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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 October 2006, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Tiny Macau overtakes Vegas Strip
Venetian Macao Resort hotel
Foreign gaming firms are investing billions of dollars in Macau
Macau, a tiny special administrative region of China, appears to have overtaken the famous Las Vegas Strip as the world's top gambling destination.

Macau is set to earn $6.8bn (3.6bn) in casino revenues in 2006 compared with Las Vegas' $6.6bn, say leisure industry consultants Globalysis.

Foreign casino operators entered Macau in 2001, two years after Portugal handed the territory back to China.

Tourists have flocked, 10.5 million arriving from China alone in 2005.

Macau's 23rd casino, Star World, is opening this week, and billions more dollars are due to be invested in new hotels, casinos and entertainment venues over the next few years.

Up until liberalisation, Macau's casino industry was controlled by Stanley Ho's Sociedade de Jogos de Macau.

Expansion plans

Now global gaming giants including Wynn Resorts, MGM Mirage, Publishing and Broadcasting and Galaxy Casino are building or have plans to build sites in the 23.8 sq-km territory.

Macau vs Vegas Strip
Casinos: Macau 23 Las Vegas 30
Gaming tables: Macau 2,400 Las Vegas 3,200
Slot machines: Macau 5,200 Las Vegas 55,000

The giant City of Dreams resort complex is set to feature the island's first underwater casino.

It is the brainchild of Mr Ho's son Lawrence Ho, whose Melco International is one of the region's biggest casino operators.

Macau claims to be home to the world's largest casino, the Sands Macao, but Las Vegas still dominates in terms of the number of slot machines and gaming tables.

Despite its smaller gaming capacity, Macau's revenues are outstripping those in Vegas, because its punters prefer the gaming tables to slot machines and play for higher stakes.

Asian gaming laws

Although Macau is currently the only part of China to allow gambling, the city does face the growing threat of competition from elsewhere in Asia.

The Vegas Strip
Casino operators have big new investment plans in Las Vegas

Singapore has dropped its 40-year ban and agreed to the building of two huge casino resorts.

There has been talk of gaming laws being relaxed in countries including Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and Taiwan.

And Las Vegas is unlikely to be behind in the casino earnings stakes for long.

The Nevada town is set for an estimated $20bn investment over the next five years, as operators look to update and improve its casino and non-gaming amenities.


SEE ALSO
Macau bets on underwater gambling
18 May 05 |  Business
Asia lays bet on casino gambling
20 Apr 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Packer moves into Macau gambling
16 Nov 04 |  Business
Harrah's to buy Caesars for $5bn
15 Jul 04 |  Business
Regions and territories: Macau
18 Aug 06 |  Country profiles

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