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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May 2005, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
Macau bets on underwater gambling
The underwater casino will boast 450 gaming tables and 3,000 slot machines.

Gamblers, who normally struggle to keep their heads above water in Macau, could soon be able to gamble at the island's first underwater casino.

The 'City of Dreams' complex, consisting of 450 gaming tables and 3,000 slot machines, will open in 2008.

The former Portuguese colony is cultivating a reputation as the Asian Las Vegas with a welter of new casinos and hotels under development.

Macau remains the only place in China where gaming is legal.

Investment bubble

The underwater casino will form part of a huge gaming and entertainment complex - dubbed the 'City of Dreams' - which will cost eight billion Hong Kong dollars (US$1bn, 545m) to create.

The project is the brainchild of Lawrence Ho, managing director of Melco International Development, the company which controlled gaming in Macau for many years under the stewardship of his father Stanley Ho.

The end of Mr Ho's 40-year monopoly on gaming in 2002, allied to restrictions on gambling in mainland China, are fuelling an investment boom in Macau.

The island, which returned to Chinese control in 1999, attracted more than 16 million visitors in 2004, with gaming forecast to generate revenues of US$5bn this year.

Card sharks

At the launch of the project, Mr Ho said the casino would be "surrounded by water and marine life".

The resort, to be built on Macau's Cotai strip, will also include three hotels with a total of 2,000 rooms.

Foreign operators have been circling Macau following the deregulation of its gaming industry.

Australian entrepreneur Kerry Packer's Publishing and Broadcasting firm is a minority partner in the 'City of Dreams' project while US firm Las Vegas Sands is planning to spend $15bn on a separate casino and retail development.

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04 Dec 03 |  Asia-Pacific

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