Casino mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun yesterday praised Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, saying he was qualified to be the next chief executive - the first tycoon to openly support a 'candidate' for the city's top job in 2012. The pro-Beijing businessman's remark came amid speculation that Executive Council convenor Leung Chun-ying may run for the post, after Mr Leung said a week ago that he would 'talk later' about the matter. 'He has worked at various departments and is familiar with the operation of the whole government. This can ensure the continuance of Hong Kong's prosperity and stability,' Mr Ho said, referring to Mr Tang's suitability for the position. 'He is a real Hongkonger and knows everything. What difficulty could this pose for him?' said Mr Ho, who is also president of the Real Estate Developers' Association and a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Standing Committee. Describing the chief secretary as the 'hot favourite', the gaming magnate said: 'Let's make a bet. I will make the odds 10 to one. However much money you bet with me, I will take it all.' When asked whether Mr Leung was also a qualified candidate, he commented that the Exco convenor was a 'rather staid' character. Mr Ho was speaking at the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong's 17th anniversary reception. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and a number of his cabinet members, including Mr Tang and Mr Leung, were also present. Mr Tang declined to comment. Mr Leung laughed when asked about Mr Ho's support for his 'competitor', saying: 'You should ask Mr Tang. I can't answer for him.' Repeating that he would 'talk later' about the 2012 election, Mr Leung said whether he would consider standing would depend on 'society's need'. He added that since 1988 there had been political figures vowing to back him if he contested the top position, and that some government officials 'often talk about these things after having tea or lunch'. The Exco convenor declined to compare his public service profile with that of Mr Tang. He also said he would leave it to others to comment on his personality. Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political commentator with Chinese University, said the early guessing game could undermine the Tsang administration's popularity. 'It is still 2009, three years from the 2012 chief executive election. If people heat up the guessing game so early, the public may focus on the prospective candidates' policy ideas more than the incumbent government's policies.'