process closely watched by industry officials and investors.

Ho Iat Seng, the main contender in the elections to pick Macau's chief executive, is Beijing's favoured candidate, industry experts say, and has won the public backing of the enclave's political elite.

"I will move to optimise people's livelihoods and diversified development, as well as deeply listening to society," the Macau-born Ho, who had previously said he would run, told a news conference broadcast on television.

Macau's casino licenses for operators Sands China, Wynn Macau, SJM Holdings, MGM China , Galaxy Entertainment and Melco Resorts expire in 2022.

One of four potential candidates to announce his bid, Ho, who is in his 60s and has no direct ties to the casino industry, said he wanted to promote economic diversification and participation in national plans for the Greater Bay Area.

He is Macau's only member of the standing committee of the National People's Congress, China's largely rubber-stamp parliament.

There is no direct voting in the elections for chief executive, with the task entrusted to an election panel of 400 people selected for the job. (Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)