Macau draws the line on its casino industry

Macau draws the line on its casino industry - 23rd April 2008
(Credit: The Age)

Macau, the world's largest gaming hub, will rein in the booming industry by halting the issue of new licences and freezing land allocations for the construction of more casinos.

In past years, Macau has flung its doors open to Las Vegas gaming giants including Wynn Resorts and the Las Vegas Sands Corp, which built the Venetian Macau, turning it into the world's largest gaming hub.

But Macau's chief executive, Edmund Ho, made the surprise announcement yesterday that no land would be allocated for the building of new casinos in the tiny enclave. Nor would the number of casino licences be increased from the current three.

The news will be welcomed by Australian billionaire James Packer, whose Crown casinos group has a joint venture developing casino and hotel properties in Macau with Melco PBL Entertainment.

It already operates Crown Macau with a second casino project, The City of Dreams, the first phase of which is due to open by the end of March next year.

Amid mounting social tensions in the enclave and perceptions of graft linked to the gaming boom, Mr Ho said the new policies stemmed in part from the wishes of Beijing.

"At this stage we've held some assessments and discussions and followed the Central Government's (Beijing's) directives on the gaming industry and decided to take these policy measures," Mr Ho told Macau's legislators.

Macau at present has three casino licences and three casino sub-licences, which allow six companies to operate 29 casinos, with some observers saying a consolidation of the gaming industry is now likely.

"There might be a possibility of the smaller casinos merging into the bigger casinos," said Larry So, a Macau academic and political commentator. "We may see some of the smaller ones close up."

The boom has had a dark side, spawning anti-government protests at a growing wealth gap and perceptions of endemic graft.






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