Sun, Oct 22, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Tourists from China beefing up Macau's gaming tax revenue

BLOOMBERG AND AFP , HONG KONG

Gaming taxes collected by the Macau government rose 13.4 percent in the first three quarters, as Chinese tourists flocked to the city following the opening of its first Las Vegas style casino in two-and-a-half years.

Direct gaming taxes collected from the city's six licensed operators rose to 14.19 billion patacas (US$1.77 billion) in the first three quarters, compared with 12.51 billion patacas a year earlier, according to statistics released on the Financial Services Bureau Web site.

Casino companies have been investing in the former Portuguese colony since its government opened its gaming market to foreign operators, betting Chinese gamblers will flock to the only place casino gaming is legal in the country. Wynn Resorts Ltd launched a US$1.2 billion hotel-casino on Sept. 6, and Las Vegas Sands Corp opened the city's first Las-Vegas style casino in 2004.

On Thursday, a Hong Kong company became the first Asian firm to open a US-style casino in gambling haven Macau, fast becoming the Las Vegas of the east.

Starworld Hotel, the flagship of the Galaxy group, is the second Las Vegas-style hotel-casino complex to open in the territory. The first, the Wynn Macau was opened last month just metres away from Galaxy's towering new complex.

Macau's century-old gaming market was given a boost in 2001 when the removal of a 40-year gambling monopoly from tycoon Stanley Ho (何鴻燊) resulted in a flood of US investments.

With annual gambling receipts expected to near US$7 billion by the end of the year, the city is already believed to have overtaken the earning power of the Las Vegas Strip's casinos.

Such growth -- in excess of 25 percent last year -- has been fuelled by a sudden surge in tourist arrivals since travel restrictions were lowered in China.

The number of visitors to Macau rose 14 percent during China's National Day holiday from Oct.1 to Oct. 7, according to government statistics. Wynn Macau resort took in about US$900 million in chip sales in its first 13 days of operation, the Las Vegas Sun said in an Oct. 1 report, quoting chairman Stephen Wynn.

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